When you have been collecting film music for a few years now like I have it sometimes becomes difficult to get to listen to certain scores, they always get ignored or even forgotten amongst the thousands of others that one has acquired over the years. The other day I was having a good tidy and inevitably came across certain magazines, books and cds that I had not seen in what seemed like an age. The third folder I opened had on its first five sections five CDS which were by Australian composer Bruce Rowland, now this is a composer I certainly do not listen to enough and as soon as I put on the first CD THE FILM AND TELEVISION MUSIC OF BRUCE ROWLIAND memories of hearing his haunting and full themed compositions came flooding back, also I re discovered the brilliantly rhythmic and heart-warningly melodic scores for PHAR LAP, THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER, ZUES AND ROXANNE, ANDRE and THE RETURN TO SNOWY RIVER PART 2.
All five compacts disc simply ooze luscious and lavishly tuneful compositions, some of which are fully symphonic and grand others being less grandiose and simple and containing an almost pop orientated style and sound. By far I think that his score for PHAR LAP is his finest, filled to overflowing with so many themes and motifs that it is at times difficult to take in that all these are from one score, the composer certainly must have been inspired by the subject matter, but then films with animals as their main focus are inspirational and emotional most of the time. PHAR LAP being a true account of the heroic race horse is a prime example of image and music working perfectly in unison.
Rowland’s anthem like music accompanying the creature through the trials and tribulations that it endured to come out of it the hero to a nation during the 1930,s. There is no doubt that the movie is an excellent piece of cinema but it is greatly aided by Rowland’s beautifully emotive and wonderfully melodious music. The compilation of Film and TV music includes four cues from the score and also has in its running time selections from THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER, ALL THE RIVERS RUN, NOW AND FOREVER and RETURN TO SNOWY RIVER and is a worthy edition to any soundtrack collection, of course it is hard to find and was issued on the much missed BAY CITIES label back in 1990 with short but interesting notes by Mr Nick Redman. The soundtrack to PHAR LAP was released on CD by Percepto records as a promo in 2001 but it had been available on LP previously during the 1980,s, the soundtrack was awarded best music score in 1983 by The Australian film institute, the CD release also included music from the composers score to ZEUS AND ROXANNE which is another fine example from Rowland on how to tug on a cinema audiences heart strings with melancholy and fragile sounding tone poems that manage to invade and effect the listeners emotions and leave a lasting mark.
THE MAN FROM SNOWY river was also issued on long playing record but was re-issued onto compact disc by VARESE SARABANDE in 1982. This is was a milestone work for the composer and showcases his of composing prowess and ability to create lavish but at the same time intimate themes, again like PHAR LAP it is filled to the brim with highly melodious thematic material and was awarded best music score for 1982 by the Australian film institute. THE RETURN TO SNOWY RIVER was also released on CD by Varese, and it too has become a much sought after item among collectors of film music.
Rowland’s music for ANDRE another wildlife true story weepy was issued on MILAN records. Rowland was born on May 9th 1942 in Melbourne Australia where he began to study piano, whilst he studied and entered his teenage years he began to play in various bands and soon became a much sought after session musician. He began writing music for the TV in the 1960,s and worked as musical director on a teenage programme entitled THE GO SHOW, where he would often perform keyboards and work on arrangements for the likes of Olivia Newton-John and Mick Jagger.
Rowland and the group THE STRANGERS often worked as backing musicians to many high profile artists during the 1960,s at times touring with PAUL AND PAULA, ROY ORBISON and THE BEACH BOYS. In the mid to late 1960,s the composer began to work regularly writing the music for two popular children’s TV shows, ADVENTURE ISLAND and THE MAGIC CIRCLE CLUB. The schedule on these shows was quite demanding and often he would have to provide a dozen or more songs/compositions per week. He began working on the shows in the summer of 1964 and stayed there till 1969.
It was at this time that the composer began to move into the area of commercials and penned at least 2000 jingles for both TV and radio. It was not until the 1980,s that Rowland began to score films more regularly and the rest as they say is history. The 1980,s were a particularly busy period for the composer it was in 1984 that he won a Penguin award for his work on the television series ALL THE RIVER RUN and at this time was also commissioned to provide the opening music for the Olympics which were aired by Australia’s Network 10 channel.
In 1985 the composer was awarded the AFI award for THE REBEL and three years later was asked to provide the opening fanfare for Expo 88. He remained busy during the 1990’s both in TV and cinema and wrote the music for projects such as LIGHTNING JACK for filmmaker Simon Wincer, JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH and the aforementioned ANDRE and ZEUS AND ROXANNE with director George Miller. He now divides his time between Melbourne and Los Angeles continuing to write music for film and TV.