THE SENTINEL.

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The 1970.s was scattered with tales of horror based upon the occult. Or at least occult themes stories, many of which were gripping and thought provoking. Of course, the movie that comes to mind straight away is THE EXORCIST, followed swiftly by movies such as ROSEMARYS BABY and THE OMEN. A film that I feel was slightly neglected and somewhat underatted when it was released was THE SENTINEL, directed by British film maker Michael Winner and released in 1977. THE SENTINEL was in my opinion one of the most frightening occult-based films to come out of Hollywood during the 1970’s. I found it more disturbing and harrowing than THE EXORCIST and more realistic than THE OMEN.

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The film boasted a strong cast of actors including Eli Wallach, Ava Gardener, Martin Balsam, Chris Sarandon and Christina Raines. I always felt that the movie had the appearance of a TV movie, but this I think added to the tension and overall darkness of the movie. The musical score which is excellent was composed by the innovative and talented composer musician Gil Melle, he was in my opinion a vastly overlooked composer when it came to the scoring of movies and sadly was underused by film makers and film studios, His score for THE SENTINEL, is a ground breaking one, and at times maybe falls into the same category or style as employed by composers such as Charles Gross, Jerry Fielding and to a degree Leonard Rosenman within the parameters of film scoring particularly in the decade of the seventies.

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GIL MELLE.

By this I mean that Melle would write intricate and even at times complicated musical pieces, which were in effect either atonal or maybe avante garde in their overall sound and style. But, saying this the composer was a Master at creating moods and atmospheres with music or musical sounds that were not thematic at all, but at the same time remained memorable simply because the music supported and enhanced the scenes and also made these memorable and elevated them so that audiences would remember them. THE SENTINEL, I have to say is not the easiest film score to listen to, but given the subject matter of the movie, I suppose the composer did not set out to create nice little tunes that would have life away from the film. Melle, utilises synthetically created choral colours that are certainly affecting, and purvey a chilling and foreboding persona that itself forms a tormenting and unnerving sound.

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The score however does also contain snatches and examples of melodic compositions, and although this is in no way full on lush or romantically laced thematic properties this still manages to seep through at certain points amongst the atonal material and establish a brief respite within the stressful and ominous sounds that the composer has fashioned for the score. Taking a closer listen to the score also reveals so many underlying sounds, solo performances and nuances, which combine or fuse together to create a work that is unsettling and thickly fearsome, with nerve jangling stabs and dark and sinister undercurrents.

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THE SENTINEL is a score that is as I have already hinted at somewhat difficult to listen to just as music, but one must hand it to Melle, for conceiving and realising a soundtrack that is filled with ingenious and original musical ideas. It is harrowing, it is relentless, and it is strangely attractive and entertaining, because of its complex and offbeat and slightly unconventional musical content. The score is presented well by LA LA LAND Records, which is something that we as collectors have come to expect from the label. The notes are by two established film music scholars, James Anthony Phillips and Jeff Bond, the latter has the lions share of the notes but for me the more interesting section is penned by Phillips, who’s contribution is filled with facts about the score as well as the composer. And quotes from Melle when Phillips spoke to him about THE SENTINEL. This may not be the most entertaining as in tuneful film score ever written, but it is a work of immense quality and of great originality. My advice to you is check this out ASAP. Recommended.

THE GREAT AIR RACE TO THE MOON, INSIDE IT AND BACK TO MONTE CARLO. (or RACE MOVIES).

 

The decade of the 1960’s was so much less stressful; do you not agree? Well cast your minds back if you can to the swinging sixties, filled with great new music and tantalising fashion direct from Carnaby street, the 1960.s when it was trendy or groovy to dress in red army tunics and burn lots on incense. When the Mini skirt raised eyebrows and those kinky boots that girls wore with them turned heads in the epicentre of COOL the City of London. It was not just the music and the fashion, it was the attitude in the 1960’s especially in GT BRITAIN, yes because at that time it was GREAT. Britain was the place to be, the place to look too for everything. Inventions, music, clothes and films. We as they say were on a roll even winning the world cup in 1966. Films or the majority of them were also a lot simpler, and I for one think more entertaining, simply because they were more varied and possibly better made. British talent was top notch and as Britain exited the 1950’s into this bright and colourful decade of the 1960.s we as cinema goers were treated by movies such as Zulu, Lawrence of Arabia, Khartoum, various Gothic horrors as produced by Hammer films, a plethora of CARRY ON sagas, and also some pretty promiscuous and sultry films of the adult variety. Among this magnificent variation of motion pictures there were a handful of films that I looked upon with some affection, these were RACE movies as I liked to call them. Maybe not all were British, but the majority were, even if they included American actors in their cast. The films I am referring to are THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES, ROCKET TO THE MOON, MONTE CARLO OR BUST and just squeezing into this collective FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, ok not really a race movie per say, but they were racing to the moon, kind of.

 

Oh, yes and one more title which I cannot and will not leave out, Not British but hilariously funny and one of my favourites THE GREAT RACE. This for me was the best, it is a movie that even now I sit and watch in fits of laughter, much to the annoyance and bewilderment of many, who say this is just silly, NO, it’s genius, that’s what it is. The film which was released in 1965, had a substantial cast, in the form of Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Keenan Wyn, Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk, the latter in my opinion was deserving of an Oscar for his portrayal of Max an assistant to a rather insane inventor and all out nasty guy, Professor Fate. Lemmon and Falk worked well together and created a partnership that gave the movie something special. Lemmon’s quintessential bad guy character, often shouting PUSH THE BUTTON MAX, or YOU IDIOT at his manic assistant who was desperately trying to get things right, but always getting them hilariously wrong.


Then there was THE GREAT LESLIE played by Tony Curtis, who was the opposite to Fate. Leslie was debonair, handsome, rich, and just oozing with charm. The love interest was provided by Natalie Wood, who played a woman campaigner for votes for women and also a reporter who in the end tagged along with both Fate and Leslie. Film maker Blake Edwards based his story and screenplay upon a race that took place in 1908, between New York and Paris, but cleverly turned and twisted the true events to create a witty and jovial script that he eventually transported to the silver screen. The film maker set out to make the funniest comedy ever, and I think the only thing he used from true events was the route of the race. The director dedicated the movie to Laurel and Hardy, the film itself containing numerous set pieces of comedy that were taken straight from the silent era all of which were visual. It was filled with slapstick and references to other movies and genres, the saloon brawl scene for example way of the top but a gentle nod to the Western, there was also in many scenes that involved Fate the look of so many scenes that we associate with deranged professors in many horror and sci-fi movies of the past. Then we had the obvious connection with THE PRISONER OF ZENDA in the latter part of the movie, when Lemmon takes on his duel role as the Prince of a kingdom, when the real Prince is kidnapped by enemies who want the throne for themselves. This section of the movie ends in a somewhat drawn out swordfight, which again is a nod to the Swashbuckler movies such as THE SEA HAWK and THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD.

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There is even a scene where Natalie Wood visits THE GREAT LESLIE who is in a tent on the seashore, shades of the Desert Sheik as in Valentino. Returning to slapstick elements we are even treated to a magnificent PIE FIGHT; it is just a wonderfully funny and entertaining movie. The musical score was by Henry Mancini, who became Blake Edwards main man as far as music in his films was concerned. Mancini on this occasion producing a score that covered everything on screen, supporting and underlining the action and giving at times a subtle but truly masterful accompaniment to the abundance of comedy moments. Scoring comedy can be nightmarish, because if a composer goes over the top or is too laid back it can ruin any punchline or any visual comedy scenarios, but for THE GREAT RACE, the composer got the formula just right. Mancini also wrote two songs for the film, which he penned in collaboration with lyricist Johnny Mercer. THE SWEETHEART TREE was sung on screen by Natalie Wood who was dubbed by Jackie Ward, with the instrumental of the song serving as the opening music for the film. It was also recorded by Johhny Mathis. The other original song written for the movie was, HE SHOULDN’T-A, HADN’T-A, OUGHTN’T-A SWANG ON ME, which was performed by Dorothy Provine who played Miss Lilly Olay in the movie.


Mancini re-recorded the soundtrack for RCA VICTOR before the movie was released as the label and also the film studio were both quietly confident it was going to be a sure-fire hit, they were not wrong. Mancini and Mercer received an Academy Award Nomination for THE SWEETHEART TREE, but it failed to win on the night of the Oscars. The score itself is typical Mancini, as in lots of themeatic material and filled with clever little motifs for each character on screen, the most enjoyable being the track entitled, “PUSH THE BUTTON MAX” which is something we hear Professor Fate scream at his assistant so many times. The soundtrack was originally released on LP back in 1965, and there have been subsequent CD releases and digital versions for download, but the best version by far has to be the three compact disc set on La La Land records , yes three CDS two containing Mancini’s film score and the third disc being a straight re-issue of the the LP version of the soundtrack but with much improved sound. If they were to make this movie today, well stop there because they would not re-make it would they unless of course it was called something like FATE AND FURIOUS, now theres a thought.

 

From a race from NEW YORK to PARIS to something a little further away, in fact something out of this world, THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, was a pretty tame but at the same time entertaining comedy/adventure or so some thought, me amongst them. The film was scored by Laurie Johnson, who we all associate with THE AVENGERS television series as well as other British TV series from the 1960.s and 1970,s. The composer is also associated with conducting at times for Bernard Herrmann and writing the scores for films such as THE BELSTONE FOX and CAPTAIN KRONOS VAMPIRE HUNTER. His score for THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON was a standard work, but one too that contained some really atmospheric and it is also a score that is often overlooked or neglected by film music collectors. The film which was based on a story written in 1901 by H G Wells, did moderately well at the box office as it appealed to both adults and children. Directed by Nathan Juran and produced by Charles H Schneer, the screenplay was the work of science fiction writer Nigel Kneale.

 

 

The movie was a full colour production that told the story of a supposed trip and landing on the moon in 1899. The film opens in 1964, and we see that the United Nations has launched a rocket flight to the Moon. A multi-national crew of astronauts are aboard the UN spacecraft as it lands on the Moon As they touch down, they all believe that they are the first lunar explorers. However, it is not long before they realise that someone has been there before them, they discover a Union Jack flag on the surface and a note mentioning a Katherine Callender (Martha Hyer), which claims the Moon for, Queen Victoria.  Attempting to trace Callender, UN authorities discover that she has died but that her husband Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd) is still living and now resides in an elderly peoples rest home.  The nursing home staff do not let him watch television reports of the expedition because, according to the matron, it “excites him”, and they basically dismiss his claims to have been on the Moon, because of his age and what they regard as his signs of insanity. The UN send their people to the rest home to question Arnold about the alleged Moon expedition all those years ago, and Arnold begins to tell them his story. The film then goes into flashback mode, relating what Bedford and a Professor Cavor did in the 1890s. Far-fetched and a little wooden as in acting terms, yes, but it was also rather entertaining. Ray Harryhausen provided the stop-motion action and created the Selenites which were giant caterpillars that roamed the subterranean caverns of the moon. As I say it was inventive and did contain a rather nicely done eccentric laced performance by actor Lionel Jefferies as inventor Joseph Cavor, who was always a pleasure to see on screen. I think the most outstanding music in the movie by Johnson was his very English sounding pastoral that acted as the LOVE THEME within the score. It was a fully symphonic work with many of Johnsons musical trademarks present throughout, i.e. rasping brass, rhythmic percussion and soaring strings. The love theme was issued on several compilations, with the soundtrack being released by UNICORN RECORDS, CLOUD NINE RECORDS and then later by Varese Sarabande in mono. Varese also released a collection which included FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, THE AVENGERS, CAPTAIN KRONOS and HEDDA.

 

 

In recent years the score has also been available on various digital sites. The score is a rare movie excursion for the composer who is still best known for his work on 60’s and 70’s TV shows. Born in London in 1927, Laurie Johnson received his musical education and training at the Royal College of Music. At the age of 18 he had a few orchestral works published, which also had been broadcast on the radio. At the same time, he was composing and arranging for the popular Ted Heath Band. Later he went on to work on compositions and arrangements for most of the major bands of the fifties. These included Jack Parnell, Ambrose, Geraldo and Mantovani. At the age of 21 Johnson had a recording contract with EMI and formed his own orchestra. It was in the mid-fifties he began to compose music for films, in 1955 composing, arranging and conducting the music for THE GOOD COMPANIONS.

 

From outer space to something close, I suppose you could say a close encounter with space, because despite the efforts of the many protagonists in the 1967 production, Jules Verne’s ROCKET TO THE MOON, the rocket did not actualy leave earths atmosphere.

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Released in the United States as THOSE FANTASTIC FLYING FOOLS, which does not really have the same ring to it as the UK title, the film did not do well at the box office, the tepid reception from audiences, was probably due to feeble attempts at keystone/Chaplin type comedy that was visual rather than spoken that fell flat in ninety percent of scenarios. Plus, the English comedy did not transfer well to American audiences’ sense of humour and likewise American laced gags or punchlines did not work out-side of the States. Even the presence of a strong-ish cast did not aid the pictures popularity, Burl Ives, Lionel Jefferies, Troy Donahue, Terry Thomas, Gert Frobe, Graham Stark, Daliah Lavi and Judy Cornwell. But it was not the fault of any of these excellent actors or indeed the director Don Sharp, no the problem with “Rocket” was that it had some great ideas, but the film failed because it was not shall we say consistently amusing in fact it was one of those movies that aspired to emulate other RACE movies such as THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES and maybe even THE GREAT RACE, but never quite made it.

The music for ROCKET TO THE MOON was the work of British born composer John Scott, who scored the movie under the name of Patrick John Scott. The soundtrack was in my opinion one of the films very few highlights. It is one of those occasions when the music is far superior to the film it was written for. The soundtrack was released on LP record at the time of the film being in cinema’s, but it very soon became deleted, probably because the film failed to attract attention. I remember the LP being available and seeing it in record shops and also in local decorating shops called Bargain Wallpapers, yes there it was with so many other soundtracks on LP in a rack inside the front door with the emulsion and the woodchip wallpaper. Why, well I don’t know really, I suppose to pull in customers or maybe just to generate extra revenue for the stores. All I know is I spent many a Saturday morning going through the albums and coming out with armfuls of titles including KING RAT, STAGECOACH, THE WHISPERERS, KHARTOUM (2 one sided white label disc set) LORD JIM etc. But I digress the LP soundtrack from ROCKET TO THE MOON soon became a rarity, and I have to say I have seen it maybe three or four times in my lifetime. The score was not re-issued at all in LP format but in 2017 thanks to Kritzerland records in the States we were presented with a compact disc edition, which I for one welcomed. It contained fourteen cues which was the original content of the album, but it had, or should I say has great sound quality.

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Scott’s bristling and energetically carefree central theme is wonderful, and immediately hooks the listener, it is a theme that pops up here there and everywhere within the score, the composer arranging and orchestrating it differently to suit the films comedic and dramatic moments. I suppose it’s a slightly whimsical and melancholy sounding piece, but it is one of those compositions that although simple is haunting. Scott was no stranger to film music but as a performer rather than a composer when he scored ROCKET TO THE MOON, he had been the eighth member of the John Barry Seven often performing with the group on shows such as DRUMBEAT in the early 1960.s and it was Scott who performed the alto saxophone on John Barry’s iconic James Bond score GOLDFINGER, and performed sax for Henry Mancini on THE PINK PANTHER and CHARADE. His first film score proper was for the Sherlock Holmes adventure A STUDY IN TERROR. Despite ROCKET TO THE MOON being something of a damp squib, Scott’s score has manged to survive and have a life and a following away from the confines of the movie, sadly the CD re-issue also failed to ignite much enthusiasm amongst film music collectors which is a great pity as there is a wealth of Scott soundtracks that might have been re-issued if it had.

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We go from the expanses of space or at least aspirations to enter it, to something a little closer to the ground, still airborne (most of the time at least), going up, down, flying around, looping the loop and defying the ground. THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES, was a typically British comedy and boasted a cast that was to say the least an impressive line up before the days of the all-star cast. Most of whom, flew up and down with their feet in the air, enchanting the ladies and stealing the scenes, and at the same time entertaining cinema audiences. The musical score was by British composer Ron Goodwin, who provided the movie with a soundtrack that was suitably quirky, comedic and thematic. Goodwin seemed to be comfortable within any genre of movie, but it is certainly true to say that he excelled when working on comedies and war films. THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes. Was released in in 1965 (the same year as THE GREAT RACE) and helmed by director Ken Annakin who also co-wrote it. The movie focused upon the flying frenzy craze that erupted in the early days of aviation and told the story of a race from the two most prominent European Capital cities, London and Paris.


Set in 1910, the fictional tale did well at the box office and although in more recent years it has certainly aged in its telling of the story and also the dialogue and comic content still manages to entertain. I have already mentioned the cast, which was an International affair, with the likes of, Stuart Whitman, Sara Miles, James Fox, Red Skelton, Terry-Thomas, Alberto Sordi, Gert Frobe, Jean Pierre Cassel, Robert Morley and Eric Sykes. With brief but amusing performances from the likes of Tony Hancock, Benny Hill, Sam Wannamaker and Dame Flora Robson. The storyline did seem to focus more upon the British participants and ridicule the German characters via the bumbling Gert Frobe, even Goodwin’s score parodied the sound of the German military march with the composer placing his own inimitable style and musical identity upon it. The composers music was an important and integral part of the movie, filled with various themes and sounds which related to individual characters, as in the German sounding march, the harmonica solo for the American entrant to the race Stuart Whitman and a particularly bouncing and vibrant sounding Italian theme that introduced and accompanied Alberto Sordi’s character. To say that Goodwin’s score is a classic is in my opinion understated, maybe throw in iconic and innovative too, which will give you an idea of its standing, importance and stature within film music history. The soundtrack was originally released on an LP record on Stateside records, the contents of which was a mix of both dialogue and music, the dialogue taken from the film introducing most of the tracks on the album. The jaunty opening song was also given a single release in England and entered the British charts in the year of the film’s release and given regular plays on the BBC radio. Terry-Thomas was excellent as the rascal of the story accompanied by his creepy henchman Courtney played by Eric Sykes.

 

The soundtrack as I say was released on LP on Stateside records and then 20th Century fox , but it was not until 2011 that the soundtrack was to have a CD release on the Intrada label, which was greatly expanded containing thirty three tracks as opposed to the original album which had just twelve cues. Goodwin would often conduct a suite of the music from the soundtrack in concert and it was a piece tat also appeared regularly on many of the composer Studio 2, compilation albums which were so poplar in the 1960.s and 1970.s. After the success of THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN, a sequel or at least something that was in the same vein of the movie was needed, but it did not appear until 1969, again directed by Ken Annakin, MONTE CARLO OR BUST or THOSE DARING YOUNG MEN IN THEIR JAUNTY JALOPIES hit the screens and attracted a fair amount of interest amongst audiences around the world. The score again was by Ron Goodwin who also provided the film with a catchy theme song performed by veteran performer Jimmy Durante.

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The film was also one of these movies that included an all star cast before we really knew what that was, Terry Thomas, Erik Sykes, Gert Frobe starred, in fact many of the cast from THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN featured in MONTE CARLO, with Annakin introducing new charters portrayed by Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Tony Curtis and Susan Hampshire as the love interest.

 

 

Goodwin’s score was magnificent and rivalled the work he had done four years previous on THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN. The soundtrack was issued in 1969 on the Paramount records label, and as far as I am aware has yet to be released onto the compact disc format. Goodwin again arranged the principal themes from his score into a suite which appeared on the aforementioned compilations on Studio 2, plus the suite was at times performed in concert. It is a manic sounding work which has brilliant comedic timing and is filled with musical innuendos, with Goodwin once again pulling out all the stops and delivering a vibrant and entertaining soundtrack. It is a score crying out to be re-issued and maybe the likes of La La Land or Intrada might one day do this. Until they do we must content ourselves with the original LP record to savour the humorous and madcap compositions of Goodwin.

FIRST TO THE MOON-THE JOURNEY OF APOLLO 8.

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It is nearly half a century since man was launched into space to navigate around the moon, it was 1968, a year in which not only man was to take steps that eventually led to mans landing on another planet, but it was also a period of turmoil and war. Vietnam was in the headlines with America being embroiled in a bloody and merciless war so far from its shores and the turmoil was not restricted to foreign lands but also the American people at home were also going through a battle of morals as a bitter civil rights action was being staged. In December of 1968, three astronauts, Frank Borman, James Lovell and Bill Anders, were the first people to leave the earth and travel into space to circumnavigate the Moon. These three men were the pathfinders and the pioneers of the American Apollo programme who paved the way for others to follow and eventually land on the surface of the moon in Apollo 11 in July 1969. Against a backdrop both civil and campus unrest in the United States, the unpopular Vietnam war an unrelenting cold war with Russia, they manged to hold the Gaze of the world and earn the admiration of the American people and establish themselves a place in history. FIRST TO THE MOON is a 2-hour documentary that relates the story of these astronauts and their journey. The documentary utilises restored archival material both visual and audio of Borman, Lovell and Anders who in their own words tell their stories. The music for the documentary is the work of composer Alexander Bornstein, and it is a work that for me certainly stands out as being innovative and entertaining, the way I hear this score is that is an old style film score as in one that comes from the 1960.s but purveyed in a contemporary fashion, if that makes any sense at all? It has a sound and style to it that is akin to composers such as Goldsmith, Fielding, Bernstein and even hints at the bold and affecting style employed by James Horner in places, and also with a  nod in the direction of maybe Zimmer. I suppose what I am saying is, it contains themes and melodies as opposed to sounds and drone like passages, of course there are sections of the score realised synthetically or electronically, but this is the way of the film score in recent years with synthetic acting as a support to symphonic or vice versa. Maybe it is totally synthesised because these days it is so hard to distinguish between electronic and conventional instrumentation.

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This is a haunting work that has subdued and fragile pieces which are complimented and supported by dramatic cues and bolstered by the composers ability to create compositions that whilst being apprehensive or action fuelled remain melodic or thematic, thus keeping the score fresh and vibrant and giving the listener a rich tapestry of theme laden pieces. It is a score that I think will grow on many collectors because of its leaning towards, for want of a better word an old school sound which in my opinion is not a bad thing. The cue BECOMING APOLLO 8, for example is a driving composition, that builds and creates a tense atmosphere, strings, with percussive elements slowly create a piece that is inspiring and patriotic sounding, it then alters and moves into a more dramatic and action led track, but all the time the composer fashioning a rich and developing theme, which is performed by horns that are supported and enhanced by strings and more percussion. It is one of those tracks that you find yourself returning to again and again, and on each visit there is something there that you did not hear before. DARK SIDE OF THE MOON to is slow burning cue, building and then ebbing creating a sound that mesmerises and entertains. This is one for your collection, please do not pass it by, just go buy it.  Available on Notefornote entertainment.

TALKING WITH COMPOSER ALEJANDRO KARO.

Alejandro Karo is a Mexican composer from Hermosillo, Sonora, México.

Alejandro formally entered the world of music at the age of ten when he began to study under Maestro Felipe García with whom he studied classical guitar. At the  age of fourteen the young musician continued to study piano with teachers Jesús David Camalich and Alfonso Cabrera. And when he reached the age of  seventeen he began to study musical composition, entering into various courses, During his time at the University of Sonora  he became more aware of his passion and attraction to write film scores.  As well as a composer of film scores in his own right, Alejandro has also been responsible for trailer music, additional cues for film scores and music preparation for soundtracks. 

 

 

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Can I begin by asking about your score for MIS DEMONIOS NUNCA JURARON SOLEDAD, this is a horror western I understand, did the direction have any favoured style or sound that he wanted for his film, as your score certainly leans more towards the horror as in style and sound?
Yes, Mis Demonios Nunca Juraron Soledad is a horror western movie, in the meetings that we always had, the director Jorge Yahir Leyva and me, we always talked about having a hybrid and textural music where we combined string orchestra and many synthesizers, I had always wanted to write music for this type of film, so when I had the opportunity to write music for the film I wanted to do something different and not based on typical westerns, but rather work on a musical context based on suspense and in the mystery.

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Even though the score for MIS DEMONIOS NUNCA JURARON SOLEDAD is very atonal in places there are also themes that shine through, do you think it is important to have themes rather than a soundscape as seems to be the trend nowadays?
Personally, I am not a very melodic composer, so when I saw the movie, I could not stop thinking about having a main theme for the film, but I did not want it to be a melodic theme with a memorable theme, I wanted the music to be as minimal as possible, so the way I thought about doing this task, was writing a specific progression of chords that at the moment of making them all sound, they gave the sensation of being a theme, and thanks to a lot of exploration time, I found out how to have Silence and Deina’s theme in the movie with a very basic chord progression, or at least I think I did achieve all that.

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What do you think is the purpose of music in film?

 

That is a question I asked myself many times, I think that music helps in many forms, like supporting the movie in an emotional level, music often says everything that words cannot express, it is something beyond just music. Composer Brian Tyler says, “music is the heart of a film” and I think it is quite right.

 

Your latest score is for JESUS OF NAZARETH, how did you become involved on the movie, and at what stage of production did you start forming ideas about the music?
I came to the movie Jesus of Nazareth, almost coincidentally I can say, I was visiting the International Film Festival of Guadalajara, and my great friend Paulina Villavicencio who I work with a lot, she introduced me with part of the editing department of the film, after almost 5 months I received a call from the producer Jose Manuel Brandariz, who was very interested in me writing the music for this movie, of course I was too excited to make this story, then when we finished the call, I remember I started to make small musical ideas, without images of course, and I could not avoid writing a theme which became my favourite over time, for the sequence of the Viacrucis.

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Within the score there is a solo female voice which is quite beguiling, who is the soloist, and what size orchestra did you have for the score?

 

 

The soloist of this score, is the soprano Brenda Santracuz, a great friend of mine, for this score I wanted just a small string orchestra and of course a lot synthesizers (laughs), I did not want to write too orchestral music as it is usual in this type of films, I wanted to write something a little more modern and minimalistic that could give a story to a more raw atmosphere.

 

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How much music did you compose for JESUS OF NAZARETH, and will there be a CD release of it?
I composed 68 minutes of music and I’m in talks with an important music label for movies to make the official release of this soundtrack in a couple of months.

 

 

What musical education did you undertake, and do you come from a family background that was musical at all?
I have a degree in music from the University of Sonora also known as “Unison” in Hermosillo, Sonora Mexico, and in my family there are no musical relatives, only a cousin and my brother played rock covers together, but I was the only one who ended up dedicating myself completely to music as a profession.

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What is the state of the film industry in Mexico, I ask because I have been seeing some good movies coming from Mexican directors and producers, and also a lot of very good scores?

 

The industry in Mexico has been growing in the last few years, and from what I can see in my generation there are more and more composers interested in writing music for movies, every time they write and produce better scores, we have great composers of music for cinema in Mexico with whom I have been able to work and learn a lot like Edy Lan, Andrés Sánchez, Gus Reyes, Rodrigo Flores, Arturo Rodriguez, Leoncio Lara Bon etc.

 

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Have you a favoured or preferred studio where you record your film scores?

Yes, my favourite studio is Estudios Noviembre and the Sala Silvestre Revueltas at Estudios Churubusco, with the incredible Strings México.

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What was your first experience of writing music for film?

 

 My first experience in a real movie, was when I composed the music for a movie called “I Wish I Wish” by director Eduardo M. Clorio, which gave me many great surprises and a couple of awards, it is available in Amazon Prime.

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Do you feel that you have been inspired or influenced by certain composers?
Yes, a lot of composers like Edy Lan, Trent Reznor, Bryce Dessner, Hans Zimmer of course, etc.
How do you work out your music ideas, do you utilise technical means or do you write your ideas to manuscript, also do you orchestrate or do you prefer to use an orchestrator whilst you continue to write the score?

ETERNAL
I first start writing themes or motives on the piano, after writing a harmonic plan that I like, I sit down on the computer and start to develop and orchestrate my melodic material and program my music against image, and finally I send my MIDI material to my orchestrator Mayra Lepró with whom I have worked in all my films for almost 4 years.

 

Have you ever performed your film music in concert?

 

I have never done it, but a few months ago I worked on a Suite for full orchestra of my score for “Jesús de Nazaret” and I hope I can play it live at the end of the year.

 

 

When you are asked to score a project, do you watch it continuously until you get ideas about where music should be placed, or do you watch just a few times?

ALE4
I watch the movie  many times, and together with the director we work in a spotting session where we mark which are the cues that should have music and based on that I start working on the cues that need to have music. 

 

What comes first in the composing process, the central theme or smaller cues?
I start composing the central theme, it doesn’t matter if they are large or small, I work the rest of the cues in chronological order, it is much easier for me that way.
There are times when you are almost finishing the film and by the end of it you think of new theme which ends up replacing the main theme, it is quite frustrating, unexpected and funny but it has happened to me quite often.

 

 

The composer has also worked extensively in music preparation and provided additional music for a number of motion pictures.

 

LA PLANETE SAVAGE. (FANTASTIC PLANET).

 

Released in 1973 LA  PLANETE SAVAGE was a French/Czech animated co production. It was applauded at the time of its release and won the Cannes film festival Jury prize in 1974. It is to be honest a rather surreal and quirky movie and takes us to a planet that is ruled by blue skinned giants. The story that unfolds is said to be based upon the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, but we see within it a plethora of possible interpretations and messages. The artwork is somewhat Dali inspired with super surreal landscapes and backdrops, but these are populated by weird and even stranger creatures or flora and creature amalgamations and creations. Some of the animation has the look of those Victorian botanical drawings, being detailed but maybe just to out of the ordinary. Directed by Rene Laloux, THE FANTASTIC PLANET as it was retitled for UK and USA release, was scored by composer Alain Goraguer.

The soundtrack was just as off the wall and oddball as the movie itself, at times taking on the guise of electronic rock infused cues that would not have been out of place on an album by Pink Floyd. And, at other points the composer writing pieces that were more akin to Morricone or Polish composer Christophe Komeda. A mix of jazz, rock and also symphonic sounding music, which surprisingly worked for the movie and also when listening to the album stand up away from those surreal images and scenarios on screen. What struck me about the score was the composers use of choir within the work, he fuses this with many other musical elements and it always manages to create a lasting impression upon the listener, even the use of a somewhat sleazy sounding sax and woodwind combined and supported by sporadic sounding bongos works.

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Goraguer worked with Serge Gainsbourg as is probably best known as being a jazz pianist, he also collaborated with Bris Vian and scored movies such as, La Vie de Bohème’, ‘Deux jours à tuer’ and ‘Saint Laurent. He also wrote an interesting score for Voise Venise et Crever. The soundtrack was released on LP back in 1973 as a gatefold de luxe edition, featuring the artwork from the movie. Goraguer based his score on a repeating descending four note scale motif, and built the thematic material around this, orchestrating and arranging the theme so that it remained fresh but also familiar.

 

 

My initial thoughts on the score when I first heard it in the 1970.s was mixed and I was not sure whether I actually liked it at all, but it is a soundtrack that just grows on you, it was re-issued on CD and is also now available on various digital platforms. Its worth listening too, and maybe also try and catch the movie.