PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN-DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES.

 

 

 

It’s amazing that the Pirates of the Caribbean series began back in 2003, and is still by reactions from fans of the series on the latest addition to its cycle, going strong. The musical scores have played a big part in the popularity of the movies and have also become something of a standard on the radio and in concert performances of film music. The first movie in the series had a score credited to composer Klaus Badelt who in my opinion did a great job of enhancing and underlining the action and very tongue in cheek and over the top antics of Captain Jack Sparrow masterfully portrayed by the highly talented Johnny Depp, and this is where I get confused Badlet scored the first movie, yes? So Badlet also created the now familiar PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN theme Yes? Or maybe no? because the next instalment, DEAD MANS CHEST also contains the very same theme but the credit this time goes to Hans Zimmer, confused yes, I am a little me hearties. Then came AT WORLDS END which followed on very quickly behind DEAD MANS CHEST in fact it was in cinemas less than a year after DEAD MANS CHEST, again music credited to Hans Zimmer, so at this point are we thinking who is Klaus Badlet? Up next we have in 2011 ON STRANGER SHORES, again its Mr Zimmer, but is the theme still present yes me hearties it be there arrrr, oops sorry was slipping into character whilst splicing the main brace and standing on the poop deck. So, I am still confused, Badlet or Zimmer, or did Zimmer have a hand in the original? when the films were not popular or an unknown quantity, then when the films began to gain a large audience Zimmer decided ummm now hang on a sec, maybe I should have agreed to have my name on the first movies credits for that theme. There is certainly no doubt that the theme is filled with everything that is love him or hate him Hans Zimmer, it evokes BACKDRAFT for example and brings into play the grandeur and the dramatic power of GLADIATOR, so maybe Zimmer did write it, and very graciously gave the credit to Badlet, not sure, so I won’t pursue this any further because I am becoming as befuddled as Captain Jack. The scores for the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series are probably some of the best and arguably the worst of the 21st century thus far, they are filled with the correct amount of yo ho ho and are also bulging with numerous bottles of rum, copious amounts of skulls and cross bones etc, and if anyone says any different I will keel haul you and make you walk the plank. So, to the latest offering PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN-DEAD MAN TELL NO TALES, OR SALAZARS REVENGE, see the motley crew in search of the Trident of Poseidon, the tale is filled with action and mystical goings on. The movie has been met with mixed reviews and I must say by looking I have found most of the critic’s reviews to be a little negative, it is sad at times when a franchise or series of movies out stays its welcome, and maybe just maybe Pirates has done this and really should now be heading towards Davy Jones locker to rest forever.

 

The score for DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES is credited to Geoff Zanelli, who although at times does burst into the Badlet, sorry Zimmer Pirates theme at times, has for the most part as far as I can hear written an entirely original sounding work for the movie, which is something of a breath of fresh air these days in film. However, there are as I say certain points win his score where the influence of the past Pirates scores seep through, but this is certainly not a negative. Zanelli’s score for me is more developed or has more substance than the past two works in the series, but also it does somehow lack any real punch or power as I was waiting each time it seemed to get underway for it to build and become even more of a commanding powerhouse of a score, but instead each time it just held back. Please do not take this the wrong way, as the music is for the most part good, but it is a basic action score in the end with no real surprises and nothing that kind of stands out or comes along and hits you in between the eyes and wows you. There is no doubt it is a serviceable score within the movie, but away from it as a listening experience I was not bowled over, three exceptions are the tracks entitled KILL THE FILTHY PIRATE, I,LL WAIT, I,VE COME WTH THE BUTCHERS BILL and TREASURE which are in parts interesting because the composer manages to sustain a decent pace and momentum throughout both, with that Badlet, No sorry, Zimmer theme weaving in and out. Zanelli is a fine composer and I have for many a year admired his scores, but this PIRATES episode I think is maybe PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN-ON TEPID MUSICAL WATERS.

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THE EXCEPTION.

 

 

THE EXCEPTION, is a riveting World War II thriller that is filled with espionage and romance in equal measure, the story focuses upon a German Soldier Stefan Brandt portrayed by Jai Courtney as he embarks on a mission to investigate exiled German Monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II played wonderfully by the talented actor Christopher Plummer. The Kaiser has taken up residence in a secluded mansion in The Netherlands, and as Hitler’s Nazis are taking over Holland, the country’s authorities are concerned that Dutch spies may be watching the Kaiser. As Brandt begins to infiltrate the Kaiser’s life in search of clues, he finds that he is slowly but surely being drawn into an unexpected and passionate romance with Mieke (Lily James), one of the Kaiser’s maids whom Brandt soon discovers is secretly Jewish. When Heinrich Himmler (Eddie Marsan), Head of the SS, decides to come for an unexpected visit with a large platoon of Nazis in tow, the stage is set for a breath-taking showdown, as secrets are revealed, allegiances are tested, and Brandt is forced to make the ultimate choice between honouring his country and following his heart. It is a gripping and absorbing movie and one that will keep audiences interested and entertained throughout, the musical score is by composer Ilan Eshkeri, who is in my opinion one of the leading lights in film music composition, his score for STARDUST still amazes and enthrals all who listen to it for the first time and holds the attention of collectors who have had it within their collection since its release.

Eshkeri’s score for THE EXCEPTION contains some of the most beautiful and attractive themes that I have heard in a while, many of which are performed by piano, the instrument lending much to the poignancy and emotiveness of the music. The delicate and fragile sounding themes which are quite simple in their make-up seem to be even more haunting when both piano and cello combine to create a touching yet solemn style and sound that certainly hits the emotional spot wonderfully. The score also contains a harder and more martial sound in places which is in-keeping with the films storyline, it also has a mysterious and somewhat exhilarating air to it, with the composer developing an atmosphere that is uneasy and urgent via strings and underlining timpani, the percussive elements acting as punctuation to the string sections and being further enhanced by the utilization of piano, which although fleeting is effective and adds a sense of intrigue to the proceedings. Overall, I would say that this is a somewhat low-key score, with the composer employing just strings. piano and the timpani sections of the orchestra, the lilting and haunting themes are beautifully written and contain a richness and warmth but at the same time seem to ooze a melancholy and fragility which becomes attractive to the listener almost instantly. I am confident that this will become a firm favourite of collectors old and new. Please check it out. Recommended.

 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER CHRISTOPHER SLASKI.

 

Can I begin by asking where and when were you born, what are your earliest memories of any kind of music, and was music always something that you were attracted to do as a career?

I was born in London on 3 December 1974. Apparently, as a baby, music had a calming effect on me, but of course I have no memories of that! When I was five years old, recognising that I had some musical ability, my parents organised piano lessons for me and later I began learning the organ. By sixteen I was giving piano and organ recitals, performing chamber music and concertos, and playing in Jazz groups and I loved it, but I didn’t have any wish to pursue it as a career at that time. It was only when I reached my mid teens that I started composing. A chance encounter with the music of the French composer Claude Bolling drew me into the world of film music. Until that point, I hadn’t even noticed the existence of film music and I certainly had never considered it as a possible profession.

 

I think I read that you stated that your musical influences came from composers such as Michel Legrand, Philippe Sarde and of course Ennio Morricone, did you or do you collect or buy soundtrack albums by other composers?

I think I was around 14 or 15 when I discovered modern Jazz and began to listen to and buy recordings by Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson and Antonio Carlos Jobim amongst others. In 1988, I saw the Italian film “Cinema Paradiso” and was completely blown away by both the film and Ennio Morricone’s score. Soon afterwards, a friend sent me a video tape of Michel Legrand, Claude Bolling and Oscar Peterson performing a Jazz piano concert together. This was the first time I heard Legrand’s music from “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “The Thomas Crown Affair” and I immediately fell in love with it. At this time, apart from classical music and Jazz, I was into buying CDs of soundtracks and I would visit Tower Records, HMV and other specialist music shops, listening to everything I could find by my favourite film composers.

 

 

What non film music composers would you say have influenced you?

Bach, Chopin, Mahler, Debussy, Satie, Ravel, Poulenc, Stravinsky, Rachmaninov, Copland, Astor Piazzolla, Steve Reich, John Adams and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Also, Richard Rodney Bennett, who taught me at the Royal Academy of Music. His concert music is just as direct and beautiful as his film music. Finally, the song-writer and arranger Burt Bacharach. His sophisticated melodies, harmonic changes and arrangements are so original and beautiful.

 

 

 

What musical education did you receive?

Apart from piano lessons with concert pianist Martino Tirimo and organ lessons with various teachers at my school and at Westminster Cathedral, I also studied for GCSE and A-Level Music, together with all the other usual subjects. During my gap year, I signed up composition classes at Morley College and conducting with Laurence Leonard and meanwhile I got an offer from Queens College, Cambridge to read Music. After three years there, where I had the honour of taking composition lessons with Robin Holloway, I spent a further two years as a postgraduate in Composition at the Royal Academy of Music under the guidance of Paul Patterson.

You worked as an orchestrator, do you think that this gave you a better understanding of music composition or the way in which music works?

I wouldn’t say that the experience of orchestrating gave me a better understanding of music composition, as music can, in most cases, be separated from its orchestration. Ravel’s piano works for instance. They are all great in their own right. Ravel’s orchestrations of his piano works give the music an extra dimension, but his piano works are not diminished in any way next to the orchestral versions. What the practical experience of orchestrating did do for me was to better enable me to present my musical ideas for the orchestra, and hopefully, to maximise their potential.

I think that orchestration can help to structure music. In the greatest concert works, orchestration is not a haphazard series of orchestral-colour decisions, but a well thought-out process that, just like the music itself, has it’s own logic. When writing film music, orchestration tends to be instinctive for most composers, as much of the time you are not dealing with long musical structures as you would be in a concert work. I tend to invent sounds and textures that are appropriate for the given moment in a scene and I use orchestration to define moments, to evoke atmosphere and create connections, just as I would use a thematic leitmotif.

The thing that has really helped me to understand how music works has been the process of transcribing music. I have made hundreds of transcriptions from audio recordings, writing out pieces of music by ear. These have been the most useful exercise I have ever done and I would recommend transcribing music to any prospective composer or arranger. Taking down music by ear has not only given me an insight into how the compositions (and orchestrations) have been created from inside out, but it has had the secondary benefit of fine tuning my inner ear, which has in itself helped me hugely. Thanks to these aural ‘workouts” I can now hear in my head any musical and instrumental combination, and notate them without having to play them on a keyboard.

 

You scored a movie entitled THE BREAK IN back in 1999, and then a year later you collaborated once again with the director John Stewart on THE ASYLUM, how did you become involved on these projects?

The 1999 thriller, “The Break-In” came about after answering an advert in the back of a film industry magazine. John Stewart and his producer were looking for a composer to score their new short film and I managed to talk my way into getting the job. There was a small fee but no recording budget to speak of, but because I wanted the quality and emotion of live musicians, I managed to persuade 15 friends from the Royal Academy to play on the session. The director requested a score with music of a highly dramatic nature. It was super fun to write and record. Years later, I would hand over the recordings to a library music company, and it has became some of the most widely used of my entire catalogue.
Getting to score John’s feature film “The Asylum” was my prize for having scored his short. Set in Cane Hill Asylum, an abandoned Victorian psychiatric hospital built on a hilltop in the London greenbelt, it was a psychological horror film. I composed a gothic Herrmann-esque score to match. They had a fairly decent budget this time around, so I was able to record my first orchestral score, which were did with a 60-piece band in Prague.

 

You scored BEYOND THE SEA for Kevin Spacey, did he have specific ideas about what style of score he wanted and was this a difficult project because the soundtrack obviously contained so many songs?

It was actually John Wilson, the musical director (and well-known conductor), who asked me to score “Beyond The Sea”. In a short phone call, apart from one or two specific instructions, Kevin Spacey gave me free reign. It was surprising but also a bit daunting to have so much trust placed in me like that. This was a Hollywood studio film, the highest profile film I had worked on. It had a cast of very famous actors and actresses. Fortunately I didn’t have time to think deeply about it, otherwise I might have freaked out!

As you say, there were many existing songs interspersed throughout the film. This meant that the musical entrances and exits of my cues had to segue imperceptibly with the starts or endings of existing songs. That wasn’t particularly difficult. However, finding a musical style that was not only in keeping with the period but which also blended seamlessly with the existing songs and their arrangements – that was the big challenge. The music I ended up writing had a distinctly American feel, but also placed the film decisively into the 1950s and 60s, which is when the film was mainly set.

Kevin Spacey was very happy indeed with the score and getting the thumbs up from him was a very proud moment for me.

In your opinion, what do you think is the purpose of music in film?

To enhance the emotions and to say what is not possible with words.

 

 

When a score that you have composed is given a release on compact disc etc., are you involved in the compilation of the music tracks at all?

Absolutely 100%. It is vital to make sure that the music is presented well and I work closely together with the producer of the album spending much time deciding on the best possible order of tracks and whether they should be presented individually or merged into longer suites. In the end, it’s all about how to structure the best possible listening experience rather than slavishly following the order of the cues as they appear in the film.

 

 

As well as feature films, you have worked on numerous shorts, what would you say are the main differences between scoring a feature and a short film?

Whether it’s a short film or a feature film, the process is exactly the same. Short films, while often low budget, are not the poor relation when it comes to compositional challenges. Indeed, there can be certain advantages since you are not bound by commercially driven decisions and there are fewer people involved in making those decisions. I believe some of the most personal music I have written has been for shorts because I was unhindered by the extra-musical distractions that can take over on larger projects. Although the condensed nature of a short means you rarely have the opportunity for extended development of musical material, it always surprises me how much musical variety you can cover in a 15-minute film. One of my most liked compositions comes from a short film called “Cuadrilátero” directed by José Carlos Ruiz and starring French actor, Mathieu Amalric. Another short film I very much enjoyed working on more recently is a comedy called “Tú o Yo” directed by Javier Marco. I decided to compose an energetic Jazz score which I recorded with some really marvellous jazz musicians in London, including John Barclay, the flugelhorn player on John Barry’s early Bond scores and an incredible saxophonist called Martin Robertson who had no problem playing my extremely difficult written out Jazz lines.

 

You studied under Ennio Morricone, what was it like being giving instruction by the Maestro? How many times do you like to see a movie before you begin to get ideas about where the music will go and what style of music you think the movie requires?

During my gap year, an Italian friend who knew how much I loved Morricone’s music, sent me details of classes that Morricone was giving at the Academia Chigiana that summer in Sienna. It wasn’t open to anyone and you had to apply, by sending in a number of compositions and a curriculum. We were about 20 or so students and the classes took place over the space of a week or so. Rather than being taught traditionally, we listened to extended conversations between Morricone and the musicologist Sergio Michelli. So, there wasn’t much opportunity for interaction. Even so, it was amazing just to be in the same room as the Maestro and I did manage to ask a few of my own questions plus get a few moments to share some of my scores with him, including a transcription I had made of the score to “Cinema Paradiso”. He seemed quite touched when I showed it to him, and he spent some time going through it and making some corrections! I still have this manuscript in my studio to this day, with the words “Bravo per la trascrizione, Ennio Morricone” !

As for your second question, I get music ideas from the very first moment I see a film. The first viewing is of utmost importance to me, as I’ll never see the film like that again, with such an open mind. So the first viewing is the closest I will ever feel to how an audience will see it when they go to the cinema.

 

http://www.quartetrecords.com/film-works.html

The album FILMWORKS is an amazing release, are there any plans for a volume two soon?

Thank you! I would love to do another one, but I will have to build up a similar body of work to justify another retrospective. I am writing new music all the time, so this shouldn’t take too long! What is likely to happen before that is the release of a new work that I am currently working on: a concerto for Bandoneon, Guitar, Piano and orchestra. I think it’s the best work I have written, easily as ambitious the “Frank Lloyd Wright Suite” (recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra in 2005), but very different in style. There is still a long way to go before I am finished, as it is a dense and complex work with millions of notes. My hope is that it will receive some live performances before being recorded because that’s always the best way for music to become second nature to the musicians.

When scoring a project do you have a set routine, by this I mean do you begin with the opening titles and work through to the end credits, or do you develop a central theme and build your score around this?

The latter is more typical in my case. That is to say, around some central ideas but not chronologically. Rarely do I start at the beginning and work my way through to the end. Whenever I have tried to compose in a logical progression, the director has gone and changed the order of cues, so that we ended up with a different score than the one I had envisaged at the beginning. I see writing for film as more akin to sculpting from a piece of rock. What starts out as a rather unwieldy block of stone is gradually chipped away at until a shape begins to take form. Little by little this shape is refined until you end up with the polished statue. Actually, this is how all compositions are formed in my case, concert works included.

 

What is your opinion of the use of the temp track, do you think that maybe certain directors can become fixated upon the temp and it blurs their vision as far as an original score is concerned?

Temp tracks inhibit freedom, artistry and imagination. They are the very antithesis to creativity. By acting as a blue print for the score you will eventually compose, they blind everyone to the possibility of creating something original that they hadn’t imagined. Temp music can be useful in helping the director to make a point, and certainly helpful to the editor to cut to, but they have no artistic use whatsoever. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the liberal use of temp music has led to a deterioration of really good film composition. A great deal of film music today sounds bland and identical, no matter who the composer is, and I am not alone in saying that. Morricone, Legrand, Sarde, Elfman and many others have made the same point. That said, I am used to temp tracks, and I know how to deal with them. I would always prefer to have a film temped with my own music because at least then I am hearing my own musical language in context of the film rather than being asked to imitate someone else’s

 

 

You have worked on movies from many different countries, is film music treated differently from country to country, or do directors all pretty much think along the same lines when it comes to the score?

I have been lucky to have worked with some really good directors, regardless of where they came from. Kevin Spacey, one could say, is part of the film nobility in Hollywood, as are the Quay Brothers in Art House cinema. Likewise, David Planell and Jose Carlos Ruiz from Spain are seriously talented auteurs as are Friedrich Moser from Austria and Beryl Richards from England. What makes each one stand out is their personality and culture rather than nationality. That said, I have seen many different styles of film making, and each film requires a bespoke musical approach. In European cinema there is definitely more emphasis placed on the role of music as a distinct personality in the film. In British and American cinema, music tends to be more consigned to a background, incidental role. This is a generalisation of course, and there are examples that go against this, though the melancholic nostalgia, intellect and sensuality one finds in much French cinema (Francois Ozon’s films for instance) is notably absent in much contemporary social British cinema which tends to be more concerned with the grim realities of urban life (such as Ken Loach). The fact is, I try to write music that best suits a film’s style and needs. Sometimes you can make bold musical statements, other times you have to take more of a backseat role. Of all the directors I have worked with, what never fails to delight me is the gratitude they express when I compose something that really makes their film work. I think it’s because music makes them fall in love with their film again.

 

 

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=WHO+IS+FLORINDA+BOLKAN+FILM&view=detail&mid=B9A068DC7727DCA2077CB9A068DC7727DCA2077C&FORM=VIRE

WHO IS FLORINDA BOLKAN is an interesting work, a homage to Morricone, how did you become involved on this project and was it your idea to score it in this style?

Ruben Torrejon, a young Spanish director approached me for this film. He already knew my music from other short films I had done and, like me, he loves 60s and 70s Italian film music. It was his idea to score the film in that style, using Bossa Novas and a wordless female voice, very much in the style of Edda Dell’Orso and the sensual, psychedelic scores of that period in Italian cinema.

One of your latest projects is THE GOOD AMERICAN which you worked on with composer Guy Farley, was this a collaboration in the true sense or were you each responsible for individual cues for the score?

Guy and I have a long established partnership writing music for commercials, an arrangement we have had since 2009. On this occasion I asked him if he’d be interested to collaborate with me on a feature film. Apart from a couple of cues where we mixed our ideas together, we generally kept our cues completely separate, choosing in advance which scenes we’d like to score. This worked well because in this particular film we found that the scenes could be evenly divided up into genres and moods. The score was recognised by the Austrian Film Academy and nominated for the Austrian Film Prize, the Austrian equivalent of the CESAR or OSCAR. We took part in the ceremony in Vienna a few months ago which was an unforgettable experience.

 

Using THE GOOD AMERICAN as an example, what size orchestra did you have for this project, and what synthetics did you use?

I had 40 strings, 8 woodwinds, harp, piano and percussion plus non-orchestral, synthesised sounds to add a modern, technological feel to the music. Fast, agitated string passages provided the pace and tension while the woodwind was available to vary the colour. I used two bass clarinets often for some repeated staccato effects and I gave the bass flute a number of important solos. Something about the gentle character of the protagonist, Bill Binney, the location of his home near a forest and his love of nature suggested writing for the lower woodwind, especially the flutes. The electronic elements I put together before starting. I chose sounds that appealed to me from existing electronic instruments and I also created some different sounds myself. The way I like to use electronics, is blended so well with the orchestral elements, that they become part of the texture. It’s a homogeneity of acoustic and electronic sound. I also like to double the contrabasses with a low electronic sound, which gives them an extra richness in the cinema.

On the FILMWORKS album you have included the unused music for I ANNA, in the form of the FILM NOIR SUITE, the music is excellent, why was the score not used?

The director’s original idea was for a retro instrumental score inspired by French film music of the 1970s. This was a dream project for me, and I came up with some demos in an appropriate style but with a modern twist that the director and producer really loved and encouraged me to explore. The film’s editor too was very complimentary when he heard my music, a sure sign that I was on the right path.

Two weeks before the orchestral recordings were due to take place at Abbey Road Studios, I received an apologetic call from the producer to inform me that a decision had been made to explore an entirely different musical route from the one thus far, and one much closer to the original temp track which everyone had got to used to. So, the film ended up with a non-orchestral, ambient-electronic soundtrack, composed by the same author as the temp music, plus some pre-existing songs. In other words, it couldn’t have been more different in style to the original concept. Although this outcome was disheartening, the experience hadn’t been a waste of time. Those months of intense work and experimentation turned out to be a very useful period of musical development and I subsequently re-worked one of the cues from I, ANNA into my latest score for A GOOD AMERICAN (a cue called “2 Disc PC”). Never waste good music!

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think that a good score can save or maybe make a bad movie a little better?

It depends on your definition of ‘better’. While music cannot transform a bad film into a good one, what it can unquestionably do is make the viewing experience a lot more palatable. Most films have a problem or two lurking away within them, perhaps a scene that doesn’t work quite as well as the director had envisaged, or a clumsy transition or even a lacklustre performance. Music can certainly help to gloss over those moments and make them seem less bad. However, despite the best music in the world, if the film is just poor, the audience will still walk away feeling let down. The difference is, if the music is highly engaging, the audience might stay in their seats until the end of the film rather than leaving after 20 minutes! So, although a good score can make a bad film appear better, in the end, it’s still a bad film. Composers are often asked to commit to working on a film after reading a script, and long before the film has been made – and this is how they can sometimes find themselves working on a film that hasn’t turned out very well. In cases, like these, I refer to some advice given to me by Richard Rodney Bennett who said that if you’re going to write music for a film, you have to learn to love it in some way, however bad it is. It’s also worth noting how many superb scores have been written for crappy films!

 

 

 

THE PIANO TURNER OF EARTHQUAKES, is a score of yours that I like a lot, was it difficult creating the music for this as I know that there was music by Vivaldi etc. on the soundtrack as well?

Thank you – I’m really glad you like it. THE PIANO TUNER OF EARTHQUAKES directed by Stephen and Timothy Quay, stylistically speaking, was different from anything I had ever seen before so I had absolutely no point of reference. It’s a dark and surrealist vision from two completely original film makers. From the outset, I decided to compose freely, inspired by the images and the script rather than the picture. As you rightly say, there was some pre-existing music by Vivaldi that I re-arranged and used dramatically, as part of the score. The Vivaldi and my own original music had quite separate functions within the film, and were used in quite different scenes, so it didn’t pose any problem at all for me.

The challenge was, as always, how to find the most fitting musical mood to complement the abstract and quite stunning imagery. The Quays played me some music by the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke for inspiration and we decided to use the Aeolian Harp and Alphorn in the score and a fairground steam-organ to create the sound world of the automata, the mechanical machines that dot the film’s landscape. I used all kinds of rarely used instruments such as crystal glasses, glass harmonica, prepared piano, contrabass flute, and many kinds of percussion instruments to add unusual colors to the score. I exploited sounds by altering them electronically, changing their velocities, reversing them and combining them with vocals and a hint of specially created synth sounds. The final result was an eclectic, avant-garde score that reflected the strange, dream-like world of the Quays.

Do you think that there is any genre of film that is particularly difficult to score, and for what reason?

Comedy. It’s probably the most challenging of all genres. This is because it will often encompass a myriad of different shades of drama, emotion, and styles. So, apart from the scenes of physical comedy, or slapstick, of which there are bound to be some, there will also be sad, dark, or ironic moments and quite possibly fast paced action scenes as well. There may even be suspense or horror, and certainly some melodrama. So, in a single comedy film, a composer may end up covering every cinematic genre. In that sense, writing music for a comedy can often be all encompassing and hence very challenging. On top of that you have the additional challenge of finding new ways to enhance the comedy with music which don’t sound hackneyed and without an expert musical touch could easily make the comedy fall flat.

 

What are you working on now?

I have just completed the music for a couple of TV and cinema adverts plus a handful of new orchestral pieces for Audio Network, the library music company, which we recorded at Abbey Road Studios last month. As I mentioned earlier, I am also working on a concert work, a concerto for Bandoneon, Guitar and Piano. In September I’ll be starting work on a new film score for a French-Polish production. I have Polish nationality as well as British, and I am excited to be working with a Polish director for the very first time.

 

 

 

KING ARTHUR-LEGEND OF THE SWORD.

 

Last Summer composer Daniel Pemberton was talking about a movie he was working on, it turned out to be KING ARTHUR-LEGEND OF THE SWORD which hits the screens in the UK on May 19th. At the time the composer remarked, “Yes like the world needs another movie about King Arthur”. However, I am sure seeing as it is directed by Guy Ritchie this will be unlike any other movie version of KING ARTHUR. Listening to the score, is something of an experience, it’s not the traditional type of Knights of the Round Table musical fare. Although saying that there are a few musical moments that verge upon the sound that was accepted to be music for an epic adventure some years ago, as in track number, 7, THE LEGEND OF EXCALIBUR, with its low almost growling strings and brass, opening the cue, but these fading away and giving way to a musical presence that is at first sinewy sounding, but very soon becomes something that is not only powerful but has about it a sound and atmosphere that is grand and commanding. Daniel Pemberton is in my opinion one of film music’s brightest stars, I love the way in which the composer experiments and basically bucks the system musically achieving so many great effects and sounds, which maybe one would ordinarily think. “That won’t work” the thing is it does. His score for THE MAN FROM UNCLE for me was the best thing in a long while, it was filled with thematic material and vibrantly inventive and wonderfully supportive of the movie, matching the action superbly and at times working in an almost operatic fashion, very much like the way in which Ennio Morricone used music in the Dollars Trilogy and other Italian westerns. The same can be said for his work on JOBS, maybe this score was a little less in your face, but via its intimate and somewhat fragile sounding passages it worked, elevating and enhancing, supporting and underlining without being intrusive, but instead becoming an integral and important part of the movie as if it were an actual character within the storyline. As I have not yet seen KING ARTHUR I cannot comment on how the music works within the context of the movie, however, I can say that this is a score that is great to listen to and one that is varied and infectious. I think the attraction of the score is the quirkiness and the at times unconventional orchestration that gives it an even greater appeal. Pemberton, combines bold brassy sounding flourishes with breathless voice, urgent sounding strings and percussive elements with choral support to arrive at a crashing and exciting solution, synthetic and symphonic styles meet, they clash and then combine and fuse within the score to create something that is rather special, with the composer also utilising various solo instruments to purvey an atmosphere of solitude, apprehension, fear and melancholy, all of which are tinged with a rawness and even a savage aura, the sound achieved is certainly Gaelic influenced, but is Gaelic with shall we say a contemporary feel to it.

 

I did feel that maybe the music was a little too full on at certain points within the score, becoming a blur of sounds rather than music, as in track number 20, DARKLANDS, the composer employs this style of music a few times within the score, combining fast paced percussion, scratchy sounding electric guitar, guttural sounding brass and those fast breaths to create an anxious and tense atmosphere, which can sound a little like something off of a 70’s prog rock album. If you are thinking KING ARTHUR-THE LEGEND OF THE SWORD is your typical score for a typical movie about KING ARTHUR think again and be prepared to sit back and take a ride on a musical rollercoaster, that is original, entertaining, thought provoking, and maybe a little confusing at times. Check it out, I do not think you will be disappointed.

WHAT A CARRY ON.

 

 

It has always been a mystery to me as to why the original soundtracks to some of British cinemas most successful movies have not been made available, after all it took many years for the music for Hammer horrors to get a release on the GDI label and even now some of the Hammer classics remain in the dusty archives and I think that’s where they will remain. Yes, labels such as TADLOW and SILVA SCREEN have been actively involved in re-recording several scores, and these movies I am going to talk about have had re recordings produced but in suite form or musical excerpts etc for a compilation album. The successful films I am talking about are THE CARRY ON, movies, ok maybe they are not exactly Oscar material but they kept audiences around the world occupied for many a year, the comedy probably did not travel well outside of the UK but they seemed to hold their own in Europe at least. The musical scores for these, mirth laden, saucy, innuendo riddled flicks that were filled with suggestive and seaside postcard scenarios that at times were very close to being censored were by two composers, but I think the most popular scores are by the highly talented Eric Rogers who took over scoring duties from Bruce Montgomery after he had worked on the first six in the series and went on to write the music for 22.

 

One of his most popular score was from the 1966 spoof horror CARRY ON SCREAMING which was the teams send up of the Hammer horrors that were at that time very popular with cinema goers, with the story of FRANKENSTEIN or at least their take upon it being particularly prevalent throughout. Rogers score contained a catchy pop theme song performed by actor Jim Dale who went under the name of Anon on the credits, Dale had made the odd foray into the area of vocal performances and released a few singles with musical accompaniment provided by Ron Goodwin, but it would be comedic acting that Dale became known for primarily. CARRY ON SCREAMING was probably one of the most successful films within the series amongst the fans at least, and was a sequel to, CARRY ON COWBOY and a prequel to CARRY ON DON’T LOOSE YOUR HEAD, it had a budget of 197,000 pounds and featured most of the usual carry on gang Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and Bernard Bresslaw, but also starred, Harry H. Corbett, who had become popular with audiences via his portrayal of the downtrodden Harold in the long running TV series, Steptoe and Son on the BBC. Which was something that composer Rogers picked up on in his score, utilizing part of the STEPTOE AND SON theme OLD NED by Ron Grainer and fusing it with another popular UK, TV theme, Z cars, which was based on the traditional song JOHNNY TODD and arranged by Norrie Paramour for the early police series, when the camera cut to Corbett and his bumbling sidekick Slobottom, played by the wonderful Peter Butterworth.

But there was much more to the music for the CARRY ON, movies than the comedic timing or humorous touch, these were serviceable film scores and Rogers could quite easily shift gears or change style and create a suitable sound for each of the movies he worked on.

 

 


CARRY ON CLEO for example contained a suitably epic sounding score, that was filled with fanfares and all things Romanic but it also had to it that underlying touch of comedy with an impeccable timing because we all know in comedy it is all about the timing.

It is said that comedy and maybe horror are the hardest genres of film to score, and I suppose to an extent that is true because each are similar for a composer, by this I mean if its horror one does not want to give the game away as it were and if a score gets ahead of itself it could spoil the effect that is about to occur on screen, the composer having to get the correct balance before and after the actual scene of Horror or violence, the same with comedy, it could be so easy to go over the top with the music and ruin a punchline. So, Rogers I think got it right every time. Born Eric Gakkroger in Halifax U.K. on September 25th, 1921, Rogers became interested in music from an early age, and began to become involved with music at the age of thirteen when he was given lessons in playing the organ at his church. He never actually received any formal musical instruction but was a self-taught musician and gained experience as a musician playing piano for free beer during the second world war. When the war finished, Rogers formed his own orchestra which was given a residency at the Orchid Rooms at London’s Trocedero, he gained a reputation during the early 1950, s for being a talented arranger and conductor for musical variety theatre in London’s west end. He began to work on films during the late 1950, s at first scoring children’s movies but then working on British releases such as the war drama THE WOODEN HORSE and the comedy GENEVIEVE.

 

 

 

In the early 1960’s he collaborated with Lionel Bart on the original stage version of the musical OLIVER, this was because Bart never actually had any knowledge of writing or reading music, Rogers was responsible for converting Bart’s ideas into musical notes and acting as arranger and orchestrator on the production which premiered on June 30th, 1960. At the same time, Roger’s began to work with composer Bruce Montgomery, again carrying out orchestrations and arrangements. In 1962, Rogers acted as musical director on the score for Dr. No, working with composer Monty Norman on the first James Bond movie. Composer Bruce Montgomery was involved with the CARRY ON, films, which at that time were new to cinema audiences. CARRY ON executive Peter Rogers was not happy with Montgomery, the composer found it difficult to deliver his music on time and relied upon Eric Rogers to complete the assignments, so Peter Rogers decided to ask Eric to work on CARRY ON CABBY in 1963 on his own.
This first foray into CARRY ON comedy led to the composer scoring a further 21 films in the series, CAMPING, MATRON, COWBOY, UP THE KHYBER and SCREAMING, being his most prominent and popular, the composers final encounter with the franchise came in 1978 when he provided the score for the lack lustra CARRY ON EMMANUELE.

 

In 1975, the composer re-located to America, this was because he was receiving numerous requests from the United States to work on television series and films there. He became involved with De Patie Freleng who were responsible for producing many shorts and animated series that were popular at the time. These included, RETURN TO THE PLANET OF THE APES, WHATS NEW MR. MAGOO and SPIDER WOMAN. He also worked as musical director and arranger on several animated shows that the company produced including THE PINK PANTHER SHOW and conducted Dean Elliot’s music for THE NEW FANTASTIC FOUR in 1978. Peter Rogers and Eric Rogers were not related as many thought, but they did however have a great working relationship and long term friendship. The filmmaker often collaborating with the composer in the actual writing of the music giving him ideas etc. as to what he thought would best suit the movies. Rogers was also responsible for writing the ever so familiar SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALADIUM theme which became just as popular as the show itself, and scoring and acting as musical director on movies such as, BLESS THIS HOUSE, NO SEX PLEASE WE’RE BRITISH, ALL COPPERS ARE, INN OF THE FRIGHTENED PEOPLE and THE BEST HOUSE IN LONDON amongst others. Rogers died on April 8th, 1981 aged 59, in the County of Buckinghamshire, England. I think it is a shame that collectors of film music and also fans of the CARRY ON, movies have been denied the original scores for these iconic British films, and like THE ST. TRINIANS, series with music by Sir Malcolm Arnold, there has never been an original soundtrack release of just the music from the films, yes there have been recordings released but these included dialogue from various movies, with the music taking a backseat to the proceedings, maybe the tapes do not exist or have been destroyed lost or are lying in a dusty basement, who knows, but it would be nice to try and find out.


Bruce Montgomery’s CARRY ON scores too would be welcomed in their original form that is, CARRY ON SERGEANT, NURSE, TEACHER, CONSTABLE, REGARDLESS and CRUISING. Were all typical of British films scores from the late 1950, s through to the first part of the 1960, s, with Montgomery’s style being more akin to and belonging to the era of the war years, with the music running continuously more often than not. However, there were some strong themes within all the scores, the march that Montgomery penned for CARRY ON SERGEANT for example ended up being the CARRY-ON THEME and endured throughout the series being heard in some form or another in each CARRY-ON outing, and alongside the serious music if you can categorize it as being serious that is, were jazz orientated pieces of light music which was at the time popular with most. Bruce Montgomery was born on October 2, 1921 in Chesham Bios, Buckinghamshire, England as Robert Bruce Montgomery. He is known for his work on the CARRY ON, movies mentioned previously, plus he also enjoyed a career as a successful author writing Under the pseudonym Edmund Crispin, he penned a series of mystery novels and short stories featuring the character Gervase Fen. Also as Edmund Crispin, he edited several collections of science fiction short stories.

 

 

The first, “Best SF” (1955), had a great influence on acceptance of the Sci Fi genre as serious writing in Britain. His Gervase Fen novel “Frequent Hearses” takes place in and around a British movie studio, and contains many insider jokes about actors, directors, musicians, and others in the business. Towards the end of his career his alcoholism became worse, which resulted in him not being able to meet deadlines and complete scores for movies, it was at this point that he enlisted the assistance of fellow composer Eric Rogers and CARRY ON producer Peter Thomas decided that Rogers should be the main composer for the films. Bruce Montgomery, passed away on September 15, 1978 in West Hampstead, London, England, which was a sad ending to a career that could have been even greater.

Apart from his music for the CARRY ON, movies the composer wrote the scores to numerous other pictures, these included, THE BRIDES OF FU MAN CHU, DOCTOR IN LOVE, DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, DOCTOR AT LARGE, TWICE AROUND THE DAFFODILS, THE KIDNAPPERS, RAISING THE WIND and many others. Which when you think about it would be perfect titles for a Montgomery re-recording project.

 

Eric Rogers, refused to score CARRY ON ENGLAND in 1976, because he was told that he could only use twenty players for his score, he believed he required at least forty, so composer Max Harris was brought in, after this the CARRY ON, series seemed to be losing its appeal, shifting trends and tastes at the time did not see the CARRY ON, humour as that funny anymore. In 1977, THAT’S A CARRY ON was released, this was like a best of the CARRY ON’S a compilation of all the sauciest and best bits from the series, Rogers arranged the music for this release and worked on the final movie in 1978. The CARRY ON, series had for all intent and purpose ceased production after CARRY ON EMMANUELE, but it was to return in 1992 for one last thrust in the form of CARRY ON COLUMBUS, which was honestly not a patch on the originals, and contained a score by composer John Du Prez. Even the presence of Jim Dale and Bernard Cribbins could not save this production, and it quite literally fell off the edge of the world. I think it was a case of the CARRY ON’S not keeping up with modern trends or being current, instead they kept on with the same formula, and as we all know there is always something waiting in the wings that the fickle cinema going public will pick up on. CARRY ON ENGLAND for example was not really that funny, some even saying it was embarrassing to endure, rather than audiences laughing at its jokes and humorous moments they were laughing at just how bad it was and that too was sadly the case with COLUMBUS. The films remained saucy, innuendo filled toilet humour, filled with suggestive and smutty one liners, but the audiences had become a little more sophisticated and selective, and wanted more in the way of entertainment.

 

Because the original scores for THE CARRY ON’S have not been made available, the obvious way forward was re-recordings, and one would have thought with so much material for the movies that there might have been a handful of releases concentrating upon the music from the series. However thus far we have seen just two releases, which although welcomed and also very good indeed, barely scratch the surface as far as the wealth of music is concerned for these movies. The albums were released by ASV and Vocalion  the music being performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic and The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under the direction of conductor Gavin Sutherland who is always so enthusiastic about any project he undertakes. THE CARRY ON ALBUM and WHAT A CARRY ON both highlight the best and the sauciest music from the series and are both very different in content, the ASV album,  opens with a suite from CARRY ON CAMPING with Eric Rogers camping it up literally with an upbeat arrangement of ONE MAN WENT TO MOW, which acted as the films main title adapted delightfully for strings and brass, setting the scene perfectly for the remainder of the album. Track number two, COME TO PARADISE and the main characters, is another example of Rogers utilising a familiar theme or motif on which he bases his composition, this time the composer integrates EARLY ONE MORNING, a traditional English folksong which dates to the 16th Century, into the fabric of his score, but by doing so it immediately grabs the attention of the listener and sets the scene on screen creating the correct atmosphere etc. He also does the same later in the album with CARRY ON AT YOUR CONVINIENCE, when he uses OH DEAR WHAT CAN THE MATTER BE.

 

 

 

Rogers was a master at establishing a theme straight away with his chirpy and infectious CARRY ON CABBY theme performed by brass and harmonica supported by timpani and strings, in fact CABBY was very like the theme from GENEVIEVE. Which was released ten years prior to CABBY. The album also includes music from CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER, CARRY ON CLEO, CARRY ON BEHIND, CARRY ON JACK, and CARRY ON DOCTOR/CARRY ON AGAIN DOCTOR all penned by Rogers. Bruce Montgomery is represented via a suite, which includes his themes from, TEACHER, NURSE and SERGEANT.

Which is certainly one of the more entertaining cues on the album. Montgomery’s original CARRY ON THEME is also given an airing, as is his ANGLO AMALGAMATED FANFARES 1 and 3, with a selection of music from the composers score for the 1961, comedy RAISING THE WIND, which although not a CARRY ON, movie, featured a number of actors associated with the CARRY ON series and the DOCTOR films, such as James Robertson Justice, Leslie Phillips and Kenneth Williams, composer Montgomery was also responsible for writing the story and screenplay for the movie as well as scoring it. It was also released under the title of ROOMMATES. This is a great album to just put on and listen to, without much real thought, but at times you find yourself being transported back in time to that small cinema with the itchy seats in which you sat first watching these iconic British comedy classics. We certainly need a CARRY ALBUM VOL 2.

 

The WHAT A CARRY ON recording, includes, CARRY ON HENRY, CARRY ON SCREAMING, CARRY ON FOLLOW THAT CAMEL, CARRY ON GIRLS and all manner of other CARRY on cues, you have to have both of the albums, no collection would be complete without them. Both are excellent, and must have items, although these days both are becoming quite hard to find.