Based on a true events that took place during the American Civil War, FIELD OF LOST SHOES tells the story of the Battle of New Market which took place in the May of 1864 and all of the elements and also the events that led to this battle and the story of a group of teenage military cadets that had been sheltered from the reality of war at the Virginia Military Institute who suddenly found themselves thrown headlong into the frontline of battle having to confront the horrors of an adult world when they are called upon to defend the Shenandoah Valley against the might and ruthlessness of the forces of Abraham Lincoln under the leadership of Ulysses S. Grant. The Union Forces commander in Chief acts swiftly and mercilessly against the rebel army of the Confederacy and attacks the Shenandoah Valley which is an essential area for the South’s survival. The superintendent of the Military institute takes a decision to volunteer his cadets in the hope that they will be able to make a difference in the defence of the Valley. 274 children marched north towards the battle area and emerged from the chaos and terror of conflict as men. The musical score for this motion picture is the work of highly talented and noteworthy composer Frederik Wiedmann. I have always said that this composer is one that is capable of creating music for any genre of film and with his score for FIELD OF LOST SHOES he establishes himself further as a film music Maestro that I know will be around for many years to come and will produce scores of high quality and also works that will not just serve the movies they are intended to enhance but will also give us music that is memorable, melodic and original. In my opinion Wiedmann writes like old school composers used to and he approaches his projects in a very similar fashion also, of course at times he does enlist the aid of synthetic support but his bold and strident symphonic approach works marvellously. He creates real themes and develops these as the score progresses which in my very humble opinion is what good film music is all about. The score for THE FIELD OF LOST SHOES is a heroic one that is laden with melancholy and has within it an ever present atmosphere of drama which is laced and underlined with an aura of hope that also purveys a certain air of despair at key points within the score. The composer utilises a light and delicate approach on a number of the cues his graceful writing creating fragile sounding nuances that are subtle but at the same time affecting. In a handful of the cues I was reminded of the style of a young James Horner, the music being filled with melody and passion but also containing powerful undertones that delight and tantalise.
Although the film deals with the subject matter of war and conflict the composer I think has scored the movie in such a way that he does not over use the martial music card and underlines and supports the more human and personal side of the story of course there are a certain amount of cues that contain a more action led style as in track number 22, SEND THE BOYS IN, where driving strings are embellished and punctuated by percussion and a slight use of brass, it is however the swirling strings and the booming percussive elements that push the music forward the horns giving the cue added drive and also picking out the brave and patriotic sounding theme with additional support coming from choir. This is a style and sound that is returned to in track number 23, STORMING THE HILL choir again giving support to the brass and string sections and percussion bringing those elements of the orchestra together in a commanding and exhilarating composition. The mood for track number 24, AFTERMATH is very different, it is an adagio for strings of sorts with emotive swelling strings purveying a sense of sadness and relaying feelings of loss, but the mood changes to become hopeful again as the theme develops and builds with strings almost soaring towards it conclusion, but then melting away to give the theme to a plaintive and poignant sounding piano solo. This theme is given an even greater emotive content and sound within the next cue A SOLDIERS HEART with choir adding their presence and a solo trumpet taking the theme giving it a heartbreaking ambience. The final cue on the compact disc THE FIELD OF LOST SHOES is a highly emotional sounding piece in which the composer employs solo female voice and strings that are bolstered and underlined by choir subdued percussion and brass with a rich and warm sounding performance from the string section enhanced by choir which builds into a crescendo that then gives way to a solo violin performance that is underlined by low strings that brings the cue to its end. This is a score that I recommend highly, I enjoyed it enormously and I know you will also. Released on the ever industrious LA LA LAND RECORDS.
The films of Gerry Anderson were for me an essential part of growing up. As a kid and later with my children I would watch things such as STINGRAY, FIREBALL XLF, FOUR FEATHER FALLS, SUPERCAR and of course THUNDERBIRDS. It was Anderson who also brought us TORCHY and TWIZZLE which were shows that he began his career with and are now looked upon as quite crude in their appearance etc. I think THUNDERBIRDS was probably the most successful of all his TV series and it was the THUNDERBIRDS that he would take to the big screen in 1966 with THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO and then again two years later in 1968 with THUNDERBIRD 6. The latter unfortunately failed to achieve the popularity and also the box office attraction of its predecessor but in later years it has gained something of a cult following and along with THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO has garnered the attention and acclaim of many. Both the TV series and the two motion pictures contained music by British composer Barry Gray, Gray produced a majestic and martial sounding score and central theme to accompany the Tracy family in their persona as International rescue and for the first movie THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO he wrote a grand and sweeping secondary theme for ZERO X. Based upon the central and already familiar Thunderbirds theme the composer expanded and bolstered the infectious theme further with grandiose use of brass and strident strings. The composer combined the two themes in the opening credits music for THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO/ MAIN TITLES AND ZERO X and treated his fans to a greatly enlarged rendition of the theme and incorporated the theme for the ZERO X into the composition. Driving strings, supported by timpani and dazzling brass set the scene perfectly for what follows in Grays’s monumental soundtrack. Track number 2, ZERO X/SPY ON BOARD begins with a rousing and even more confident and robust rendition of the Zero x theme with the composer giving the composition more depth and also a sense of romanticism via the utilization of the string section. The mood of the cue alters with a foreboding and tense brass stab that is followed by taught and sinister sounding strings that underline that all is not right as we see the figure of the Hood entering the Zero x to do his dirty work. Gray then creates a more subtle version of the Zero x theme that itself segues into a relaxed and luxurious arrangement of the Thunderbirds theme as the scene changes to that of Tracy Island but ends on a sinister note as tense brass bring the cue to a close. Track number 3, thunderbirds are go/Penelope on the move is a great track, the composer bringing into play an extended and vibrant arrangement of the Thunderbirds theme as International Rescue swing into action and each ship is launched, the cue also includes a brief passage that accompanies the scene of Lady Penelope’s mansion strains of “They’ll always be an England” underline this very British scene.
This is followed by a particularly busy and upbeat version of the central theme that includes little comic sounding nuances along the way the composer re-introducing snippets of the Zero X theme as the cue progresses. This is a score that I now fans will adore and if you have not had chance to hear it before then you will be in for a treat indeed, every track is a literal smorgasbord of sounds, themes and haunting musical passages. THUNDERBIRD 6 is essentially a more relaxed and lighter sounding work than THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO, the composer creating a number of highly melodic and easy going themes that are at times interspersed with little comic sounding musical notations. But throughout it all we hear the familiar THUNDERBIRDS theme which seems to hold the score together, but overall the score is far lighter with numerous luxurious sounding themes that are straight out of the easy listening department with many of them being utilised as source music rather than scoring the action or scenario unfolding on screen, This does not mean that I did not enjoy the score because I certainly did and having both scores on one disc is wonderful because it enables us to appreciate more fully just how much of a musical genius Barry Gray was. This is a must have release that is packaged to the normal high standards of the La La Land label with numerous stills and some highly informative sleeve notes. Recommended in fact F.A.B.
Film music composers in my opinion are a rare breed they have the ability to compose music that in the first instant fits the movie and heightens the drama, accents the romanticism and also supports the action that is taking place on screen, then of course they have the ability to write melodic and in most cases memorable themes. So it’s no mean feat when music and image come together and the chemistry works. In many ways and I do not mean this in a derogatory way at all, film music composers are probably more disciplined than composers of music for the concert hall, because they are writing for a set time and also are at times limited to what music they can actually produce so they have to produce music that is effective but in a limited time frame, whereas composers of music for the concert hall probably and I say probably because I am not certain, have a greater freedom to express themselves and also are able to develop a theme or an idea to its full capacity without the restrictions of time slots, scripts and also without the added distractions of explosions, gun shots and other loud noises that invariably take place within movies. So when a composer/conductor from the world of concert hall music or serious music as it is so often referred to steps into the world of film music it is interesting to see or to the point hear how they fare. Gustavo Dudamel, is a gifted composer and also an energetic and passionate conductor of classical music and music for concert hall performance. He has just recently completed his first film score which is for THE LIBERATOR a movie that charts the life and times of Simon Bolivar. At first the producers of the movie asked Dudamel to act as an advisor for the musical side of things but the composer became more involved and wrote a brief melody which he thought might act as a suitable central theme for the picture, the producers liked it and the rest as they say is history. Dudamel turned to multi award winning film music composer John Williams for advice but not on composition but on the mechanics of film scoring and the best way in which music could serve a film.
Dudamel said that he approached the movie thinking that to be subtle would serve it best, but at the same time using ethnic instrumentation and sounds that would evoke the sound of South America, well I think no I know that he has certainly succeeded in doing this. The compact disc opens with QUIEN PUEDE DETENER LA LLUVIA? (Who can stop the rain from falling?). This is a cue that has subtle and quiet beginnings the plaintive tones of ethnic flute and harp combine to create a calming and quite tranquil opening or introduction, these however lead into a gradual build up of a powerful and strident orchestral composition.
The composer employing darkly rich and driving tribal drums that are supported by equally driving strings and imposing horns that introduce a full working of the theme by the string section and choir. The central theme does re-appear throughout the remainder of the score but at times it is only fleeting statement that we catch or an arrangement of it which the composer weaves into the score to tantalize and intrigue the listener at one point being given to a solo trumpet on track number 7, THE FALL OF THE REPUBLIC, the performance which has affiliations to the brooding and isolated trumpet performance on Zimmers BACKDRAFT score is introduced by low key strings that are dark and ominous which are underlined by flute and also a sprinkling of martial sounding timpani, but the trumpet solo is fleeting and in some ways too short lived simply because it is so mesmerising and captivating. Ethnic flutes are scattered throughout the score giving it a feel of the South Americas and also adding authenticity to the proceedings, the composer also utilises a number of ethnic sounding percussive elements within his score that work well when combined with the more conventional instrumentation of the symphony orchestra, this is a sweeping and highly melodic work that I am sure will be enjoyed not only by film music collectors but also by followers of Dudamel from the concert hall. It is an imposing and powerfully romantic sounding work filled with melodies both grand and subtle and at times for me the quieter more delicate passages possessed a whisper of the style of John Barry. Performed by the Orquesta Sinfonica Simon Bolivar de Venezuela, I just say to you recommended highly go buy it. Dudamel has already commented that he will probably not return to the film scoring arena, so maybe this is the one time we will get to savour his incredible talent as a composer of music for film.
I have always been fascinated by the golden age of film music, and yes most of us associate the golden age with Hollywood and composers such as Steiner, Newman, Rosza, Korngold etc. But I would also like to refresh peoples memories about the golden age of film music in Britain, yes that’s right a golden age in Britain, well we had one didn’t we. I think we did in fact I know we did. It occurred through the dark days of WWll and then afterwards into the 1950,s and up to the dawning of the 1960,s. With composers such as Walton, Vaughan Williams, William Alwyn, Malcolm Arnold, Bliss, Bax, George Auric, Clifton Parker and their like. But there were as always many unsung heroes of British film music, Ivor Slaney for example, Charles Williams and Doreen Carwithen and it is to one of the first women film music composers I turn now for this review. THE FILM MUSIC OF DOREEN CARWITHEN. Released on Dutton Epoch records which is a particularly busy label and part off the Dutton vocalion stable has released some interesting albums some of which include film music and others that focus upon what many call light music and I suppose British film music from the late 30,s through to the 1950,s did partly consist of what can be deemed as light music, especially when composers such as Frank Cordell etc for example began to write for film.
The compilation which was released in 2011 includes music from a handful of films and projects that Carwithen scored during the late 1940,s and into the early to mid 1950,s. The compact disc opens with an overture from the 1954 Exclusive films or Hammer production MEN OF SHERWOOD FOREST as you can probably work out from the title the film is about Robin Hood and his merry band of outlaws who stole from the rich and gave to the poor so legend has it in this particular adventure they battle to re-install Richard the Lionheart on to the English throne. The film which was released a while before Hammer decided to resurrect Dracula and friends was directed by Val Guest, and is not a movie that would win any awards or indeed be nominated for any, but the rousing and robust musical score which Carwithen penned is certainly an asset to the production. The music is not as glamorous or shall we say as anthem like or lavish as Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s famous foray into writing for the famous long bow archer in tights, but nonetheless it is a score that is certainly more than just interesting, it has to it a depth and substance that oozes character and also posses subtle but affecting melodies that are fleeting but attractive.
The central themes from the score were taken by Philip Lane and arranged into an overture which can also act as a concert piece, the majority of the more melodious parts of the score came from the opening trumpet flourishes which Lane took as his starting point, ironic really because it was a well known fact that Carwithen always wrote the main title or opening themes for her film scores last, firstly concentrating on the main fabric of the score or individual themes for certain characters and then fashioning her main credits theme from all aspects of the score. MEN OF SHERWOOD FOREST is regarded as Carwithen’s finest score and an important milestone in her career which outshone the movie for which it was composed, in fact the composer thought that the film was and I quote, “GHASTLY”.
The performances on this compilation are by the BBC CONCERT orchestra under the direction of Gavin Sutherland, he has been particularly active in resurrecting British film music and also a champion of light music and I have to say that the quality of the performances within the compilation are second to none also the sound achieved is authentic and it is as if we are hearing the scores from the films rather than a re-recording.
The next section on the disc is from the 1948 film BOYS IN BROWN the suite which runs for some 9 minutes is made up of three pieces or movements which are the principal thematic material from the score and occur at important moments within the film these are. MAIN TITLES AND OPENING SCENE, ESCAPE PLAN and KITTY AND JACKIE which is also the films end title, beautifully arranged into suite form by Philip Lane. Directed by Montgomery Tully the film included an impressive cast list Richard Attenborough, Barbara Murray, Dirk Bogarde, Jack Warner and Jimmy Hanley, the films storyline focuses on a group of young offenders who are in a Borstal and the governor played by Warner attempts to reform them and turn their lives around. The opening movement, MAIN TITLES AND OPENING SCENE, includes a fanfare of sorts that is performed by trombones and opens the proceedings, this introduces a taught and dramatic sounding theme that is performed by the string section with violins taking centre stage and being supported by darkly rich cellos that are them selves aided by basses and underlined and punctuated by timpani. The mood of the cue changes quite dramatically as brass and percussion take the piece to a more urgent level the composer adding low woodwinds and quite sinister and apprehensive strings to create an uneasy mood. Movement 2, ESCAPE PLAN is in the first instant a more calm and quiet piece and is used to underline a meeting that two of the films central characters are having in a dormitory, they plan to escape but one is uncertain of the plan and is having second thoughts because he says he has a family to think of.
Although the music is quiet and slightly subdued it still manages to purvey a certain degree of urgency with strings being the main stay of the composition with trumpet and woodwind being introduced as the cue progresses, there is within the cue a particularly attractive theme which although short lived seems to rise from nowhere but soon melts away and is overridden by a more troubled sound. Movement number 3, KITTY AND JACKIE end titles, is a feel good piece romantically laced and performed by swelling strings that purvey an atmosphere of hope. This section more than any of the others included on the compilation for me has a familiar sound to it and reminded me so much of the work of British composer William Alwyn, which I suppose it not surprising as it was Alwyn who schooled Carwithen in composition and also later became her Husband. Carwithen was actually given the musical expertise of two giants of film music the aforementioned Alwyn and also Muir Mathieson and it was whilst working as Mathieson’s assistant that Carwithen began to write for film, very often un-credited and stepping in for other composers who for what ever reason had fallen behind deadlines etc.
Carwithen,s first film score was for the 1948 production TO THE PUBLIC DANGER, directed by Terence Fisher who as we all know was to go on to become one of Hammer studios most prolific and respected film makers. Produced by Highbury studios this was in essence a public information film, I say public information as it was a film that was produced to highlight the dangers of drink driving. Carwithen wrote just the opening and closing music for the film which is presented here in a 3 minute arrangement that includes the dramatic and strident sounding PRELUDE which more or less launches us headlong into the proceedings with strings, agitated brass, rumbling percussion and woodwind creating a highly tense piece. After the mayhem and urgency of the opening music the cue moves into the APOTHEOSIS of Carwithens score with dark but quiet strings underlining the final scene of a car crash in which all three occupants have died. The piece builds slowly and rises briefly into an almost luxurious sounding crescendo bringing the section to its conclusion, this was the first of two films that Carwithen scored for Fisher the second being MANTRAP in 1952/53 and music from that movie is also included on this compilation.
For the next section we go forward to the 1950,s in fact to the early part of 1954, EAST ANGLIAN HOLIDAY was a documentary which was produced by British Transport Films, directed by Michael Clarke which takes us on a tour of East Anglia along the coastlines of Norfolk and Suffolk and showing us the sights of the area with its quaint villages and lush cornfields, picturesque churches and perfect rural settings. Carwithen wrote a beautifully descriptive and melodic score for the project that supported and added much to its content. The score although just over 15 minutes in duration encompassed many styles and gave us numerous rich and pleasant themes. Strings I would say have the lion’s share of the performance but are ably supported by wholesome sounding woodwinds, harp, subdued percussion and brass with tubular bells being utilised to introduce a cathedral. This is a beautiful piece that is calming and eloquent.
The compilation also includes music from MAN TRAP, which appears in the form of a 13 minute suite there is also music from the 1953 production THREE CASES OF MURDER and music from the 1952 TRAVEL ROYAL which was a documentary produced by B.O.A.C. and was made to encourage people to travel to Britain via the airline to see the famous historical sights and take in the heritage of the country.
Carwithen integrated many traditional national and folk songs into her score to depict England’s green and pleasant land, these included JOHN PEEL, ORANGES AND LEMONS, GREENSLEEVES and a short piece of music that was actually composed by Henry Vlll. The score posses a distinct atmosphere of ceremony and also purveys a warmth and amiable mood. I recommend this compilation wholeheartedly and in its running time I hear many styles and quirks of orchestration that I have heard before maybe in scores that have not credited Carwithen, it is astonishing that she gave so much to the world of film music but still remains virtually unknown. Presented very well with an amazing booklet of informative notes. Please add this to your collection you will not be sorry.
Composer Frederik Wiedmann is I believe one of the most versatile and talented music smiths working in film today, he is able to turn his hand and alter his music style to most genres and on each outing produces something that is not only wonderful with the images on screen but also gives us music that we can enjoy away from the images. SON OF BATMAN is an animated feature from DC UNIVERSE. Released on La La Land records who seem to have established themselves as the label for these types of scores, the score is a driving and exciting one which is filled with moments of high drama and passages and sections that verge on the operatic. A dark score that posses riveting and foreboding themes and sub themes with rich symphonic performances being embellished and supported by a sprinkling of electronics, Wiedmann getting the balance just right between symphonic and synthetic and creating a soundtrack that is filled with a brooding and apprehensive atmosphere. Urgent brasses and swirling strings underline the action scenes and the composer also treats us to some low key moments within the scores running time that are melodic and subdued, it is without a doubt a soundtrack that once heard will be returned to many times. Do not hesitate to add this one to your collection.
FILM AND TELEVISION MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD. WITH MOVIE REVIEWS AND NEWS FROM ALL OVER THE GLOBE.