Released in the early part of 1972, UOMO AVVISATO MEZZO AMMAZZATO-PAROLA DI SPIRITO SANTO aka- THEY CALL HIM HOLY GHOST, was an entertaining and at times gimmicky Italian western, directed by Giuliano Carmineo and starring Gianni Garko. The movie which was set in Mexico focused upon the revolution in that country, and involved the main protagonist of the movie giving revolutionaries assistance in return for gold against a tyrannical politician General Urbarte who has proclaimed him self El Presidente. Garko’s character SPIRITO SANTO owns a pet dove whom he christens HAWK, which at certain times during the movie makes an entrance prior to Garko’s character coming on screen striking fear into his enemies. The movie is an unlikely romp, with a few implausible scenarios thrown in along the way but at the same time it remains enjoyable, attention holding and amusing. In fact it is probably a movie that brings into the equation elements from the best of the Italian western, by this I mean it combines the drama and also the edge of the seat tension of the ZAPATA western sub genre with that of the comedy/drama western such as THEY STILL CALL ME TRINITY etc. The musical score is by the great film music Maestro Bruno Nicolai, who produced a magnificent soundtrack that is filled with excitement, drama and also comedic musical passages and overflows with infectious and haunting themes. In fact the score is built upon a trio of central themes, with the composer utilising many of the now well known stock sounds and instrumentation from the spaghetti western genre. The opening track is a robust and some what rousing vocal performed by IL CANTORI MODERNI which has lyrics credited on the release to Giulia de Mutiis which I am 99 percent sure is an alias that Allessandro Alessandroni used on many occasions. LIBERTAD is in many ways similar to Morricone and Nicolai’s PACO theme from A PROFFESSIONAL GUN or even Cipriani’s music for THEY CALL ME ALLELUJAH and Waldo De Los Rios music for SAVAGE PAMPAS, sung in Spanish and oozing patriotism and also having to it a rawness and vitality that carries the cue along at pace, altering sound and direction midway when the composer introduces male voices that more or less bark or grunt to accentuate the racing composition. The theme is heard four times on the compact disc each time the composer bringing something new to the piece via clever orchestration or arranging.

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The second cue on the disc, opens with a flute warble that has certain affiliations with the short flute trill that accompanies Clint Eastwood’s character in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, this is followed by a short burst from a low key electric guitar that parodies Morricone’s familiar guitar death rift from FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, but after this the similarities between Morricone and Nicolai cease with the cue assuming a musical identity that is unmistakably Nicolai, organ, underlying strings and strumming guitar act as a background to the distinct whistle of Alessandroni, that is further enhanced and punctuated by little organ nuances. It is a somewhat laid back affair that has to it an underlying atmosphere of darkness and apprehension. I suppose comparisons can be drawn this time between this piece and the composers score for DEAD MEN RIDE another western which was released in the same period or near enough. The score for THEY CALL HIM HOLY GHOST is probably one of Nicolai’s best for a western, an accomplished work that should be savoured by Italian western fans old and new. The CD is presented very well, with colourful art work and numerous stills from the movie inside the CD booklet, which contains informative notes written in Italian and English by BEAT records Executive Daniele De Gemini. Well worth adding to your collection.



DOWNTON ABBEY is certainly a runaway success but you were writing music for film a long while before this show, when did you start to compose music for film and TV ?

I’ve been writing music for Film & TV for about 25 years. Previously I had been composing and performing music for various modern dance companies in London so it was a fairly natural step

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You have worked on a number of TV series have you ever re-cycled music from for example episode 1 and utilized in in episode 4 or at least adapted the music to suit it etc?

I hardly ever use exactly the the same cue twice, there seems to be much more dialogue in TV Drama now and my music tends to be fairly choreographed around it so it would be unusual for the same cue to work twice. Anyway one of the beauties of working on large episodic TV series is the potential to fully explore your material so I like to take advantage of that.

When scoring an episodic TV series what is the scheduling like, do you work in chronological order of episode or do you sometimes jump from episode to episode depending on the way in which the series is filmed?

I usually do work in chronological order, mainly because that’s also the episodes are edited and presented to me, however, I will have read the scripts so I will be aware of how a storyline might develop and I will be very aware of how a particular strand of thematic material might need to be used in later episodes. There is a certain amount of “thinking ahead” required.

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What size of orchestra did you utilize on DOWNTON ABBEY

I use a string orchestra of usually 33-35 musicians plus French Horn, Soprano Saxophone or Cor Anglais, Vibraphone and I play the Piano myself.

DOWNTON had various directors, did this prove more difficult rather than working with just one director and did any of the directors on the series have a hands on approach when it came to the music in the series?

On the first series I had more involvement with the directors but not now, sometimes I don’t even meet them. I work exclusively with the Producer Liz Truebridge and the executive producer Gareth Neame. Each of us has been involved from the very start and the feeling is that we know how the music works in Downton better than anyone else. Occasionally a director may make a suggestion but I always feel I have power of veto!

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What musical education did you receive and what areas of music did you focus upon and also what instrument or instruments did you concentrate upon when studying?

I studied Music at Glasgow University which was rigorously academic but did involve an enormous amount of practical music making. It was an extremely valuable experience which made me what I am. I also did a Postgraduate course at MIT in the use of computers and music which again was very valuable and a real eye opener.

Do you like to conduct your own music or do you at times use the services of a conductor so that you can monitor proceedings at the scoring sessions?

I started out conducting but now I find it more valuable to listen to the final result in the control room. I need to be able to shape the dynamics so I need to concentrate on the picture as much as the sound.

In 2007 you scored FRANKENSTEIN, which was a different take on the classic story, how did you become involved on this project ?

I had worked with the director and writer on a previous project.

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When you are working on a project, how many times do you like to see it before starting to get any ideas about what style of music and how much music you will write also at what stage of the production is better for you to become involved, do you prefer to see a script or maybe wait until the rough cut stage of the proceedings?

I like to read a script and maybe see some rough edits but really my work doesn’t start until the film has been locked i.e. completely edited. The pace of the editing is crucial to the type of music I write, it’s a large part of the storytelling so it tends to be very specific to the picture. In fact I always compose to picture, I never switch the dialogue off as I tend to overcomplicate the music when composing in isolation.

A number of the projects that you have worked on are period pieces, i.e.; DOWNTON, LORNA DOONE, THE WHITE QUEEN etc, do you carry out any research into the music of the particular period that the story is set in?

Because of my musical education I’m already very aware of the type of music which would have existed in each period. I would say that I don’t particularly pay much attention to it, but neither do I ignore it all together.

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You have a credit as music researcher on FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, what did this involve?

I wrote and edited a temp score to help with the editing and for test screenings

You have written the music for a number of shorts including the documentary BUGS, do you think it is more difficult to write for a film with a short running time as opposed to scoring a series or a feature length project?

Bugs was an IMAX movie and, I’m not sure why, but they tend to have a lot of music. I don’t think the music actually stopped in Bugs, there was as much of it as you would get in a normal feature film. I must say I do like the opportunity to explore my material over time so the longer the better for me.

When recording scores do you have a preference as to what recording studio that you use?

There are really only 3 studios left in London where you can record an orchestra properly, Abbey Road, Air or Angel, I will use one of those, recently I’ve been tending to use Angel studios more than the other 2.

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Do you orchestrate all of your music for film or due to the time factor have you at times used an orchestrator?

I started out orchestrating it all myself but I just can’t do that now, I used to stay up all night. I have a very good orchestrator now, Alastair King, and we have developed a very good way of working together. I will have realised a fairly good mock up of the cue using samples so Alastair will have a fairly good idea of the final intention. Also schedules have become much tighter so there’s a good chance I will be writing right up till the last moment so I just wouldn’t have time anyway.

What composers either contemporary or classical would you say may have influenced you in your approach to either scoring films or maybe have had some influence in the way you actually write music ?

I have a highly eclectic taste in music so the influences tend to vary between projects. I’m a great fan of Maurice Jarre, Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith but I’m not sure they have been massive influences on me. Philip Glass, I suppose, I have a great deal of admiration for, particularly his film and operatic work.

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Were any of the projects you were asked to score temp tracked, and
do you think that this is a practise that is a help or hindrance ?

Downton is only temped with my own music so that’s very helpful. I never find temp music a problem, it gives me a good insight into what the expectations are and the direction that a director is taking. Sometimes those expectations have to tempered by the budget but usually I find a way.

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At the moment in British television I am of the opinion that the musical scores are of a high standard, although at times they do tend to lack the presence of a stand out theme as in vintage television programmes. What is your opinion of the state of British television and film music at this moment in time ?

I think British TV music is in a very good state at the moment, it is very competitive and there’s always a feeling that you’re only as good as your last project. Recently however there is a tendency to think that music is done by one person in a spare room in their house. It’s not, it’s a department in it’s own right that requires a certain amount of staff in order to function properly. That’s probably been exacerbated by scheduling, in that there is now very little time, if any, allotted to directors or producers to attend music sessions so they tend to only see the final product and be totally unaware of the complexities of producing it. I can think of no other dept of filming which is expected to make such a large contribution with such a low budget.

You have worked on many differing genres, is there any genre of film that you have not worked that maybe you would like to ?

I haven’t done a political thriller for a while, that would be nice, or maybe even something like True Detective which I thought was fantastic film making. I hate being pigeon holed which unfortunately Downton Abbey has in a way, but I can’t really complain too much.

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When working on a score, how do you bring your ideas to fruition, by this I mean do you use piano, keyboards, or a more technical approach?

I tend to improvise to the picture with a Midi piano which I will record and then play around with various sounds on top and maybe end up not using the piano at all. I tend to find that each project requires it’s own unique harmonic or chordal entity and I usually find it on the piano.

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How much music have you written thus far for DOWNTON ABBEY and hopefully you will return for another series soon?

Well I’ve just finished series 5 so that’s, I think, 52 hours of drama, a lot in other words and series 6 has just been announced, long may it continue!

VIY. (liner notes)

Notes for the Nov/Dec 2014 release VIY on Kronos Records. pre order here. http://kronosrecords.com/K56.html


The production of the movie VIY-3D was beset by various problems most of which were financial. Cameras began to roll on the Russian, German, Ukrainian and Czech co-production in the early part of 2005 but soon ceased as the production hit problems, filming began again but then was stopped on several occasions due to lack of funds, after a number of postponements the movie was eventually completed in the December of 2012. However it still did not see a theatrical release until the January of 2014 and this was restricted to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. On seeing sections of the movie I was reminded very much of the style of filming that was employed on short films that were part of a BBC series entitled TALES FROM EUROPE, this was a series that showcased many productions from Europe and in particular Eastern Europe. VIY has the same look and atmosphere to it, the film is a colourful, fantastical, mysterious and magical experience that has an aura surrounding it that is attractive and alluring which draws in the watching audience until they are consumed and totally convinced and mesmerized by the events that are unfolding on screen. Set in the early 18th century this richly dark adventure extravaganza tells the story of a cartographer named Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng) leaves his pregnant betrothed and her insanely enraged Father (Charles Dance) to embark upon a scientific expedition to create a map of the Carpathians which takes him from Western Europe to the East in which he passes through the dark and mysterious land of Transylvania and over the Carpathian Mountains until he finds himself in the Ukraine. Travelling in a driver less mechanical vehicle that is drawn by horses the traveller happens upon a group of monks who relay to him a terrible and unsettling tale about a witch who lives in a village that is nearby and of their companion a young priest who stood vigil over the body of a young girl in a Church that overlooked the village, the beautiful young girl transpired to be a witch and their companion had never been seen or heard of again. The traveller is intrigued by the monks tale and decides that he must travel to the village and make a map of it. He arrives at the village and makes a somewhat spectacular entrance by crashing through its gates after being attacked and pursued by ghostly wolves through a thick and fog shrouded forest. Adapted from and loosely based upon the short story by the Ukrainian born Russian writer Nikolai Gogol which was originally published in the first volume of his collection of tales entitled MIRGOROD in 1835, the title VIY refers to the name of a demonic entity which is central to the storyline.

Anton Garcia.
Anton Garcia.

There have been a number of films made that are based upon this unsettling tale in 1967 there was the Russian version entitled VIY which is now regarded as a classic, in 1990 there was the Yugoslavian adaptation in the form of A HOLY PLACE, another Russian version in 1996 entitled VEDMA THE POWER OF FEAR plus a Korean edition under the title of EVIL SPIRIT in 2008. This latest adaptation of the story was scheduled to be released in 2009, which would have been the 200th anniversary of the authors birth, alas this was not to be. The original 1967 version and also A HOLY PLACE were almost direct adaptations of the authors story whereas this latest take on the story is greatly expanded upon being presented as a re-adaptation of Gogol’s original ideas. Shot in 3D this is certainly one of those edge of the seat movies that I am sure will become essential viewing for many, filled with stunning horror scenes and superb special effects, a sequel is to be filmed . The musical score is by Anton Garcia who should not be confused with Anton Garcia Abril. Anton Garcia was born into a Spanish family who lived in Moscow in 1965. He began his musical studies aged twelve and in 1985 was responsible for forming the first trash metal band in Russia called SHAH who went on to be one of the most well known and famous bands in the country. In 1995 the band parted company and Anton started to work as a producer working on over twenty long playing albums and composing a number of songs that would go on to be great success’s for various bands and solo artists. He has also worked as a composer writing for advertisements and in 2000 he began to write music for film, his most recent assignment being VIY 3D. His score is filled with vibrant and exciting themes and the best way to describe it is to say that it is a fusion of the styles that have been employed in movies such as VAN HELSING, CUTTHROAT ISLAND, YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES and the more recent works of Marco Beltrami and Danny Elfman. It is an unrelenting and highly entertaining work that evokes memories of action and adventure soundtracks of bygone days and will be as popular with collectors as the movie it is composed for.
John Mansell (c) 2014

As the notes appear in the CD booklet. Graphic design by Godwin Borg Kronos records (c) 2014.

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Notes for the Kronos Records release, Nov/Dec 2014. Pre order here http://kronosrecords.com/K54.html


Released in 2011, SUMMER SONG is a bitter sweet highly emotional movie that tells the story of a young woman Ellie who is a gifted musician. She is however in turmoil and is faced with some difficult choices that include loyalty to her family or following her dream. She is given the responsibility of caring for her five siblings because her Mother is incapable of caring for them due to her acute alcoholism, her Father is also unwilling to step up to the mark and shoulder the responsibility quite happily letting his Daughter struggle with the task. She even turns to her brother who is a preacher for help but he refuses. Ellie immerses herself in music for solace and also to the affections of a young Mechanic for comfort that she hopes will help her through her complicated life.

The musical score for the movie is the work of Andrew Holtzman and Peter Bateman, the latter as we know achieved recognition earlier this year (2014) with the release of his heroic sounding score for ATLANTIS-THE LAST DAYS OF KAPTARA which was also released on Kronos records. SUMMER SONG contains music that is far removed from the thundering and at times epic style that was employed on KAPTARA, the composers on this occasion turning to a far more gentle and romantic approach with a lilting, sorrowful cello that also at times becomes heart warmingly attractive, piano solo and emotive strings playing a major role within the score, the composers add to these elements subdued woodwind, and soft guitar to create an atmosphere that is fragile, intricate and captivating. Bateman is no stranger to the world of film music and many collectors and aficionados of the art have probably heard his music in numerous other movies without realizing it. I say this because the Maestro has been involved as additional music composer or orchestrator on many soundtracks including EPIC for Danny Elfman, MALEFICENT for James Newton Howard and PRIEST for composer Christopher Young to name but three. The score for SUMMER SONG is an eloquent and beguiling work, built upon a beautifully haunting central theme which is re-occurring throughout the score from which the composers produce a number of variations that support and enhance the film and accompany the central character as she experiences the trials and tribulations that are life. The music I think can be likened to the style of Rachel Portman (Cider House Rules) or even the work of Debbie Wiseman and James Horner. It is touching, affecting and totally absorbing.

John Mansell (c) 2014.

notes as they appear in CD booklet, graphic design by Godwin Borg, Kronos records (c) 2014.