PIRANHA 3DD was not exactly a brilliant movie, ok it had its moments of excitement and also included a kind of tongue in cheek approach to the subject. Elia Cmiral’s score however was not in anyway tongue in cheek or light hearted. Filled with broad, strident and colourful themes that are melodic, upbeat and also foreboding, this score is I have to say an entertaining one, its quite a lyrical work that at times verges on the operatic in its sound and style, the composer eloquently fusing electronic elements with that of the more conventional symphonic, add to this a beautiful soprano voice that emerges at key moments within the soundtrack in the style of MORRICONE,S once upon a time in the west and we have a work that is not only haunting and driving but one that is a joy to encounter, listen to and savour. The percussive elements within the score are booming and fast paced with supporting brass flourishes adding an heroic and urgent atmosphere to the proceedings. The themes within the score are many, each one being unique and original but at the same time coming together to create a great degree of continuity within the score. When scoring this type of movie many composers have often thought it suitable to revert to a John Williams JAWS sound, happily Cmiral has not resorted to this type of scoring instead he has created a tone and style which is all his own, the sinewy and chaotic sounding strings which depict the PIRANHAS is genius as it relays to the listener and also the cinema audience an atmosphere that is filled with menace and purveys a mood that is laden with tense and nervous emotions, the performance being as frenzied and vicious as the Piranha’s themselves. Again I am taken aback by the quality and high standard of music that the composer has penned it is a score that I know works so well within the movie but also it is one of those rare moments when the music has a life of its own away from the images and is entertaining in its own right just as music. Recommended.
Released in 1995, the first DRG compilation was something of a groundbreaking release as it contained a number of cues from Italian western soundtracks that had at that time not been released; of course now the titles included have all seen compact disc releases as soundtracks in their own right. This compilation or series of compilations as there are more than just the one, are still important and entertaining releases and can also be a rich source of reference material for collectors etc, that is why I decided to review them, they do occasionally come up on a number of internet shopping sites but can reach quite lofty heights in the price tag department. DRG released four compilations in the series, volume one (1995) was a two disc set showcasing music from the Cinevox records catalogue, volume two (1995) another double CD release highlighted General Music’s western scores, Volume three (1996) a single disc release also included the catalogue of General Music and the fourth instalment (1997) which was back to a double disc set was made up of cues from the vaults of the BEAT record company. So we were treated to the Good, The Bad and some of the Ugly music that was inspired by the quirky and contagious Spaghetti western genre and brought recognition to composers such as Morricone, De Masi, Cipriani, Baclov, Nicolai, Savina, De Sica, Piccioni, De Angelis, Lavagnino, Tempara, Gigante, Umiliani, Martelli, Di Stefano Trovaioli, Frizzi, Ferrio, Ortolani, Rustichelli, Poitevin, Pregadio,Bixio, Donaggio, Simonetti, Alessandroni, De Gemini Edda Dell Orso and many many more including the vocalists and soloists that frequented Italian western soundtracks.
The first volume opens with the imposing and infectious music of Gianfranco Di Stefano from the soundtrack of the 1970 movie SHANGO (the invincible gun) solo guitar introduces the track JEFF BLOOM with the light touch of harpsichord acting as a subdued background, the composer underlining the proceedings with strings and also introducing solo trumpet punctuated by bass guitar. The second track representing Di Stefano’s score is a Mexican flavoured theme FIESTA FIEASTA, again relies upon solo guitar and has a background supplied by upbeat tambourine that shakes and creates a contagious support for the guitar and is joined by strumming guitar giving it more depth and a greater atmospheric effect. The third and final selection from SHANGO is PISTOLA CHE SCOTTANO where again trumpet and guitar are the mainstay of the piece with brass acting as the musical commas with strings enhancing the proceedings. At the time of the release of this compilation the soundtrack to SHANGO was not available and this was the first time Di Stefano’s music had been released on compact disc, since then of course we have been treated to the full score release on the Cinevox label.A critic once remarked that it was better to buy compilations of Italian westerns soundtracks because invariably the full soundtrack was not that good and it was normally the theme song or main title music that was the most attractive thing about the score. I have to disagree, and with the DRG compilations we as collectors were not only served up the title song and instrumental central theme in some case but also were given a rare chance to hear other sections of each score, of course THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN ENCYCLOPEDIA on King Records Japan had been previously released and this is I think the music bible as far as collectors of Italian western music is concerned, but what the difference was between the King records series and the DRG compilations was that DRG included a handful of cues from each soundtrack that they included in some cases two cues in others there were more and yes the King records series did have a few sections that included more than one track from certain scores but not to the same degree as DRG.
I am not saying that either series of compilations is better than the other because although the music included on both is from the same genre and does in fact include some of the same tracks each series is very different. Track number 4 on volume one is the work of stalwart Italian Maestro Francesco De Masi, taken from the 1968 production QUANTO COSTA MORIRE again at the time of the compilations release the soundtrack had only been released on a Long Playing record, and this was the first time collectors got to hear this music on compact disc, three tracks represent the score with a rousing song starting off proceedings plus an instrumental version of the song then a particularly plaintive and romantically laced cue C’E SEMPRE UNA VITA, which has a lovely classical guitar solo underlined and supported by subdued strings, which has more or less the same sound as THE TWO ELISA’S from Bruno Nicolai’s LANDRAIDERS score and also I did detect a certain phrase that can also be compared with Nicolai’s IL TRONO DI FUOCO but as the De Masi score was written first I think that maybe Nicolai received inspiration from this rather than the other way around. The style employed by De Masi when scoring westerns was a fusion of styles, by this I mean the composer used a romantic and dramatic theme that was normally purveyed by strings or brass in a very similar fashion to that of composers such as Dimitri Tiomkin in Hollywood westerns, but De Masi also managed to create a western sound that was akin to the Italian western genre but this too was tinged with an atmosphere of originality which was all his own. For the next section we jump forward a decade to 1978, the composer is Pino Donaggio and the movie is AMORE PIOMBO E FURORE, (CHINA 9, LIBERTY 37) two cues represent Donaggio’s score and the harmonica plays a major role in both of these tracks. TEMA DI CLAYTON is the central theme from the score with a wailing but at the same time tuneful harmonica solo opening the composition, this is soon accompanied by solo guitar and the harmonica solo mellows to produce a melodic and quite romantic sounding piece. The next cue from the score is basically a more romantic and developed version of the central theme with strings and soft guitar being given support by harmonica which introduces the cue and reappears at the tracks conclusion. Donaggio had at the time been known mainly for his music to the horror movie DON’T LOOK NOW and the atmospheric score for CARRIE he also scored Joe Dante’s PIRAHNA in the same year as AMORE PIOMBO E FURORE and there are hints of the low key theme he penned depicting the river for PIRAHNA within this western soundtrack. Tracks 9 and 10 are taken from the 1971 production ED ORA RACCOMANDA L’ANIMA A DIO (AND NOW RECOMMEND YOUR SOUL TO GOD). The music is by Franco Bixio who worked on numerous westerns which can be categorised within the comedy western genre, this is a sub genre of the spaghetti western that either worked wonderfully as in the TRINITY series or failed miserably in lesser known low budget examples but saying this Bixio who at times teamed up with Vince Tempera produced a number of very good scores, this being one such example, the title song JUST A COWARD is represented here in both vocal and instrumental versions, with Mary Usuah providing the distinct vocals underlined by a jaunty almost jolly sounding guitar and the instrumental version being much the same but slightly darker in places.
The next section is taken from the 1966 movie WANTED JOHNNY TEXAS, the score being the work of three composers Marcello Gigante, Alessandro Nadin and Aristide Bascerano the lions share of the work probably being done by Gigante, three cues represent this infectious score, MAIN TITLE, M 22, and FINALE.
All three tracks are basically varying arrangements of the central theme with the second track being a more Mexican flavoured version, this too has since the release of this compilation seen a full soundtrack release and it is a lesser known film and score that should be investigated and certainly added to your collection if you have not already acquired it. It has many of the now accepted musical trademarks of the Italian western score, such as solo trumpet, racing snare drums, female voice tolling bells etc and I would say is one of the most interesting and appealing sections within the compilation.
QUEI DISPERATI CHE PUZZANO DI SUDORE E DI MORTE (LOS DESPERADOS) is up next with music coming from the great Gianni Ferrio who worked extensively within the genre of the spaghetti western, what I think was most appealing about Maestro Ferrio’s music for the western was that like De Masi he fused the established style of the Hollywood western with the new and fresh sound that was becoming associated with the Italian western the end result n most cases was a stunning and highly original end product, that was laced with contagious and rhythmic themes and highly dramatic and romantic sounding phrases. Ferrio would also at times included a kind of jazz vibe within his western scores that gave them a more contemporary and bluesy feel which although I know sounds implausible actually worked making the music more attractive. For LOS DESPERADOS the composer created a favourably dramatic and at times lush sounding score which also included an energetic comic sounding march of sorts. Track number 18 is the opening theme or BLACK JACK from KID IL MONELLO DEL WEST, which was composed by Enrico Simonetti in 1974, originally released just as a 45 rpm single on vinyl, it was not until a few years ago we got to savour the entire score on a Digit Movies compact disc, I have to say however that this is one of those scores that you would be better of just having this one track and maybe the flip side cue from the 45 rpm which was the opening theme sung by children’s choir. For track number 19 and 20 we are back with composer Franco Bixio who on this occasion collaborates with Roberto Pregadio on the music for the 1970 release DESERTO DI FUOCO. The main titles theme is a haunting piece written for strings and a slightly upbeat background over which we hear the exquisite voice of Edda Dell Orso that is a first performed in unison with strings to create a unique and haunting sound the strings then take the theme on board and give it a fuller working before returning to the wonderful aural performance of Dell Orso. This is an excellent example of the genres music, with Pregadio’s influences being heard throughout and I am guessing that this score was more Pregadio than Bixio, as we can hear in the second selection from the score OMBRE SULA SABBIA which again is upbeat and contagious with horns performing the vocal parts of the composition in this arrangement, the FINALE from the score is also included which is a slightly extended version of the main titles theme with strings on this occasion carrying the haunting theme. The next two sections are also courtesy of composer Franco Bixio, tracks 22 through to 24 being taken from the 1974 movie CARAMBOLA with composers Fabio Frizzi and Vince Tempera adding their considerable skills to that of Bixio’s. Then tracks 25 to 26 are taken from the 1975 sequel to CARAMBOLA, CARAMBOLA FILOTTO TUTTI IN BUCA which was created by the collaborative talents of Messrs Bixio, Frizzi and Tempera. Both sections are very good indeed with the original score opening with TEMA PRINCIPALE that has a trumpet solo performance played over a fairly slow background of strumming guitar in a similar fashion to THE MAN WITH NO NAME from Morricones A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, also included is a comedy slanted almost mariachi sounding track entitled MEXICAN CANTINA that is pleasant enough listening.
The FINALE is also included as is a guitar version of the opening theme. The music for the sequel is much lighter and also more in a comedic vein with a bluesy almost country sounding opening theme performed on banjo with an upbeat percussive background aided by bass and strumming guitars that create a sort of bustling atmosphere which is busy but very easily forgotten. Which can also be said for track number 26 FUNNY TOWN the title I suppose giving it away, fiddle, guitar and banjo combining with clumsy sounding brass to purvey an air of comedy which really does not hold a lot of interest and is thankfully short lived. Gianni Ferrio returns for the next selection of themes, from the 1973 movie AMICO STAMMI LONTANO ALMENO UN PALMO (the ballad of Ben and Charlie). Originally released on a Cinevox long playing record the score saw an expanded edition release on Digit movies a few years back, this in my opinion is one of the composers best western scores with a great title song LET IT RAIN LET IT POUR the melody of which can be heard throughout Ferrio’s score in various arrangements, this is a dramatic and also a bluesy sounding soundtrack that is appealing and memorable. We are treated to six cues from the score within this compilation. The final track on disc number one is from Sergio Leone’s DUCK YOU SUCKER, GIU’ LA TESTA, A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE etc, released in 1971 this was to be Leone’s final western as a director with a theme laden score by his long time friend and collaborator Ennio Morricone. The main title theme is included here which is a tour de force of everything that is good about Morricone, exquisite theme wonderful performances by Alessandroni, il Cantori Moderni and the first lady of Italian film music Edda Dell Orso.
Disc two opens with UNO STRANIERO A PASO BRAVO (1967) by the great Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, who contributed so much to Italian cinema as a whole, his western scores were often overlooked by collectors many thinking they were no true spaghetti western scores but they are some of the most original and memorable works within the genre, again I have to say that this composer created a western sound that was all of his own, with a fusion of both Hollywood based styles and upbeat more contemporary sounds which were being employed within the Italian western. UNO STRANIERO A PASO BRAVO is one such example it contains a good solid western or cowboy theme but to this the composer adds solo trumpet, organ and electric guitar and a soaring title song performed in Italian by an energetic sounding Vittoria Brezzi, great stuff. Lavagnino is represented on a further two occasions on disc number two, tracks 13 to 16 are taken from REQUIEM PER UNO GRINGO (1967) tracks 19 to 22 are taken from his score for JOHNNY WEST IL MANCINO (1966). Both scores are vibrant, original and filled with outstanding themes and although the latter example does have within it some clumsy sounding comic orientated music it still remains entertaining. It is no wonder that Lavagnino was Leone’s initial choice to score A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. The remainder of the second disc reads like a who’s who in Italian western scoring, with titles such as PRAY TO GOD AND DIG YOUR GRAVE, OCCHIO ALLA PENNA, VADO VEDO E SPARO, LA NOTTE DEI SERPENTE, ROY COLT AND WINCHESTER JACK, REVENGE AT EL PASO, BOOT HILL etc etc, with composers such as Gigante, Ortolani, Rustichelli, Umiliani, Morricone, Bixio, Martelli, Plenzio and Pregadio being represented. Volume one of this DRG compilation is certainly an entertaining 2 hours plus of music taken from the Cinevox vaults, which contains something for everyone.
Volume two is a selection of music that has been gathered from the archives of EMI General Music which was another label that was particularly active in the release of soundtracks from the late 1960,s through to the early 1980,s. The first disc opens with Bruno Nicolai,s stirring score for 100,OOO DOLLARI PER RINGO which was released in 1965, the score is represented here by a suite of the soundtracks principal themes including the title song RINGO DOVE VAI performed by Bobby Solo with the English language version also being included within the suite. Nicolai’s score is a highly dramatic one with choir, strings and driving percussion and although it was a true Italian western the music still contained influences from the old west as in the Hollywood western score. The composer employing quite grand and forceful sounding brass based themes underlined by at times chaotic percussion to relay adventure, excitement and action, in fact at times the music sounded more like it was from an American made B western movie rather than a spaghetti but nonetheless an impressive work. Section two tracks 2 through to 4 are taken from the comedy western I DUE GRINGOS DEL TEXAS, now you remember I said that this sub genre of the spaghetti western either worked or fell flat on its face, well this I suppose can be said for the music for these productions, on this occasion the music is by Carlo Savina, and in my humble opinion it is probably not one of the composers best efforts for the genre. Three tracks are included two of which are thankfully very brief. Again another candidate for having just a few tracks from a score rather than the entire soundtrack on CD, surprisingly the entire score was issued a couple of years back now, but its not one that collectors were exactly clambering for. Moving swiftly on to 1967 and tracks 5 to 8 DJANGO L’ULTIMO KILLER is the work of Roberto Pregadio and Walter Rizzati and this is completely the opposite from the previous section, it contains a slowly building but strong and memorable theme with solo trumpet, strumming guitars and strings being at the forefront of proceedings with the remainder of the music being in the same style. Tracks 9 through to 11 are taken from SIPUO FARE…AMIGO (The Big and The Bad) music is by Luis Bacalov and this is the first of many sections where Bacalov is represented, track number 9 is the title song from the movie CAN BE DONE which is performed by Rocky Roberts with a little help from a children’s choir.
Bacalov of course is better known for his score to DJANGO the vocal theme of which is also included on this compilation (disc two track number 30) performed by Roberto Fia.
Other Bacalov scores represented include the excellent L’ORO DEI BRAVADOS (Gold for the Bravados), IL GRAND DUELLO (1969), QUIEN SABE (A Bullet for the General)-(1966), LO CHIAMAVANO KING (1971), SUGAR COLT (1966), A MAN CALLED NOON (1973) etc etc, in fact disc two could easily be re-titled THE BEST OF LUIS BACALOV WESTERN THEMES, with a handful of sections such as UN BUCO FRONTE (1968), TEXAS ADDIO (1966), PROFFESSIONAL KILLERS, (1967), A GUN IN THE HAND OF THE DEVIL (1972), SEVEN GUNS FOR KILLING (1967) and THEY CALL ME NOBODY (1973) having music by Roberto Pregadio, Anton Garcia Abril, Carlo Pes, Piero Piccioni, Francesco De Masi and Ennio Morricone respectively. This I think is the only negative about this particular volume within the compilation, too much Bacalov cant be a bad thing I hear you say, well at times the originality of his music does wear a little thin and if one listens to his western scores in particular the composer does shall we say re-cycle certain cues within various projects and cues from DJANGO turn up in QUIEN SABE etc. But then we have the highly original and stirring themes from IL GRANDE DUELLO, L’ORO DEI BRAVADOS and A MAN CALLED NOON to compensate for this.
Volume three in this series also includes tracks from the archive of EMI GENERAL MUSIC. A number of films that are represented on volume two also make an appearance here as well, but the music selected is different and at times the running order includes a suite from a score for example track number 10 is a five minute suite from SUGAR COLT, where as on volume two just the main title made an appearance, Bacalov is also represented by more tracks from GOLD OF THE BRAVADOS and a seven minute suite from A MAN CALLED NOON, I think that by the time DRG had reached volume three in the series they might have been lacking in ideas but they have included a number of Morricone tracks ie; GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS, A PISTOL FOR RINGO, SEVEN GUNS FOR THE McGREGORS, THE RETURN OF RINGO, DEATH RIDES A HORSE,TEPEPA, A PROFESSIONAL GUN, FACE TO FACE, COMPANEROS(which is an alternative version of the main title) ,LIFE IS TOUGH, E THAT’S PROVIDENCE and an alternative version of THEY CALL ME NOBODY main title, admittedly all great cues but like volume two had a little too much Bacalov maybe volume three has a few Morricone too many. Might have served the continuity and listening experience better if DRG had mixed it up a little and taken some Bacalov off two and put it on three and then the Morricone from three and put on two, if you see what I mean? Really volume three is a little ordinary as most of the tracks on this compact disc have already been within other compilations etc. Also included is a suite from SEVEN GUNS FOR A KILLING with a vocal by Raoul( different cues from the score were on volume two), a great solo trumpet track from THE TWO RINGOS FROM TEXAS ( music from this was also on volume two), but we do have a couple of Nicolai pieces to prop up the proceedings, namely DEPARTURE which is taken from THEY CALL ME SHANGHAI JOE and FINALE from THE DAYS OF VIOLENCE.
Plus a short cue from I DON’T FORGET I KILL by Piero Piccioni, which is a pleasant surprise and also a welcome one? The sound quality on the compact disc is very good apart from a couple of tracks one of which sadly is probably one of the best on compact disc A PROFESSIONAL GUN suffers from very bad distortion during the solo trumpet interlude and it is not entirely crystal clear from that moment onwards, so production issues on this track that I think could have been remedied, it is strange because the version of the score released on GDM had very good sound quality and I have not heard any really bad production on any of the other releases compilations or full soundtrack issues. Also SHANGHAI JOE is distorted not as bad as A PROFESSIONAL GUN but never the less the distortion is there and is somewhat grating and does spoil the overall effect of Nicolai’s music.
Volume four is a two disc set and brings to us the music from the archives of BEAT records, like Cinevox and also General music and CAM. The BEAT record company was and still is one of the busiest recording labels in Italy and it was along with the aforementioned labels one of the first soundtrack specialist labels to go into business. Volume four opens with a selection of cues from the 1963 production THE SIGN OF THE COYOTE music is by Francesco De Masi but because this movie was released before the spaghetti western had established itself the music is very different from later De Masi scores after the advent of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and after Morricone and Leone had changed the western forever. De Masi’s score for COYOTE is rather typical of what was being written for American productions at the time, there is not even a hint of the spaghetti western score musical trademarks, and this can also be said for the next section which is again De Masi scoring the 1964 release A MAN IN THE VALLEY OF THE DAMNED.
In fact we do not hear any hints of what was to come from De Masi until Track number five of this compilation which is from the 1965 movie RANCH OF THE RUTHLESS, the style of De Masi I would not say changed it merely altered and developed into the sound that we now associate with the composer, tracks seven and eight are taken from A COFFIN FOR THE SHERIFF (1965), which includes a great song with vocals by Peter Tevis.
De Masi more than most composers I think seemed to like to have a title song and a vocalist he worked with many times was Raoul, who’s distinct and powerful vocals graced many a De Masi soundtrack. AND THEN A TIME FOR KILLING or TEQUILA JOE was released in 1968 and we are treated to two cues from the soundtrack here one being a glorious Raoul vocal performance. De Masi is well represented within this compilation and no I am not complaining as his music is always exquisite and entertaining and never repetitive. Disc one for example also includes FOR A FEW BULLETS MORE, KILL THEM ALL AND COME BACK ALONE, RINGO THE LONE RIDER and SARTANA DOES NOT FORGIVE. All of which are excellent and significant and important contributions to the genre of the spaghetti western, Disc two also has its fair share of De Masi musical gems, I,M SARTANA -TRADE YOUR PISTOL FOR A COFFIN and CHALLENGE FOR THE McKENNAS, The compilation also has within its running time THE FIVE MAN ARMY, GRAND SILENCE by Ennio Morricone. HAVE A GOOD FUNERAL SARTANA WILL PAY, THE MAN CALLED APOCALYPSE JOE, BULLET FOR A STRANGER and LO CHIAMAVANO TRESETTE,GIOCAVA SEMPRE COL MORTO by Bruno Nicolai. BUKAROO by Lallo Gori, NO ROOM TO DIE by Vasco Vassil Koyucharov, THE SPECIALIST by Lavagnino, AND GOD SAID TO CAIN by Savina, PRAY TO KILL AND RETURN ALIVE by Mario Migliardi, THE THREE MUSKETEERS OF THE WEST by Rustichelli, MY NAME IS TRUTH by De Sica and THE DAY OF FIRE and WACH OUT GRINGO, SABATA WILL RETURN by Piccioni and all these great scores and this wonderful music from one label BEAT. The series of compact discs from DRG are accompanied by eye catching art work and informative notes volumes 1 and 2 have notes by Didier c Duetsch and volumes 3 and 4 contain essays and info penned by John Bender. Maybe not the definitive collection or indeed as iconic as the SPAGHETTI WESTERN ENCYCLOPEDIA released on King records but still invaluable and a great source of information for anyone wishing to discover the music of the Spaghetti western.
Released in 1966,RINGO AND HIS GOLDEN PISTOL or JOHNNY ORO to give it the original Italian title, was directed by Sergio Corbucci. The main protagonist and also the character in the title was played by actor Mark Damon, the movie was re-tilted simply to cash in on the success of the RINGO movies which had been directed by Duccio Tessari and starred iconic Italian western actor Giuliano Gemma. The plot focuses upon a bounty hunter Johnny Oro who kills for money and treats his way of life as a business so much so that he refuses to take his golden gun out of its holster unless he is assured he will make money for doing so. He decides to let a man (Juanito Perez) live because he sees no reason to end his life if there is no price on his head; this proves to be something that the bounty hunter will later on regret. After killing the mans brothers who do have a bounty on them Perez swears vengeance and forms an alliance with a local tribe of Indians who aid him in a battle against the town and also the sheriff who are protecting the bounty hunter. The musical score is the work of Italian Maestro Carlo Savina, who of course will be a familiar name to collectors acquainted not only with the Italian western but with Italian film music overall, Savina composed numerous film scores for a plethora of genres and also acted as conductor on a handful of scores for Miklos Rozsa and Nino Rota. In fact Savina was credited as the composer of the score for EL CID on Italian prints of the movie back in the early 1960,s. Of course we know this is no so as Rozsa is the true composer of the work. Savina was quite active in the Italian or Spaghetti western genre and penned some of the most memorable scores for some of the lesser known movies. His COMIN AT YA soundtrack for example still remains one of the genres most haunting and popular non Morricone score. JOHNNY OROIS A TYPICAL Italian western score, but when I say typical I do not say this because it is mediocre or indeed predictable, it is typical simply because it contains many of the standard sounds that are nowadays so readily associated with the spaghetti score. Solo trumpet, whistling, solo harmonica electric and classical guitar and echoing percussive passages. In many ways the style that Savina employed was not that dissimilar from Francesco De Masi when he worked on westerns, the sound achieved being a fusion of the Hollywood western soundtrack with brass flourishes and also thrilling and melodic strings that were integrated with the more inventive and original sounds of the spaghetti western. JOHNNY ORO contains numerous themes and relies mainly upon the distinctive whistling of Alessandro Alessandroni to accompany the central character there are also strong trumpet cues within the score that simply oozes class and charisma. This release also includes Italian and English versions of the title song performed by Il Cantori Moderni. This is certainly one of the best Italian western scores written, and listening to it now nearly 50 years after its composition it still grabs ones attention and remains original and fresh. Released on the GDM/Hillside series it is one that you should own. nice clear sound and attractive art work with a number of colour stills and various reproductions of the poster for the movie inside the liner.
You are a film maker as well as being a composer, what came first for you, making movies or scoring them?
I have been studying piano since I was five. My father has always been a cinema goer so I grew up with this passion for films as well. He especially loved the 60’s western films directed by Sergio Leone and the films by Francis Ford Coppola. My music and cinema background has been influenced by Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola’s themes. I was born in the 70’s and I grew up watching Spielberg, George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis and Joe Dante’s films. I named only some of the greatest storytellers of that period.
I started studying piano when I still lived in Germany then I continued my music education under the direction of Franco Scala. After that, I attended the Gioacchino Rossini conservatory in Pesaro. At 15, the burning desire to get to know what was going on behind the camera lead the way to my first video-amatorial experiments. In 2003, I shot an independent feature film named “Cinque giorni” (five days) which was a tribute to the TV show Dawson’s creek. It was also the first feature film I composed the main theme for. Giuseppe Zanca helped me out by composing most of the additional tracks. It was a wonderful experience. From that time on, I went on composing music for my films. This activity then evolved in time. Right now, cinema in Italy is going through a tough crisis and yet I haven’t managed to shoot my debut film funded by a big production. On a brighter note, I was appreciated as a composer and I have been collaborating with independent filmmakers for three years now. Working with them really fulfilled me.
When you write the score for a film or project that you have directed do you find it easier or maybe more difficult to score it?
Since I was a child I always thought of cinema as an inevitable and necessary twinning with music. If you remember the time of silent cinema, a small orchestra would set music to the images projected on screen. Therefore in my opinion, cinema is always meant to be accompanied by musical scores. When I used to shoot my first film experiments at the age of 15, I already had in mind the kind of music that would have suited that exact moment and how to edit certain sequences. Over the years, I realized that the language of visual storytelling, the value of music in a scene and the metrics of editing absolutely need to complement each other. To compose music for my feature films has never been difficult. The real challenge was doing it for other directors’ films. I consider myself very lucky as I had the chance to work with directors of great music awareness like Domiziano Cristopharo and Angelo Licata. These artists know the result they wish to achieve and I can say that working with them has been very stimulating. Both of them give a relevant and vital role to music in their films.
RED KROKODIL is one of your scores that has recently been issued into compact disc, were you involved in the release of the soundtrack?
Thanks to the internet, I have been involved in this project straight away. Domiziano Cristopharo introduced me to Kronos Records’ boss Godwing Borg. He is a film soundtrack fan like no one else. After listening to Red Krokodil’s music score, he did everything to convince me to release a music album version of it. I’m still very grateful for that. His wide range of internet acquaintances allowed my name to become popular even beyond Italy’s borders. Red Krokodil’s soundtrack first reviews are very positive and that makes me feel particularly proud and rewarded. I think it’s a good sign especially now that Italy is facing the most serious economic crisis since the post war period. By using Facebook, Goldwin and I discussed a lot over the choice of the tracks for the album. After that, I began working on the production of the album. It was a very tough job but I really wanted it to have exemplary quality. In order to achieve this goal, I hired Roberto Noferini, Sebastiano Severi, Denis Zardi and Federica Bacchi, some of the greatest musicians of my area. I composed, orchestrated and produced all the music tracks, then my friend Giuseppe Zanca took care of the additional orchestration and the final mixing. My collaboration with Giuseppe has been going on for 12 years. In 2012, Giuseppe and I decided to compose a music score for the Italian comedy “Regalo a sorpresa” (Surprise present) which was released the following year. Collaborating with him has always been very productive and stimulating. In 2003, we both worked on the soundtrack for a Dawson’s creek fan-film named “Cinque giorni” (five days).
I met Domiziano Cristopharo on Facebook and we became friends. Facebook has always been our way of communication because I live in Forlì, a provincial town in the north east of Italy, while he lives in Rome. Now, I am about to complete his latest film’s soundtrack named “Bellerofonte”. This is our fourth collaboration.
Angelo Licata found me by chance on Sound cloud, while he was listening to one of the tracks I composed for my film “M.A.R.C.O”. From that day on, we regularly kept in touch on Facebook and sometimes we spoke on Skype.
You played piano on RED KROKODIL, is it the piano that you utilise when you are writing music for film or do you use a more hi tech process?
Before adding my tracks to the digital scoreboard, I usually spend hours at the piano in order for me to identify the ideal mood for a certain scene or for the whole film’s main theme.
I grew up studying Bach and Mozart, but the real benchmarks for my classical music education at the piano are authors like Beethoven, Chopin, Listz and Gerswhin. Among the others, Listz was a phenomenal composer and a keyboard virtuoso. He used to turn some of his compositions for orchestra, like “Mephisto Valzer”, into a solo piano performance. He also had an amazing talent using the whole piano keyboard to recreate orchestral colours. Listz’s music reminds me of Eastern European melodies, whose sound I tried to get close to, while working on Red Kokodril’s themes. This film is set in Russia; therefore I wished to recall some symphonies belonging to Sovietic lands and Bielorussia but with the specific goal to make them as catchy as possible and not hard to listen to. Once I have chosen the main theme and the harmonic successions, I add them in to the digital scoreboard. Then I create a MIDI file and I choose the main instruments and the musical arrangement of the other instruments. This is my work process in order to create the main theme or themes for a film. Sometimes you have to operate in a different way if you just have to pick a specific track for a particular scene. In that case, you need a specific arrangement to highlight certain moments of the scene and you should work on the file video at the same time. Nowadays music composition programs are very sophisticated and versatile. They give you the chance to watch a file video which can be easily synchronized with the chosen music. I utilise Apple computers and I am a very faithful LogicPro user.
Where and when were you born and can you recall your first encounter with music of any kind?
I was born and raised in Germany, where at that time, my parents ran a restaurant and I lived there until the age of 6. The radio in our car was always on and constantly played the most famous Morricone’s tracks like Duck, you sucker! The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Once upon a time in the west and A fistful of Dollars. In the 70’s in Germany the French piano player Richard Clayderman was very popular and I remember my parents loved listening to his music. Thanks to him and to his music, I soon became fond of the piano. I first started playing the electronic organ Farfisa, then in 1981 my father bought his first upright piano.
Is any of your family musical in any way?
The only member of our family who orchestrated music was my grandfather Antonio Galimi who regrettably I never met as he died before I was born. In 1940 he was imprisoned in Addis Abeba in South Africa. During this time, he wrote beautiful music scores and one of his friends used to write the lyrics. When he finally managed to escape and leave South Africa hidden inside a barrel, he brought nothing but all his music scores with him. My mother treasured all of them inside a display cabinet and from time to time I still love reading them. After 75 years these old manuscripts are still intact.
What musical education did you receive?
I started studying piano privately when I was 5 and I won several piano competitions between the ages of 11 and 14 years old. I later continued my studies with Franco Scala, one of the greatest Italian Masters. Thanks to his support, I was admitted to the Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro. I attended this school for 8 years then I quit to help my parents run their restaurant.
I began as a classical pianist by first studying Bach and Clementi. Then, I was drawn into the Romantic and post Romantic trends. I had a taste for Chopin, but Listz and Gershwin left a deep mark on my way of seeing and interpreting piano scores.
My musical education also includes solfeggio (reading and singing music notes), choral singing exercises, harmony and history of music.
Your score for RED KROKODIL for me has a sound to it that is highly emotive, fragile, melancholy, intimate and also romantic; I was at times reminded of composers such as Preisner, Williams, Delerue and Morricone whilst listening to it. What composers would you say have influenced or inspired you?
Master Ennio Morricone was certainly the first composer to musically inspire me. In Bellerofonte soundtrack that I’m completing these days, people might notice Morricone’s touch in some parts.
However, only three composers really influenced my works from a stylistic and emotional point of view over the last few years. The first and most important one is James Newton Howard, then John Williams and Cristopher Young. These composers don’t really need any introduction, but among them JNH distinguished himself for being versatile without repeating himself like many other famous composers do. JNH started his career composing beautiful scores for some thrillers like the beautiful but underestimated “Flatliners” by Joel Schumacher. For this film he wrote a very complete score that mixes electronic elements with melodic, epic and harrowing symphonies accompanied by the mysterious liturgy of well-conceived chores. He also composed scores for ambitious horror films like “The Sixth Sense” and “Stir of Echoes” by using very experimental orchestral textures. When collaborating with Disney for the films “Atlantis” or “Maleficent” he would use a symphonic orchestra. Maleficent’s music really amazed me for the complexity and the development of its music score. It was epic like Disney dictates but very grandiose like only JNH can do.
Did the director of RED KROKODIL Domiziano Cristopharo have a hands on approach to the musical side of things on the movie; did he have any set ideas about the way he wanted the music to sound or how it would be placed within the film?
At the moment I am collaborating with some directors. Each one of them has got a different musical sensitivity. Domiziano Cristopharo is musically educated and determined to get what he wishes for his films. Mine and his approach on Red Kokodril’s soundtrack was totally different from the one on Bellerofonte. At first I was told to write a very melancholic theme. This request just sounded like a simple musical collaboration and yet I hadn’t seen the film, not even a pre- editing scene or a work copy. Before I had started writing the theme, Domiziano called me back saying I would have to compose the score for the entire film. It really came as a surprise. At that point he told me the main subject of the film and his point of view. I thought of the main idea of the film as a sort of an interior self-inflicted Holocaust. I chose the violin and solo violoncello because I imagined an atmosphere of desperation and loneliness. Once completed, I sent the themes straight to director Domiziano Cristopharo who was literally thrilled. He re-edited them and added in some scenes. After that he asked for some tracks that I had already composed like “C-age”, which became the leit motiv for the hallucinatory sequences, and “Endless road” that was meant to be for my film M.A.R.C.O. All the other themes were brand-new and made specifically for the film. Once finished the editing of the film, I started working on the scoring. I developed the themes I had created to adjust them to the images. I had to change the start and the end of each score. In the soundtrack album of the film released by Kronos Records, there are the catchier main themes, which are basically the ones you could easily listen to and enjoy without necessarily watching the film. However, the original soundtrack has got many more tracks. I composed many background music tracks, some incidental music tracks and some electronic ones which were supposed to be used for the dreamlike scenes but in the end they haven’t been used. I then refined the orchestration, composed some adding tracks and mixed them. Overall everything went in the right way. Nevertheless, there is always a moment where you get stuck at some point and you can’t please the director with your work. For Red Krokodil that moment was the final scene. Domiziano Cristopharo would have liked to have a concertistic track. I could have done it, but initially I was afraid it could end up being redundant and excessive for the film. For this reason, I decided to follow another path, but Domiziano wasn’t very happy. He told me: “Just think of the main theme you composed and imagine as if it was played by Listz”. So I developed the main theme which was meant to be for violoncello adapting it to the five sections of strings. The deadline was very close so I had very little time to deliver the project. I then added brasses, woodwinds, percussions and choirs. Only the piano was missing. I called my pianist friend Denis Zardi and told him to play the music as if he was playing a concert with piano and orchestra. The outcome was outstanding and the director loved it. For Bellerofonte the film approach was totally different. Domiziano Cristopharo used some temp tracks by adding repertory music in the film. He wanted an opera style kind of effect with a drop of magic and fairy tale. I wasn’t convinced about the result he would have achieved by using this temp track. I didn’t want the music to be too intrusive and predominant, but apparently that was my mistake. Domiziano Cristopharo did want it to be
regal, grandiose, epic and mysterious. All these elements had to be present in the first scene. After failing the first time, I tried to detach myself from what I had listened to and just watched the images in motion as if it was an old silent film. This was my winning card. Thankfully all the other tracks of the film have been approved straight away without a single change.
How long did you have to complete the score for RED KROKODIL and what size orchestra did you use for the score?
The post production time to complete the work lasted 3 months.
From July until September 2012.
Here as follows a list of instruments played in some of Red Krokodil’s tracks.
16 first violins
16 second violins
4 French horns
When you were working on the score for RED KROKODIL did you have particular soloists in mind for violin and cello?
When Domiziano told me the story of Red Krokodil, I imagined the main character facing like a sort of interior Holocaust. When I think of Holocaust in cinema, my memories are brought back to Spielberg’s masterpiece Shindler’s List and its theme composed by pianist John Williams and solo violinist Itzhak Perlman. Roberto Noferini is an amazing violinist and when he plays he reaches such high points of intensity that reminds me of Perlman’s style. Same story for Sebastiano Severi, who played a solo violoncello. His interpretation always inspires me.
How did you become involved on RED KROKODIL?
After writing the score “Passion & Love” for a peculiar scene of Hyde’s Secret Nightmare, director Domiziano Cristopharo and I became good friends and decided to keep in touch. Domiziano is a very engaging person who tends to involve trusted people in his projects. Working with him was an extraordinary experience for me. Unfortunately we don’t live very close to each other so Facebook was the only way for us to have a talk, share files, compare notes and express opinions in order to achieve a common goal. Unlike many people who enjoy using social networks for trivial matters, Domiziano and I worked from a distance by using Facebook. I think this is the best way to make use of this social network.
When you write a score for a movie or a short etc., do you have a preference as to where you will record the music?
I honestly think I wouldn’t find a better place than Z-Best music. It is a small studio located in Meldola, a little village 6 miles away from where I live. The studio owner is my friend and collaborator Giuseppe Zanca. I always hire him to put the final touch on my scores. Giuseppe knows my thoughts, my tastes about final mix and he always manages to produce what he has been asked for. You know as the motto goes “never change a winning team!” For this reason, I would continue collaborating with the same people unless a big production imposed me to work in a recording studio. I love meeting new people as I think it is very important to be able to confront yourself at all times. I’m also a person who needs to feel safe when he is at work. I think that an awkward situation or embarrassment could influence negatively on the quality of your work. However, cinema and TV have very short times and you need to get used to working under pressure.
Was RED KROKODIL temp tracked at all and do you think that the temp track is a useful tool for a composer or maybe it is something that can be distracting?
It’s a very interesting question and it is mostly the worry of the last generation of composers, myself included. In my opinion, the temp track is a very useful instrument for editors. I am an editor myself since I was 18 and I know how important is to have a musical reference point for a good quality action scene for instance. Directors often misuse this opportunity. I am going to tell you what I mean by that. I’m not talking about the directors I worked with. Many directors grow fond of these temp tracks that are added in their editing. Unfortunately this choice doesn’t allow the composer to be musically 100 per cent free because the director will expect a more Sound-a-like track than an original one.
In this case, a capable composer will manage to get closer as much as he can to the mood requested by the director but avoiding imitating a pre-existent temp track. If the director loves the original track more than the temp one, then the composer can congratulate himself on the result.
Some directors still don’t know some music terminologies, the differences between major or minor, pitches and so on so the temp track can be also quite useful to suggest the more appropriate mood.
Sometimes you might not be able to compose the right track straight away but after several attempts you will reach your goal. In my opinion this is the most stimulating way of confronting with the director. The first attempts gone wrong might be really frustrating. When you can finally please the director and hear the sentence “That gave me the chills”, that’s an incredible payback that makes you feel butterflies in your stomach.
On the compact disc for RED KROKODIL we are also treated to music from other movies you have written the music for, HYDES SECRET NIGHTMARE for example, which is also released on KRONOS records, did you collaborate with Kristian Sensini on the score or was PASSION AND LOVE the only piece that you contributed to the soundtrack?
“Passion & Love” is my only track in the film Hyde’s Secret Nightmare.
I think the whole soundtrack of the film was ready when I was asked to write this track.
I have never had the chance to collaborate with Kristian Sensini. I think he’s a good and technological composer. I love reading his blogs and watching his video reviews on new virtual instruments.
“Passion & Love” was my first collaboration with Domiziano Cristopharo. I can’t disclose the content of the scene where my track is on but I can say it was a real challenge for me.
Do you conduct at all, or do you prefer to have a conductor so that you may either monitor the recording from the recording booth or perform on the score?
For Red Krokodil’s soundtrack, I conducted the solo players myself. When you just have to communicate with a single player it is a lot easier. You give him indications based on the score in front of him. The player takes notes, I then come back to the mixer and listen to him play. When we record with professional musicians, it’s very funny working on a specific crescendo, a ritardato or a remarked note in detail. With the new technology we have the possibility to manage several takes in a comfortable way without any inconvenience for the musician. If one day I had a chance to make a recording session with a whole orchestra, I think it will be necessary to distinguish between two types of execution.
With synchronized execution, you have to carefully follow the images on the screen on which the score was created, while the concert execution is made for an album release.
In the first case, I would rely on an orchestra director who is used to conduct by reading the time code and at the same time on the score band and markers on the film that is played during these sessions.
Big American productions teach us that it’s very important sharing the workload. In the music field, everyone has its own role. When everything is well supervised, the most important thing is to write good music. In the second example, I would conduct an orchestra myself. I hope that this is going to happen very soon. I’m sure it would be a priceless experience.
What do you think is the purpose of music in film?
I was working on the “Closer” soundtrack when one day the director Angelo Licata told me that a good score contributes 50 % to the success of a film. I agree with his statement but I also think that silent moments need to be well weighed-out. Music is important, but silence has its own value as well.
First of all the actor, through his interpretation, has to be able to make the audience feel his emotions. Every little detail makes the difference. A very little detail can be the actor’s broken and scratchy voice or his simple gaze in astonishment. At the same time we need to remember that cinema is mainly fiction, therefore it is possible to easily build a specific mood by making the audience believe whatever one wants to. Music is an artifice which joins this incredible hocus-pocus that is cinema. If everything is well measured out, the audience will get overwhelmed with emotions.
Of course music can effectively change the audience’s mood. It can make a chase scene even more charged-up through a continual succession of quick shots supported by an orchestral rise for example. Some minutes of silence and then again the sudden apparition of the monster supported by the whole orchestra’s tone cluster that makes one jump out of his skin.
However, over the years thanks to Alfred Hitchcock we learnt to consider the other side of the coin. Bernard Hermann, by only using the string section of the orchestra did an extraordinary job for Psycho’s soundtrack, but Hitchcock himself left his audience stuck to their seats when he decided not to use any music score for “The birds” (Hermann was hired by Hitchcock anyway as a sound design supervisor). Recently many films with no apparent artistic value were released. I’m talking about the found footage genre films like “Paranormal Activity” for instance. I wonder how the audience feels when it leaves the cinema after watching this kind of film and if it would rather be entertained in other ways by films like Insidious or Dark Skies. In both of them the opening credit score is composed by Joseph Bishara and it literally makes shivers run down your spine. If I have to go see a film with no music at all, it has to be a great film. Otherwise, I prefer watching a traditional film that at least moves me. Nevertheless, there are a few exceptions. “Chronicle” by Josh Trank is a wonderful found footage film and it’s kind of a cult film for me. Electronics and music samples are playing a greater part within film music in recent years, what do you think about the increased use of electronics within film scores?
What is next for you?
Recently the rise of virtual instruments notably changed the way of producing music for cinema and television. Nowadays directors give much prominence to music in their films, but the production and post-productions times are always shorter and shorter therefore there’s no time to even hire orchestras to record the demos.
The director needs to feel the emphasis of hearing a scored scene straight away so the possibility of having a “pocket” orchestra makes things a lot easier and allows the production to choose among a wide range of alternatives. Nowadays people compose music in a hybrid way. The innovation is that VST plays straight away whatever you desire. It sounds so natural that it is quite hard for an untrained ear to tell the difference between a real and a virtual orchestra. Strangely enough the outcome is so remarkable that most of the times digital mock-up is found in films.
Quality virtual instruments like cine samples, spitfire, east west, 8dio, audiobro, vienna symphonic library can be integrated to real instruments in order to achieve amazing results.
On one side we can say the rise of VST facilitated things for the music composers. They don’t have to hand write their music score any more. The perfect sounds coming from VST are already a great source of inspiration. Now they tend to write music while they are playing. In my opinion, it’s necessary for an artist to mentally separate himself from the instrument in order not to create something very similar to something that already exists.
In September I will start the recording of “Bellerofonte” soundtrack and I will collaborate with a very talented soprano.
I will be in charge of the music for the mockumentary “Is this the end of the road?” by Marco Gianstefani. It’s a small production film that has been shot in New Zealand and deals with very interesting and revealing topics.
I was also hired to compose the music for “Dark Resurrection Vol. 2 “ a fan-film by Angelo Licata, which is due to start up the production in 2015.
For what comes next, I can’t say anything yet but I just cross my fingers!
The first time I heard Laurent Eyquem,s music was for the movie COPPERHEAD, which got me hooked straight away, well I say hooked more like interested and fascinated that a composer such as this I had not heard of before. I then heard a few more of his works that were for in the main movies produced in South Africa and the composer very kindly sent me a download of his score for WINNIE MANDELA, this led to an interview with him and then I realised just what a great talent he was. One of his latest assignments is RAGE-TOKAREV which is a tense action thriller starring Nicholas Cage. Cages characters daughter is kidnapped and he turns to his old acquaintances in the criminal world and reverts to his old ways to try and get her back. The score for this drama is a multi coloured and varied styled score which seems to encompass an entire palette of sounds and musical textures during its running time. Poignant and touching tone poems are accompanied by nervously tense and highly combustible tracks which have at their core thundering percussive elements that drive headlong at a break neck speed to create that edge of the seat tension that is required in movies such as this as in track number 2, THE KIDNAPPING and track number 3, TRYING TO UNDERSTAND which are veritable smorgasbords of sounds both symphonic and synthetic, but the composer fuses these in such a way that they compliment and embellish each other to heighten the drama and create a thrilling and relentless composition. I was struck by the fact that even the more robust and action led cues remain musical and melodic throughout, the composer creating dramatic and powerful cues that are dynamic and pulsating but have solid thematic properties. I must admit that it is the quieter moments within the score that attract me personally more than the action material; the composer has the ability to create haunting and subtle musical phrases that are highly emotive and in a word beautiful, as in cues such as BODY FOUND, THE PAIN and the plaintive and emotive BOX FULL OF MEMORIES. The composer also utilises female voice within the work which adds a fragility and delicate tone to the proceedings. Solo piano features large within the score also and it purveys an atmosphere which is calming but also at the same time is filled with melancholy.
The score does have a particularly attractive central theme which is at times performed by piano and also is give a fuller and more expanded work out by the string section who give the theme a sweeping, luxurious and lavish sound.
This is a score that I recommend you add to your collection, and while you are listening to it make sure you have your pc on to go to one of those well known sites that sell music because as soon as you hear the artistry and the richness and the freshness of Laurent Eyquem, s music you will be looking for more of the same. Presented well by Caldera records with informative notes by Gergely Hubai and eye catching art work by Luis Miguel Rojas. The CD was produced by Stephan Eicke and John Elborg.