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Now here is a problem, I have recently listened to three scores, all of which were by different composers but all for the same movie! Yes three scores for one film, the film is The 1925 silent version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, which starred Lon Chaney in the title role. I think many of us are aware of the magnificent score as composed by Roy Budd, and also the score which was also written by Carl Davis. The third entry into the re scoring area on this movie is by American composer Craig Safan. Now, personally I did not see the need for Mr Davis or Mr Safan to get involved as Roy Budd as far as I could work out had it covered. But, it’s the film industry, its showbiz as they say, and theres no business like it apparently. So why have one great score when you can have three scores.(Hollywood logic).

carl d

Lets go back to the Carl Davis score, now I really do not know the history here or indeed how the composer got involved on the film, but I am positive that Roy had already written his music and it was because of Roy’s passing that Davis was commissioned, but don’t quote me on that. Any way after a little bit of digging I could see that the Carl Davis score was released on CD by Silva screen records in 1997. I interviewed Roy in 1993 just before his untimely death and he told me about the score for Phantom then, so Davis composed his score four years later. (confused?). So now in 2019 we get another score this time from American film music composer Craig Safan (LAST STARFIGHTER, SON OF MORNING STAR).


Its difficult because all three composers are respected and have had many years of experience in film music. Roy I think being the better known in the UK via his scores for films such as GET CARTER, SOLDIER BLUE, CATLOW and WILD GEESE, but Carl Davis also has an impressive CV with music for so many silent movies such as NAPOLEON and BEN HUR. Davis of course is also known for his music to films such as CHAMPIONS, THE SNOW GOOSE, THE RAINBOW and TV series such as THE WORLD AT WAR etc. So examining or just listening to all three scores and seeing how each composer approached the same film is to say the least interesting, I am not looking or listening to say this score is better than that score etc, but just out of interest take a scene and see what the composer in question did musically for it.

Roy Conducting

So lets start with the score I am more familiar with which is by Roy Budd, Track number 1, BACK STAGE AT THE OPERA is a chilling and also melancholy sounding piece that after its organ introduction segues into a suitable grandiose and sweeping central theme with strings again being the mainstay of the performance enhanced by brass and woods and further supported by subdued percussive elements and piano that together create a proud and epic sounding piece which could be the work of either Steiner or Rozsa with commanding brass supported by percussion bringing the cue to a triumphant sounding conclusion. It is in the introduction of this cue that we hear for the first time THE PHANTOM THEME, which although unnerving is also filled with sadness and evokes an atmosphere of loneliness. The theme returns throughout the score and makes its second appearance in a more expanded version in track number 2, BALLERINAS/THE PHANTOM THEME, which begins in a slightly restrained fashion but soon builds with the composer relaying not only drama and romance in his music but hints at comedy and further conveys an air of charm and warmth, lulling the listener into a falsehood of wellbeing and serenity before introducing the dark and sinister mood for the Phantom. Budd expresses his emotions wonderfully with his romantic and opulent score, and underlines and punctuates perfectly the picture with its driving and dramatic passages that are complimented and aided by the composers equal amount of less chilling and adventurous material that possess a luxurious and sumptuous sound which is comparable with the film music of the Golden age and evokes not just Steiner and Rozsa but Erich Korngold, Hugo Freidhofer and at times the melodic and lush sound achieved by composer Victor Young. Track number 3, GENITRIX, is the first time we hear the harpsichord within the score; it is a gentle and simple melody which is purveyed upon the instrument, but one that nonetheless grabs the listener’s attention and holds it for its relatively short running time of just over a minute. The harpsichord returns to repeat its performance in track number 6, THE MASKED BALL, on this occasion it acts as the introduction to an elegant and wistful waltz. Budd also acts an arranger within his own score when he arranges and adapts Charles Gounod’s ‘FAUST’ which plays a major role in the film’s storyline giving it new life and vitality and also integrating it wonderfully into the fabric of his original score. One of the highlights of the score for me personally is ON THE ROOF OF THE OPERA, which opens at first in a subdued manner but erupts with grand sounding fanfares of brass and percussion that are supported by strings and flyaway winds again shades of Korngold, this cue seems to have everything, grandeur, drama and also romanticism that is laced with melancholy that seems to cry out in despair at times underlining the Phantom’s obsessive craving for the object of his desire Christine. Surging strings, plaintive woodwinds, fierce growling brass and also low key but highly emotive strings work together to create a wealth of melody and a highly atmospheric piece. As the compact disc progress so does the urgency in the composers music, THE STRANGLERS WORK for example opens with shady sounding low strings, but soon these segue into a more melodic and calm musical persona, strings and woodwinds combine to fashion a haunting and tender sounding composition, this however alters with rising brass supported by percussion and driving strings bringing a sense of danger and foreboding to the proceedings, fierce brass stabs are embellished by pounding percussion and menacing horns, the strings then enter into the equation adding even more of a sinister mood to the composition. This dark atmosphere fades and all is well again as understated woods are given subdued but affecting support by low key strings which bring the cue to its conclusion.


Track number 9 THE TORTURE CHAMBER is a tour de force of musical richness with strings and brass once again taking the lead and setting the scene and imparting upon the listener an almost impish sound in the first couple of minutes of the track, the cue soon changes direction and becomes a more subdued piece which although melodic still relays a sense of underlying unease. The final track on the disc is the powerful and highly volatile RACE OF RAGE, this is the longest cue on the compact disc and weighs in at a full twelve minutes, it contains many of the major themes and motifs from the score and sends us headlong towards a dazzling and exhilarating finale that will I know take your breath away. Budd brings all the elements of the orchestra together in a final and commanding end sequence that is filled with drama, tinged with romance and also filled with passion, danger and foreboding. So that is the Roy Budd score, let us now turn to the most recent attempt to support and give life via the soundtrack to the Phantom.

Craig Safan is no stranger to the film music arena, he has worked on numerous film scores and produced some of cinema’s and television most polished and memorable soundtracks. His landmark score for THE LAST STAR FIGHTER still stands out as being one of the composers best and ultimately is also one of his most popular amongst film music aficionados. But the Phantom in the depths of the Paris opera house is literally light years away from the sci=fi world of THE LAST STARFIGHTER. I was initially worried when I heard the news that Safan had scored Phantom, after all many of his more recent scores have been synthesised and the composer does utilise electronics within many of his scores, and Phantom being a classic I personally do not think would really be something that would be happy being scored in a contemporary fashion, after all look what happened with the British horror classic WITCFINDER GENERAL when they re-scored it taking off the quintessentially English sounding Green-sleeves sounding theme as penned by Paul Ferris and replacing it with a, how shall I put it lifeless and emotionless sounding partly synthetic work, by Kendall Schmidt, the electronic approach or the synthetic elements within the work did not gel with the movie and it sounded akward and out of place. So would Safan turn to the synthetics, no he composed a symphonic work, complete with creepy sounding organ and operatic arias being utilised throughout, which I must admit I found a little odd being a silent movie. The opening theme, I felt was a little over the top and cliched, but I suppose we have to remember that this is for a silent classic from 1925, I also thought that the opening ran too long and did not really compliment or support the scene that was unfolding. This can also be said for the remainder of the score, I like the music that has been composed, but there is just something lacking in the timing.

Maybe the mood that is created it just does not quite make it. But as I say to listen to the music on its own is entertaining, but in conjunction with the images I found myself either focuses on the music or the images never the two as a whole, Take the scene where the Phantom is unmasked, the Budd score was powerful yet still vaguely melodic, Safan scores the moment with quite frankly feeble percussion and horns, but the impact of the moment is not given greater shock nor is it given a more commanding atmosphere which is what occurs within the Budd score, instead the moment is rather tepid or at least the music is. Budd’s music for Phantom is exciting, dramatic and above all romantic, Safan’s is in my opinion short of the mark in many areas, So let us move to the Carl Davis score, this is a far more classical sounding work than both Safan and Budd, it has to it an aura that evokes the vintage days of the golden age of Hollywood, not that the Budd or Safan creations are any less symphonic, but I feel that maybe the Budd and certainly the Safan are a little more contemporary in their overall orchestration and sound. Davis like Safan turns to the use of operatic arias to support the scenarios taking place on screen and personally I do prefer the Budd approach utilising music solely with no vocal support.

The Davis score is a very English sounding effort, but this I think is just the style of Davis even if he is not English, he had by the time he worked on Phantom been scoring TV and film in the UK for several years, and a little bit of the established sound and approach may have influenced his own approach on the silent classic. So I suppose the question is which score suits the movie best, One Phantom three scores, I think it is probably best to say that each score has its own qualities, each supports and enhances, but all in very different ways, I will say however because of my connections with Roy Budd I still do favour his take on the score, the Safan work is certainly different in its style and also its actual approach, as Safan seems to favour the old style of employing a musical wallpaper, as in it is underscoring an action sequence and this alters to something less dramatic, but at times the music continues along in the same mode and pace, thus the film maybe suffers slightly.


With Budd he is very good at altering and segueing into scenes the music supporting the scenarios more and creating varying moods throughout and giving the film a distinct and individual musical persona. Carl Davis too seems to favour the same type of approach as Safan, with the score being slow to alter or shape to the film’s needs, don’t forget this a personal view.





The documentary FOR SAMA, is a story that is filled with many emotions, it is a tale that is both epic and fragile, and focuses upon the life of Waad al-Kateab whilst she is in the city of Aleppo in Syria, as the crisis in the city unfolds and worsens as the years pass, we see her fall in love and marry and eventually give birth to a daughter Sama. It is one of the most intimate and yet harrowing films, with the central characters camera recording the worsening situation in the, capturing loss, joy and ultimately a fight for survival. It also shows the inner struggle she feels when faced with leaving the City, she wants to leave to save her daughter, but at the same she feels that she should remain and continue the struggle for freedom which she has been fighting and also for which she has already lost so much. It’s a film that you will not be able to stop watching and will shed tears and laugh with her and for her. The music for this film plays a very big part, it supports every scenario and elevates certain situations giving them even more power and overall impact. The score is by the highly talented and gifted composer Nainita Desai, She is a composer that has been creating much interest recently via her TV and film work, and with FOR SAMA she does not disappoint one bit, This is a wonderfully vibrant and atmospheric work, the composer creating delicate and emotive musical nuances and passages throughout. The compositions and the orchestrations are at times mesmeric and alluring, but the score given the subject matter also contains its fair quota of more dramatically led themes and cues.



On listening to the score, I am certain this is a fusion of conventional instrumentation and electronic or synthesised elements, which really work well together, both mediums complimenting and giving support to each other. One of my favourite cues is SAMA IS BORN, which is a simple but highly affecting piece, the composer utilising piano, that is supported by strings and electronic underscore, which eventually subsides and leads into solo piano which is joined by a sorrowful but tender sounding cello and violin performances, it is a poignant and totally enveloping composition, which just captures the listeners attention and never lets it go. The same can be said for the cue THE MIRACLE BABY, filled with emotion and a melancholy atmosphere, which converts into a beautiful and haunting theme for piano and strings that introduce and accompany solo violin, which purveys an aura of fragility. Please check this score out it is a varied and powerful work, which deserves every accolade. Go buy it, you will love it. Available on Milan records now, and also available on Spotify.




TRAUMFABRIK the movie looks like an interesting piece of cinema, filmed in the German language, it is a romantic drama set in the early 1960.s that tells the story of a young German film studio extra, who attempts to re-unite with the love of his life who is a French girl, but they have been separated by the construction of the Berlin wall. Directed by Martin Schreier, it is by the look of the excerpts I have been able to catch an adventure which is relentless and inventive. This is essentially a love story and is told against the background of one of the most prestigious and oldest film studios in Europe, THE DREAM FACTORY which was the Babelsberg Studio that stood on the Traumfabrik site. It is in many ways also a love story from the view of the director as the movie tells of the impact of movies and also the way in which they were made. It is a magical and affectingly nostalgic account of movie making that just happens to be the background to an emotive and affecting story of love lost and separation.


The score is by composer Philipp Noll,  reflects the nostalgic and romantic content of the story that we see unfolding on screen. The composer has done a marvellous job in creating not one film score or employing one style, but he has fashioned mini scores within the score to suit and support each scenario and situation, which ranges from Pirates to Romans and more. All the way through the score we are treated to rich and colourful sound that is vibrant and beautiful, overflowing with a lush and inventive collection of themes, that are grand, sombre and robust, plus there are also romantic and poignant interludes which seem to pop up and swell into full blown lush and luxurious thematic pieces that I am sure the likes of Max Steiner would have loved. There is even a Spanish flavoured cue, with flamenco sound, performed by guitar and percussion. The cue that refers to Pirates is a typically swashbuckling and a Williams-esque type composition, with rousing strings and dramatic brass, DIE RACH DER PIRATENBRAUT, could be John Debney or Hans Zimmer and also the aforementioned John Williams, it has that robust and driving sound right from the opening bars and sets the scene whisking the listener off immediately to the Caribbean with Galleons cannons blazing and flying jolly rogers. The PROLOGUE opens the orchestral score, although a short-lived affair, it is filled with an air of fragility and emotion. Piano and strings combine and are supported by voices for this poignant piece, enticing one into a musical treasure trove that is entertaining and sumptuously inspiring. This is a work that is varied and colourful, filled with a literal smorgasbord of musical sounds, styles and textures.



Every cue is different but at the same time the score gels throughout, the composer creating a work that I think will be hailed by many as one of the best scores thus far in 2019. There is I can honestly say not one cue on the soundtrack that I would skip, the song SEE YOU AGAIN  is well performed by vocalist Helene Fischer and has to it a sound not unlike one of the ballads from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN. My recommendation to you is seek out this score, listen, digest and enjoy.




Who says that a low budget movie can’t have a great score, well whoever it was obviously never saw the movie THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING and never sampled the musical delights as written by composer Chuck Cirino. Ok I have to say I love this score, always have done and now some 30 odd years on my opinion has not changed, in fact, my admiration and devotion to it has grown. Ok, this is not Oscar material but it is a wonderfully thematically driven work, with the composer pull a theme out for every character in the movie or so it seems, and these are just wonderfully attractive and compulsive themes that are addictive with catchy musical hooks, at every turn. The album opens with ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE SWAMP, which is a subtle and somewhat subdued piece, but it manages to set the scene and purvey an atmosphere of apprehension and uncertainty to the listener. Cirino is a big fan of Morricone and I can hear shades of that composer or at least his style within this brief but entertaining track. In fact, there are gentle nods of acknowledgement to Morricone throughout in some form or another, they maybe fleeting but one can certainly hear them. The score which is mostly via synthetic methods is surprisingly melodic and rich, this is especially noticeable in tracks that are of the more romantic leaning, LOVE IN THE SWAMP for example has to be one of the most alluring melodies I have ever heard, it is an enchanting and fragile sounding piece, again I think containing shades of Morricone, Cirino employs a style and sound that was used widely during the 1980.sby composers such as Alan Silvestri, Richard Band and Jerry Goldsmith, it is a mix of the rich and the lush which is fused with that of the electronic, and when composers such as this, Cirino included did this it worked wonderfully, giving the score a contemporary sound but also allowing the more traditional style of film scoring to shine through.



Cirino, in my opinion is one of the more inventive composers who works on low budget movies, and he has created a substantial back catalogue of scores that are original as well as being entertaining , plus they serve the movies well and in some cases dare I say outshine the pictures that they have been created to enhance. THE RETURN OF THE SWAMP THING is a score that I know collectors will engage with and love as I did and do, time to check it out if you have not already. But please get the 30th Anniversary edition, for the 27 tracks.




Composer Joseph Renzetti, has worked on a variety of motion pictures, but started his career in music working on different genres of music that were related to the world of popular music, he worked with numerous artists including Barry Manilow, and was responsible for a number of songs that we refer to as classics nowadays. 

You worked with director, Gary Sherman a number of times, did he have specific ideas about wat role the music should have within his movies and did he suggest the style or sound of scores that he thought his movies required?
Gary had many excellent ideas of what he wanted the music to do dramatically, to have input into the style of the music of course – Rock, instrumental, electronica, Orchestral, etc. Gary would leave it up to me how I fashioned the music emotionally to the film.

You were born in Philadelphia, but re located to Hollywood, where you worked on THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, I understand you not only worked on the score but trained the actors in how to play instruments, but did you move to Hollywood specifically to start to write music for movies?
Yes I did. I had a very successful recording career as a guitar player and as a record arranger. After I arranged “Mandy,”(Barry Manilow) and it was a big hit, I decided it was a good time to move into LA and cash in on my success, it worked.


What musical education or training did you have? 

I was for the most part self-taught and I studied hard. I studied composing, music theory, film scoring from the Henry Mancini book. Fortunately I got to write for all the instruments in the orchestra and the Rhythm section by arranging records for people. It was a time when because of technical advances in recording, you didn’t have to be a big record company to get into the record business. An arranger was the “software” of the day. He was the person who could actually write the music for the musicians to play, and make it sound like a hit record. No synthesizers, no Pro-Tools needed-just a pencil, score-paper and a good copyist.

Were there any or indeed are there any composers or artists that you think have played an important role in influencing or inspiring you?

The first time I heard a group of professional musicians recording in one of the great studios in Philadelphia, playing arrangements by Dave Apple, I was hooked. The sound was like nothing I ever heard, and I wanted to do that. Dave Apple was my first mentor. He was the type of guy that would allow me to hang around the studio and see how things were done. Also, there were two brothers in Philly at the time, both excellent musicians, Tony Louis and his brother Don Louis. Both were musical geniuses and they shared their knowledge with me.


CHILDS PLAY contains a great score, how did you become involved on the movie and were you aware that Bear McCreary utilises elements of your central theme into his score for the re boot of the film?
I had scored a lot of cult films; Basket Case 1 and 2, Vice Squad,
Frankenhooker, dead and buried, the exterminator, wanted dead or alive, and the Studio Film – Poltergeist 3. So when my friend, the Musical supervisor on the Film David Chackler, recommended me I was Brought right in.

By the way I don’t think McCreary used any of my music in the film score. I believe it was just in the album cut, unless you know differently. I haven’t seen the film.



Do you think that it is possible for a good score to improve a movie that is probably not that good?
If it’s the type of film that’s just on the borderline, yes music can turn it into a good film. I have done it. However if the film is truly not interesting, not dramatic, of no relative interests to moviegoers, music can’t help. I’ve also done one or two of those.

On the other hand, and this is more common, bad music can actually ruin a good film. I see those efforts all the time. This is usually caused by directors who think that music is basically sound effects. They don’t have the experience to work with a film composer. A FILM composer understands drama as well as Music.

At what stage of production do you like to become involved on a project?

I like to read the script before they start shooting if it’s possible. In this way I could start to gather some sounds and do some demos. Often because of the subject matter in the type of film , it’s important to do some research. You must know the subject matter that you will be dealing with.
I like to create some synthesized Mock-ups In my Project Studio Using midi sequencers, synths, outboard gear etc. In this way you get a jump on what the director and producers might want to hear when they finish shooting, when post production starts. This temp-Music might serve them to play on the set to inspire the actors. It might serve as temp-music in the score as the editors are cutting it. And this way you’re not waiting for the last possible moment to get the score done. Everybody wants the score yesterday.

If it’s a musical type film like the Buddy Holly Story , then of you have to get involved in pre-recording the music, supervising the play back on set. It’s a different kind of involvement. It’s total immersion.

In recent years film scores in general have become more soundscape than actual musical soundtrack, what is your opinion of the increased use of the DRONE effect in film scores?


The drone is ancient, a basic part of music of all countries, times and cultures.
Where would Bag pipes be without them? Basically it’s a long tone. There are short notes and long notes, and some in between.

It’s not that drones are bad, it’s the people who use them. There have been many great films, scores written using drones. It’s all in the execution.

I like to play them in real time following the drama of the film. I watch the film and manipulate the volume and expression of the drone to match the Emotions in the scene. I did a lot of that in Childs Play, the original.

Also keep in mind that a drone is not necessarily one note, or one instrument droning on, it could be a combination of textures and tones. These can vary within the drone for a very dynamic dramatic effect.



Staying with contemporary scores for movies, the main theme or central theme as we know it is also becoming something of a rarity, do you think that this is just a phase that the industry is going through, or maybe the theme as in main title is gone for good?
I see themes from the perspective that there are no limits to what devices the composer today can use. In the early days of cinema, it was almost a given that a theme had to be incorporated. Yes, this is less so today, but still often used.
A theme doesn’t have to be a phrase of notes. It could be a musical sound cluster, an instrument playing, playing anything. The instrument then becomes associated with a character, storyline, it becomes a theme.


How long do you get to work on a score for a feature film, or does this vary on each assignment?
It’s all about time and budget. There is no one standard answer to that question. I literally have done the score over a weekend, ( Vice Squad) a very basic score only using four Instruments. I’ve done films using a full orchestra. They took two months to write and record. (Under The Rainbow & Child’s Play)

With any film the composer never gets enough time. That’s why I prepare in advance; have ideas sketched out; start doing some cues and playing them for the director to see if I’ m in the right direction. Rather than waiting to the last minute.



Do TV and Feature films differ a great deal in the way you work on them, or is it a case of scoring them in pretty much the same way?
I think I take the same approach in both. I always try to create the best that I can and I like challenging myself that way. I think the budgets, the time constraints, The quality of the show, the experience of the other creators involved, that makes the difference from one score to another. Of course there is the obvious; a film is usually over an hour and 40 minutes long, whereas TV shows are a half hour or one hour in length.


Do you have a set routine in the way you work on a project, for instance is it important to have a central theme to use as a foundation for the score, or do you prefer to tackle the less thematic cues first?
I like to try and do one of each type of cues. For example if there’s three or four chase scenes, I like to do one and use it as an example of how I intend to handle all the chase cues in the film. In this way you’ll know that the director likes the way you’re going to handle a chase or not. And if there’s corrections to be made all you have to do is correct that one Chase as compared to doing all four.

Then carry that out; do one of the romantic cues, one of the comedy cues, one of the horror cues, etc. etc.


What were your earliest memories of any kind of music or maybe an instrument that you were attracted too and were you from a family that was musical?


The guitar. Later I fell in love with all the instruments in an orchestra. As for a musical family, No, but a lot of artists were in my family. They could sing harmony, play a little bit of mandolin or a ukulele, so music was always around me as a child.



How many times do you like to see a movie before you begin to formulate ideas about the style or the placing of the music?
When I first see a movie I try to watch it as a regular audience member. Because you only get first impressions once. I write these impressions down so that as I score the film I can refer to them as a guide; what type of cue is needed where. As you’re scoring, you can’t help but to watch the film Many times. So you get to know the film quite well.