Composer Alexandre Desplat has made a name for himself within the film music community in a relatively short space of time, his music for me is highly emotive and sensitive. The composer can create touching and fragile sounding themes that enhance support and underline any scenario that is taking place on screen. He is also a composer that is at home within any genre or, so it seems. Likened to Georges Delerue and compared with the likes of Morricone and John Barry, he is certainly one of the leading lights when it comes to movie music. His latest assignment is THE SHAPE OF WATER, which is currently doing the rounds and his work on the movie has already garnered him a Golden Globe Award. THE SHAPE OF WATER contains a score that is somewhat varied, but not in a bad or negative way. Desplat, treats us to a feast of delicate and light nuances that trip in and out of the listeners sub conscious long after they have finished listening to the work. These fragile nuances and emotive musical passages tantalise and enthral one as the score progresses and grows.



There is a definite Barry-esque sound present throughout the work, but also there is the style and musical identity of Desplat, which combined with the gentle nod to John Barry creates a soundtrack that is highly listenable in every way possible. The composer employs soft woods alongside plaintiff sounding strings and subdued piano and harp at certain points, there are also faraway sounding horns that combine with strings and accordion to create a dramatic but at the same time jaunty sounding motif, which is affecting as well as effecting within the context of the movie. This is a score that not only enhances and supports the images upon the screen, but it is a work that is an important and integral part of the movie itself as if the music is another character that is involved with the scenes and scenarios. Or is like an artist that is painting the emotions and into the scenes, elevating them and giving them greater depth and impact. I am not going to highlight any one cue from the score as I enjoyed every one of them. It is a soundtrack that you will love, with its delicate tone poems that exude fragility and purvey an emotive aura that is crushingly beautiful. We have with THE SHAPE OF WATER, poignancy, drama and a somewhat sinister and chilling undertone, so something for everyone, please go and buy this.  The album also includes a handful of vocals, but even these are pleasing and appealing.






I have known Stephen for many years now and I have always been impressed by his varied taste in music.  He introduced me to a number of composers and also bands that I would have probably by passed. His knowledge on film music is wonderful and he is never selfish with his knowledge. He has contributed to MMI on occasion, and is a stalwart supporter of the site and always has been.




1. Firstly, why film music? And when did first become aware of music in movies?

Film was the first art form that grabbed me as a youngster, so immediate and powerful. The first films I remember seeing were Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and the Harryhausen Sinbad films. I loved them. And then of course came Star Wars and that was it for me. Back then, the only way to relive the film was comic books, novelizations, the soundtrack album and action figures. I grabbed onto them all. It kept the film alive in the mind, gave it a great power, something I think we lost when films became quickly and easily accessible following their cinema run. The films don’t develop in your imagination and have that extra life, at least not in the same way.

2.What was your first record purchase, if it was not a soundtrack what was the first film music you went out and paid for?

My first purchase was David Soul’s (Starsky & Hutch) eponymous lp. Can still remember it, carried the track Blackbean Soup. I think I was about 7 or 8. Bought from Woolworth’s if I remember correctly. Not the most auspicious start but I still smile thinking about that track. I think the first film score purchases were the Star Wars scores, followed later by Brazil, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Hellraiser, Casualties of War and Frantic.


3. Before the arrival of CDs how many soundtracks did you have in your collection on vinyl?

Not that many really. I had the Star Wars trilogy lp’s and a few Morricone’s. Also, Hellraiser and Hellraiser 2 by Christopher Young. I bought scores on cassette for a while, choosing this over vinyl. Why I don’t know, but there you have it. I had more scores on cassette than lp’s.

4. What was your most expensive soundtrack purchase?

There are a few imports I can think of that cost a lot, box sets. The three Toho sets of scores to Kurosawa’s films (very lovely items) and the 10-cd boxset The Ennio Morricone Chronicles. That one was pre-online ordering, had to contact the seller via mail and send a money order.


5. Do you still buy lps and which do you or download?

I’ve gone back to vinyl over the last year. I prefer having vinyl and/or cd over downloads. Recently bought the 40th Anniversary release of Star Wars on vinyl and a lovely thing it is. I’d say a good vinyl release tops my Wish-list but there are so many top-notch releases on cd that I’m happy with either. Downloads are a last resort for me and only if I can’t find a hard copy release. For example, I bought Robert Carli’s Murdoch Mysteries as downloads but only because they are unavailable any other way.



6. Is there anything that you are looking for that maybe you have not been able to find?

There are definite holy grail releases that I would love to have in my collection. Probably top of the list is a complete version of Morricone’s For A Few Dollars More, given the love it deserves, full liner notes and top-notch artwork. Whilst I’m dreaming, a complete release of his Novecento would also be welcome, along with unreleased gems like Roma Come Chicago and Diabolic (the release we have just now I find painful). Other notables are Christopher Young’s Murder At 1600 (great promo disc but deserves a complete release) and Williams’ Star Wars prequel scores given the proper treatment. Also, it would be great to have Kamen’s Dead Zone expanded and given the deluxe treatment.

7. What composer would you say dominates your collection?

That’s an easy one. Morricone for definite. I believe I have somewhere in the region of 450 cd’s by him and perhaps 20 lp’s, as well as other bits and pieces. I’m fairly completist with other composers, notably Christopher Young who I regard as one of today’s greats. Other notables are Williams, Bacalov and Schifrin.


What is your opinion of the state of film music in recent years. Compared to the 40.s 50. s 60.s and 70s?

I would say a cursory glance at today’s mainstream scores would suggest homogeny has crept in, but I try to remind myself that fashions are always in place in music and if I’m being fair then it is just that I prefer the fashions of the 60’s into the early 70’s. For me the jazz idiom that drove so much of that era’s music was a great form to drive the scores of the day. I love electronic music and I’m the last person to decry music created in the digital realm, but I don’t hear the same kind of individuality and idiosyncratic output these days. That is not to suggest it is not out there, I’m just not hearing it as much. There are certainly still great composers out there doing great work (I know you champion and highlight many of them John) but I do wonder if there is more constraint on them these days, perhaps a more corporate mind-set to appease? For instance, I loved the work of French composer Pascal Esteve, who composed for several films by Patrice Leconte, but he seems to have absented himself from the field of film scoring, before he really got to develop.


How do you store your CDs?

Ikea bookcases. Alphabetical by composer and then by the company releasing them. I can locate stuff relatively easily so am quite happy with that system.

OK, you are asked by a record company to choose ten titles which you think deserve a release or a re-release, what would these be?

Christopher Young – Murder At 1600 (complete)
Michael Kamen – The Dead Zone (complete)
Francois De Roubaix – Daughters of Darkness
Lalo Schifrin – Cool Hand Luke (complete, original)
Ennio Morricone – For A Few Dollars More (complete from masters)
Elmer Bernstein – The Magnificent Seven (complete from masters)
Ennio Morricone – Novecento (complete from masters)
Ennio Morricone – Roma Come Chicago
John Williams – Dracula (complete)
John Williams – Star Wars prequels box – (complete)







John with Composer Christopher Gunning.(c)john williams 2017.

John Williams. has had a long love affair with TV and movie music, and was one of the leading lights in getting interviews and reviews into print in magazines such as, MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES, LEGEND, MOVIE COLLECTOR  and many others. He also wrote in depth biographies of composers such as Henry Mancini and championed composers such as Debbie Wiseman, Richard Harvey, Nick Bicat, and Rachel Portman in their early days and always alerted me to the ample talents of Stanley Myers. He has recently re-located to Scotland, but has also recently began to write about film music once again and contributes to Movie Music International. I asked John a handful of questions, here are his responses.
Firstly, why Film Music?

A darn good question. We have all started at this point, and everyone will have a different answer. As has been proved over the years, it is very much a hobby, if that is the right word, that is very small compared with say, Classical Music or Pop, though funnily enough it crosses over both on many occasions. Why then Film music and not the Beatles. Beethoven or Clodagh Rodgers. I like all three, but you know what I am getting at. Don’t you just love all the highbrow Critics and Composers, who say,” Well, our house was full of music right from the word go. My father came home and listened to Opera on a LP every night, my sister was always on the piano, with Chopin or Brahms- if you see what I mean in the nicest possible way! The Radio was always tuned to the Third Programme, and every week we went up to town for the latest Concert by the LSO.”

Well, most people would probably say, in your wildest dreams! We had no piano, none of my parents could play a musical instrument, and if the Radio was set on anything, it would be the Light Programme, for Tony Hancock, Two Way Family Favourites, Housewives Choice and Billy Cotton! The only music I grew up with was Johnny Ray, David Whitfield, Rosemary Clooney and Max Bygraves- – and I enjoyed them all. Film music must have come in because my Mother loved the Movies a long time before I turned up. Before the War in fact. So, she would take me to the Movies on a Saturday Afternoon. No Children’s Film Shows for me. Thinking back, I don’t know I got in to see SAPPHIRE and other somewhat Adult Orientated Movies, but I did. I think the first Film I saw was THE KING AND I. Mum loved Musicals, and it was a corker. I can see that film now, but from two points of view. One, as an adult with all the baggage that entails and one as a 7-year-old child seeing a Film for the first time. Maybe that’s why I have always loved the films from 20th Century Fox. So, most Saturdays, at the movies. The first Soundtracks I got were the original MGM LP of BEN-HUR, with the distinctive yellow cover, and the, was it HMV LP of THE BIG COUNTRY with again a distinctive cover – this time in Orange? Both for my Birthday I think. I had them for years. That must have been the catalyst. Slight aside to be Devil’s Advocate. These LPS were designed for listening pleasure. not for Soundtrack buffs which is why they stayed in the catalogue for so long. At around 35 minutes all in, that is probably just about right to hold one’s attention. Now with the full soundtracks of both available in their original form, and in fully brand-new recordings, I still find that those two original LPS have a great deal of appeal. Both in timings and selections. I am sure there must be someone, but I don’t think there can be many that can listen to all of BEN – HUR in a sitting. I digress, but Rod Hume who used to review Film Music in the Fifties for Films and Filming once said, and I will never forget it ” Rozsa always sounds the same to me – Loud and Long”


What was my first Record purchase and if it was not a soundtrack what was the first film music you went out and paid for?

God knows. I started work in September 1964, and at the time GOLDFINGER was the big Movie so it might have been that. I loved John Barry’s music during the 60s. That was for me his high spot. Especially the compilation LPS he did for CBS. THE GREAT MOVIE SOUNDS OF JOHN BARRY, with versions of SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON, KING RAT and THE CHASE. I got that in a sale and was highly delighted. I recall being disappointed when after ordering THE CHASE from W.H. Smith several miles away, I went in to pick it up and was told, it had been delayed. Never forget that. I played that LP for weeks The first Goldsmith I think was IN HARM’S WAY but otherwise difficult to tell. I recall vividly that when Boots the Chemist had, believe it or not Record Departments, what a lovely thought – they had some CBS Soundtracks for sale at 12/6 including THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, 55 DAYS AT PEKING, and a small local store had THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN………., BYE, BYE BIRDIE and AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS at a similar price. Fantastic. I of course bought them, though to be honest, I don’t think I played them that much. Do we ever learn, but you find out the hard way that just because a LP had “Original Film Soundtrack” on the sleeve in big lettering, that doesn’t mean it was any good! At that time when you were starting out, information on Soundtracks was very sparse, so if you saw a LP, then it was an eye opener and sometimes an unknown quantity. What we would have given for the access and information that is now available on the Internet. I had little index cards to list Alfred Newman and Franz Waxman credits. Then the Television Channels showed a lot of 40S/50S Movies – a lot more than they do now, so one collected a great deal of credits in a short amount of time. It was more fun. Today it is too easy. Then the excitement of adding a new Alfred Newman score to your lists was indescribable

Before the arrival of CDS How many soundtracks did you have in your collection on Vinyl?

A fair few but over the years in moving many times, the quantity went up and down. In the 60s I had hundreds.



What was your most expensive soundtrack purchase

Difficult If one remembers an Imported US LP in the late 60S was a very expensive purchase, especially if you were on a lower wage, so relatively it could have been one of them. I did buy the GOLDSMITH AT FOX set and that was big bucks especially as the pound was low at the time

Do you still buy LP’S and if so which do you prefer? LP CD or Download

Download most definitely. Not so much room taken up. I still collect the odd LP. Now I am into the Themes albums from the 50s /60s. Don Costa, Leroy Holmes, Jimmy Haskell. Did you know how many versions of Goldsmith’s THE PRIZE is out there? Much more than you would think.



Is there anything that you are looking for that maybe you have not been able to find

No question Goldsmith’s ANNA AND THE KING (1972). I know there was a suite on the GOLDSMITH AT FOX set, but I would love to hear more- if there is more that is

What Composer dominates your collection?

Hmm. As most of my stuff is on download etc. I guess Goldsmith. He will always be Number One. As for CDS, Again no question, Richard Harvey. I have more CDS by him than anyone else. He is brilliant- can do anything. Like David Shire and Bruce Broughton, why doesn’t he get more commissions? All of them have more talent than any of today’s so called A List Composers.


Composer Richard Harvey.

What is your opinion of the state of Film Music in recent years, compared to the 40s, 50s. 60s and 70s?

Another difficult one. Easy to say not as good. But it isn’t as easy as that either. Someone starting out now might think Messrs Zimmer, Wallfisch, etc are the tops and nothing in the past can hold a candle. Maybe, It’s all relative. When I went to a recent Concert of Hans Zimmer and John Williams music, I was impressed with the Zimmer stuff more than I thought. but and I like to think I have good recall even at my age, but after hearing the Zimmer stuff, half an hour later I couldn’t remember it. It maybe I have known the Williams music for so long. As a good friend says “Where are the themes|? and of course he is right. Themes don’t come into it these days. I like Alexandre Desplat, I have a fair few scores of his, but asked which one do you like best, I wouldn’t know. I don’t really remember any of them!!




How do you store your CDS?

On two shelves. I haven’t got that many

PS Back to the question before last. Where are the themes? Just listen to any of Michael J. Lewis scores, and you will hear themes. Not just themes, but music that gets into your Soul. That’s what Film Music can do when it works. MJL does it for me, but you will have someone else – and why not. As the great Lionel Godfrey once said about Hollywood Musicals – “after all my meat, might be your poison”

If you were asked by a record company to select titles for a release or a re-release what would you select?




4) AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT Music by Christopher Gunning. A good series could be made here, considering Chris Gunning worked on over 40 episodes.

5) IN HARMS WAY Jerry Goldsmith Expanded score

6) as previously mentioned ANNA AND THE KING Goldsmith

7)THE CHAIRMAN Goldsmith. I know the CD contains most of the score but there is more, even more than the Suite on GOLDSMITH AT FOX set

8) SHAMUS Jerry Goldsmith

9) THE DON IS DEAD Jerry Goldsmith


There could be more, but if I could hear the Colombier one, I would die a happy man!!