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THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY is a dark melodrama directed by film maker Peter Strickland, it is the story of an intense and stormy relationship between two women, which focuses upon a woman that studies butterflies and moths and how she begins to test the limits of her relationship with her lover, the movie premiered in Toronto in the September of 2014 and was released in the UK in the February of 2015. Visually the movie is exquisite and also contains a thought provoking storyline, which at times has one comparing the on screen relationship with that of your own or people that you are acquainted with. The musical score is by performing duo CATS EYES, this being their first film score, the music is very reminiscent of film music which was coming out of Italy during the mid 1960,s and could easily be mistaken for the work of any number of Italian Maestros that were gainfully employed during that period, Luis Baclov for example or maybe Piero Piccioni, Ennio Morricone, Armando Trovaioli and Bruno Nicolai. There are also a number of similarities with the composing style of French film music composers Francis Lai and Pierre Bachelet. The duo’s combination of voice and varied instrumentation is at times dazzling with a sensual and breathy female vocal occupying a number of the cues supported by strings, woodwind and Cor Anglais . The CD opens with gently running water that is accompanied by fluttering bird song which is a hint of the naturalistic elements within the movie, it is a soothing and calming opening that sets the scene wonderfully for the compositions that are to follow. Track two OPENING CREDIT SONG is enormously calming and easy going, within this we hear vocalist Rachel Zaffira giving a very subtle performance in which it sounds as if she is relating a story of a past love. Rachel’s voice is quite unworldly as in ghostly but so affecting as well as effective, her vocals being enticing and hypnotic. Her skills as a vocalist in my opinion are showcased to a greater degree in track number 9, CARPENTER ARRIVAL her voice lending much to the composition and allowing her to display her range more fully, in many ways She reminded me of Edda dell Orso, maybe not as powerful or operatic as Edda but none the less highly emotive and hauntingly stunning. The instrumentation of the score is varied with the composing duo making good use of harp, harpsichord, strings and pensive sounding woodwind to create gracious and enthralling tone poems that are haunting and emotive. These are further supported by female choir which have to them a serene sound. Taking into account that this is CATS EYES first film score THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY has a mature and seasoned persona to it and I for one look forward to this talented duo’s next cinematic assignment.


This is one of those soundtracks that as soon as you have finished listening to you must return to it, it is polished and accomplished and is one of the most surprising and entertaining film scores of 2015 thus far, intoxicatedly beautiful, wonderfully understated and a work which has thematic material that oozes fragility and projects an air of vulnerability. I recommend it whole heartedly.



Dominik Scherrer is a British-Swiss composer of film soundtracks based in London. He has written the award winning score and theme for the Miss Marple series with Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie, the sci-fi hit series Primeval, the comedy Scenes of a Sexual Nature starring Ewan McGregor and the apocalyptic Nine Lives of Tomas Katz, amongst many others.

This interview was originally published on run movies.


How did you become involved on the Italian productions you have scored, for example LA DOPPIA VITA DI NATALIA BLUM ?

I had worked with the Italian director Anna Negri on numerous occasions when she was based in the UK. When she returned to Italy, we continued working together. I speak basic Italian but each time I am there it improves a bit! It’s enlightening to go into a completely different working environment occasionally and it’s lovely the be in Rome anyway! 

What musical training did you undertake and did you concentrate on any particular instrument whilst studying ? 

I am a trained flautist and play the piano. When I moved from Switzerland to the UK over twenty years ago, I came to study film and then specialised in soundtrack work. Later I studied composition privately with various composers. 

Was writing music for films or television something that always had in your mind to do ?

As a teenager I was attracted to both music and film, and I started to make films – fun animations or intricate literary adaptations for which I always composed my own soundtracks. The combination of film and music still thrills me, and occasionally I direct my own films too. They are either my own operas, for example the a ‘motorbike opera called HELL FOR LEATHER composed for the screen, or animations set to music, which I produce in collaboration with my Christoph Hefti as part of our art-pop project “Taxi Val Mentek”. There are various ways in which music and moving image can work together. In fiction, the music could sit more in the background, and a lot of people may not even notice it. In other genres, in art-film, or an opera-film, the music is more dominant. In either case though, what I find exciting is when everything gels into one: a story, an energy, a feeling.


You have worked on numerous television series  ie, MISS MARPLE, PRIMEVAL and more recently MONROE,  do you think that it is important to create a theme for the beginning of the programme so that people can easily recognise and identify the programme via this. I think it was Jerry Goldsmith that said he wrote a theme for a TV series being conscious that when people heard it when they were in another room they would stop what they were doing and go and watch the show ?

Styles have changed since Goldsmith scored the CBS shows in the 50s and 60s. Title sequences are now only thirty seconds long, at least in the UK, whereas in the old days the were elaborate affairs of over a minute. I think the audience doesn’t want to be told too much anymore that they are buying into a “product” when watching a series, but just want to be drawn into the story.
The same has perhaps happened with commercials: a chorus of backing singers used to sing the product’s “theme tune” on the old commercials and radio jingles. Now it may just be an instrumental song that gets faded at the end. The audience doesn’t want to feel manipulated perhaps. An extreme example of all this may be the LOST titles. It’s just that warping sound on a synth played by director JJ Abrams. That said, nearly every time my instructions for a theme tune are to compose something that people can hum afterwards, so yes, there is still a need to identify a programme, but it’s not just the theme tune itself. I am always striving to create a musical signature style for a series, so even when people are in the next room and hear any part of the score, can stop what they were doing and come and watch the show!


The Miss Marple series certainly approaches the stories and central character from a different angle to that of the original Miss Marple movies, with Margaret Rutherford. Did you have a specific brief from ITV when you were asked to score the series because maybe I imagined it but there is something of a very subtle reference to Ron Goodwin’s theme within your music and did you watch the old movies at all ? 

I grew up on the continent where the Margaret Rutherford movies were more popular than the Joan Hickson series, and I always was always a fan of Ron Goodwin’s Miss Marple theme-tune. So when ITV phoned up and said they were doing a new Miss Marple series and asked to see me, I replied that they should just re-use the Ron Goodwin music. But that wasn’t the production assistant’s call and they insisted I come in anyway… So that’s perhaps how there is a bit of Ron Goodwin in my theme tune – it’s probably the lightness and agility of the strings, which juxtaposes nicely with the elderly spinster Miss Marple. The films are a challenge to score however. The storylines are complex, there are often back-stories that go a few decades back, intricate family relations and so on. Agatha Christie had a very definite style in writing a murder mystery. They are intellectual puzzles and initially it looks like a jigsaw that will never come together. But gradually there is order and in the end it looks like there is only one possible solution. All that needs to be reflected in the score, sometimes simply to make the story clearer, or to give a particular atmosphere to a certain strand in the story. This means that every film has its own set of themes. The films also are quite individual in style, as they have different directors, writers and a completely new set of cast, apart from Miss Marple herself. 


You scored an interpretation of DRACULA in 2006, it was slightly more focused upon the sexual connotations of vampirism and I think that this was reflected within your score, the more intimate scenes between Mina and Harker were scored by a particularly romantic cello piece. What size orchestra did you utilize for this score ? 

It was quite a small ensemble of around 25 players, the cello solos were played on a Stradivarius by the great Josephine Knight, and there were three vocal soloists, including the counter tenor Christopher Robson with whom I’d worked with a few occasions before.
For example he was “the voice of god” in my opera Hell for Leather. While the interpretation focused on the sexual connotations, it also introduced the idea that Dracula was invited at the centre of an occult who invited him to England. The script-writer, Steward Harcourt, developed his own language for the member’s of the cult, a kind of twisted Romanian, and he supplied with me with lyrics to set to music. So the solo voices, sometimes used as a trio, came to represent the cult-ish side of the story.


PRIMEVAL is a great series and your music plays a big part of the proceedings, how did you become involved on the series ? 

I had worked with Cameron McAllister, the producer of the first Primeval series, previously when I scores the series JERICHO, with Robert Lindsay starring as the 50s Scotland Yard detective, so it felt natural to carry on working together.  

Staying with PRIMEVAL, the theme is quite outstanding, when you worked on the series did you begin with the opening theme and work through the remainder of the score thus developing it from the principal theme, or was it the score first and then the theme being created from what you had already written?

The search for a theme came quite early on. The first thing the establish was the overall style of the score, including theme tune. This could have been completely electronic, with the show being a sci-fi show essentially, or a more traditional orchestral score, or a sort of horror score etc etc. The idea at the beginning was very much that the show was about adventure, entertainment for the family, perhaps not too scary. So my first few sketches tried to embody that, and quite soon I arrived at this heroic, majestic, tune, played on French horns, with trombones blasting out broad harmonies below, a little bit John Barry style. This felt like a good direction to go, and rhythmical and harmonic elements of it, for example the galloping 6/8 rhythm could be used also for underscoring duties. Other themes soon followed, a theme for the appearance of “anomalies”, for the protagonist’s lost wife (and later adversary) Helen Cutter. Then each episode focuses on a particular creature, so they will always get their own themes as well.


Is it difficult scoring episodes of PRIMEVAL because it has a lot of FX and I am guessing if these are not in place when you are spotting the episodes you must at times work blind almost ?

It can be difficult. Not so much on a technical level, but more in terms of finding the right feel. As mentioned, the creatures have their own tunes, but often when I develop those themes, the creature on my copy of the film may me just a little more than a wire-frame. This helps to see how it moves approximately, if it’s agile and quick, or heavy and powerful for example, if it’s quirky, or just plain evil. But I always appreciated to have extra supporting material from the FX people, for example stills of detailed renderings of its skin, colours etc. All this will help to create thematic elements for the episodes. For the actual scoring of scenes working blind is not really a problem though. If necessary it’s possible to work just with a timing sheet.
It’s normal for anybody working in film to constantly imagine the final outcome in your head and then to work towards that. At the moment for example I starting to work for a film that’s not even shot yet, I just have to script to work with.

You have worked on TV series, one off dramas for TV, advertisements and  also feature films, what would you say were the main differences from scoring television dramas and working on a full length feature  ?

Working on a theatrical feature is always more attractive on the surface. Sitting in a cinema is a more intimate experience, there are less distractions, the sound quality is superior, so there is room for the music to breathe, more room for subtlety. The music has a better chance to counterpoint the story, can be more playful, as the audience is more attentive. Orchestrations can be more delicate, the music is played through at least six channels of audio. One perennial problem for us composers is we put a lot of care went into writing, orchestrating, recording and mixing a piece of music that in the end it’s hardly heard, because other elements such as sound effects are more dominant at that point in the film. We should get used to it but it’s frustrating every time. This happens less in cinema, as there is more room for all the different elements and there is a much bigger dynamic range. However, scoring for television has its own benefits: One of the great things about a TV series is that a story and its associated score and themes can be developed over many episodes. It can be, story-wise, an altogether deeper experience, akin to reading a book perhaps. A 100 minute feature film will always have the problem of a story that is compressed into the available time. Television is freer in this respect, and I always enjoy working within this bigger framework of let’s say 8 hours screen-time with its opportunities to repeat themes, slowly vary them, and gradually work towards en ending. 

When working on a project, how do you work out your musical ideas, do you utilize piano, keyboard, pc or write straight to manuscript ?

I develop themes on a piano at home and write them down on manuscript. In my studio I do electronic mock-ups, using samples, of individual cues to present to the director and producers, before recording them.

MONROE was an entertaining and interesting series, your score came across very well and supported and enhanced the programme without intruding, how long do you get to score a series such as this and do you score all 6 episodes before they are aired or do you score each episode one after the other as they are due to be aired ?


Monroe had quite a tight schedule. I had about 2 weeks each for the first few episodes, then only one week each. Normally I would tend to group the recording episodes into at least 2 together, for practical reasons, but the schedule was so tight on Monroe that I just had to complete them one by one, as transmission was always imminent. In the end this was a blessing in disguise: In meant I was recording almost every week and there was a more immediate interaction between the players’ performances and the composition itself. 

When a soundtrack CD is released do you compile the tracks and decide what is going to be released etc ?

Often one track of a soundtrack album is a composite of a handful of short music cues, and as I am generally more familiar with all the cues it’s easier for me to have an involvement in the compilation. I welcome however, the label’s input for the selection of themes. They may point out some cues that are perhaps insignificant for me, but may be entertaining for an album.

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SCENES OF A SEXUAL NATURE, contains an interesting score. What line up of instruments did you use on this ?

The line up was, rhythm section, brass, strings, flute, vocals. The idea was to give it a bit of a sixties and British feel. The film is set on a summery day in London’s Hampstead heath and the music hopefully helped with that fun outdoor feel.

What composers would you say have influenced you, these can be film music composers, classical and contemporary ?

I grew up in a family of Bach fanatics and as a child was dragged to a lot of choral rehearsals. German romantic composers were also an early influence, as well as Russian composers – Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich. Then a lot of pop, rock, and dance music. I have a particular interest in Eastern European and Balkan music. And there are so many great film composers: Carter Burwell, Jon Brion, Danny Elfman, Alan Silvestri, Bernard Herrmann, Alexandre Desplat, Miklos Rozsa, and so on. It could be a very long, pompous list, but I guess we are influenced by most music that we listen to.

Do you orchestrate all of your own music and do you feel that orchestration is an important part of the composing process ?

Finding the right orchestral colour is an essential process, particularly for film music where the composition itself is often quite simple. Sometimes when time is tight I have somebody fill in on additional orchestration.

What are you working on at the moment ? Too early days to say!


Many thanks….



Malcolm Williamson was born in Australia on November 21st 1931, his Father was a Minister and his Mother acted for a living. The composer took an interest in films from an early age and also began to focus upon music during his pre-teen years, studying French horn, Piano and Violin at the Sydney Conservatory. The composer later studied composition with sir Eugene Gossans. Whilst a teenager and growing up in Australia Williamson worked on a handful of documentaries, scoring them with music that was largely atmospheric and atonal as opposed to being melodic with developed thematic properties. In 1950 Williamson traveled to London where he continued to study music under the tutelage of Elizabeth Lutyens and Erwin Stein. In 1952 the composer settled in England and was already at this time in his early twenties considered by many to be a performer of note,with the assistance of Benjamin Britten and also Sir Adrian Boult Williamson had his first works published. Williamson has probably contributed to almost all genres of music contributing many works for concert hall performance as well as writing operas and ballets. He was introduced to Hammer films musical director John Hollingsworth in 1960 and it was Hollingsworth who suggested that Williamson should write the score to the studios production THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, this was the second movie in Hammers Dracula cycle but was not as successful as it predecessor which starred Christopher Lee as the infamous blood sucking Count. The role of Dracula this time being played by actor David Peel. In many ways Peel suited the role better he had a persona of refinement and sophistication about him that was tinged with virulence which for me personally seemed to be closer to the Bram Stoker character.


The score was a success for Williamson and is now looked upon as one of Hammers finest soundtracks, it contained organ music which the composer had studied but he did not perform on this particular score. After working on BRIDES OF DRACULA the composer worked on numerous documentaries and concentrated more on writing symphonic works such as ballets and operas. Hammer contacted the composer on numerous occasions to work on feature films that they had produced but he was too busy to break away from his writing for the concert hall. It was not until 1969 when Hammers new musical director Phil Martell contacted him offering him CRESCENDO that Williamson agreed to take the assignment. “ I was actually in that movie as well” recalled the composer “I was asked to play the piano in certain scenes so that they could film my hands, this was for authenticity apparently, I even wore James Olsen’s ring on my little finger, I remember my hands were far more hairy than the actors so I had to be shaved before the filming could begin, but I was paid rather handsomely for this”. The assignment went well for Williamson and the score for CRESCENDO is probably one of the studios most melodic and romantic sounding. His next foray into horror territory came with THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN.


In interview the composer recalled that this was not such a pleasing experience for him. “ I had specific ideas about the sound that I wanted to create for the film, I planned to use clarinets which would start with piccolo clarinet to double bass clarinet there would be eight in total which would be supported or underlined by strings and percussion, but things did not go entirely to plan and I was asked to add flutes and also oboe which I did reluctantly, this resulted in the sound becoming more of a conventional woodwind sound which for me completely defeated the object and diluted the sound that I was attempting to create. I also used the tuba to accompany the monster in the film, which was a mistake on my part it did not really work that well and made the character seem clumsy and awkward, or so I thought at the time, but seeing it in later years maybe it was not that awful, maybe I just did not understand what the studio was trying to achieve, but I was not the only one, Ralph Bates who I knew personally was the leading actor in the movie and he too was not pleased with the film was going. It was an attempt to combine Hammer horror with comedy or satire, which just did not work”.

In 1973 Williamson composed the score for NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT which was a Charlemange production, the company had been set up by actor Christopher Lee and Anthony Keys and NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT was their first release. In 1975 Williamson was appointed THE MASTER OF THE QUEENS MUSIC and was the first non-Briton to take up the position writing music for Royal Occasions 1976 he was awarded the CBE. In 1984 Williamson scored his fifth and final film score which was for THE MASKS OF DEATH the soundtrack included a lavish sounding waltz and a wonderful British sounding military march. Malcolm Williamson passed away in Cambridge on March 2nd 2003.

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