There are many film music composers that I feel do not get the full attention of collectors, in many cases these are composers that work steadily and more often prolifically within the area of music for film. But maybe because they are not from the United States or even the UK they don’t seem to get the full recognition that they so richly deserve. Philippe Sarde, I feel is one such composer, yes, we as film music collectors all know his name and I for one love his varied and innovative sounding soundtracks. Sarde, is a composer who cannot be letterboxed or type cast, because his styles are many-fold and he always will rise to the occasion creating interestingly original and highly melodic soundtracks. His music is melodic, beautiful, affecting, at times up-beat and contains a richness that extends and develops into becoming epic, exhilarating, and grandeur.

The composer is also well known for his use of a more contemporary style within his film scores, utilising jazz and a pop orientated sound for example. Maybe we should examine or look at a handful of his scores, I thought I should select four or five, but this remember does not even scratch the musical surface of this eloquent, talented, and original composer. He is considered as being one of the most versatile Maestro’s working on film scores within his generation and also is revered by younger generations of composers who also write for the cinema and television. The composer has worked on well over two hundred projects, these include feature films, shorts, television programmes as in miniseries, and has on numerous occasions been nominated for as well as receiving an array of awards for his unrelenting and highly unique approach to scoring these.

His beautiful score for Roman Polanski’s TESS for me still stands out as one of his best, as well as his music for THE JUDGE AND THE ASSASSIN and BAROCCO.

Born in France on June 21st, 1948, his Mother was a singer at the Paris Opera, and it was because of her encouragement that he became interested in music. At the age of just four years old, Sarde conducted a short piece from the opera CARMEN which was being performed at the Opera house in Paris, Sarde was drawn towards both film and music and at the age of five began to experiment with sound and producing his own short films. So, when it came to choosing a career path the composer was torn between the two mediums that he loved, thankfully for us he chose music. During his illustrious career the composer has collaborated with filmmakers such as Bertrand Tavernier, Pierre Granier-Deferre, Georges Lautner, André Téchiné, and Jacques Doillon, to name but a few.  However, it was director and screenwriter Claude Sautet, who asked Sarde to write the music for his film THE THINGS OF LIFE in 1969. That was the beginning of the composers’ career as a film music Maestro, with this first collaboration leading to a life-long partnership that spanned nearly three decades and involved eleven movies.

The composer has also worked with many renowned recording artists, at times often composing pieces of music for a film with a particular performer/artist in mind to perform it. On the recording of PRINCESSES and UN FRERE for example, we hear the artistry of musicians such as Herbie Hancock, Raphael Pidoux, and Ron Carter. Sarde is a gifted musical tour de force, and a composer who never fails to deliver, mesmerising via his lilting melodies his up-tempo compositions and his grand and powerful musical statements that are at times neo-classical in their sound and construction.  I think if I were asked to select my favourite, Phillippe Sarde film score, I would be hard pressed to select a solitary title, as there are so many that I have discovered grown with and savoured.

So maybe I could choose four, FORT SAGANNE, QUEST FOR FIRE, LORD OF THE FLIES, and LA FILLE DE D’ARTAGNAN. But there are so many others, all of which contain something that is memorable or has had an impression upon me.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECT and GHOST STORY for example. The endless list of credits is impressive to say the least, with QUEST FOR FIRE in my opinion being one of many masterpieces that the composer has penned. The music for QUEST FOR FIRE created essential atmospheric moods for the movie which aid its development and support the storyline and images, giving them more weight and substance. The central theme is magnificent and emotive, the composer fashioning an apprehensive but at the same time wonderfully lyrical piece, that is filled with a rich thematic persona and has to it a haunting aura. It is moody and poignant and possesses an eloquent and enriching quality.

The score is overflowing with varying distinctive pieces, again the composer enhancing, supporting and underlining the events on screen, the music in QUEST FOR FIRE is more of an integral component of the movie, rather than just a film score, it conveys fear, uncertainty, sadness, solitude, despondency and romance, plus a multitude of emotions that are being felt by the main characters within the film. The composer utilises choral performances within the score, which also bring forth a style that is at times foreboding, and evoked the music of composer Gyorgy Ligeti, Sarde bringing to fruition a mixture of raw emotions and creating sounds and music that befit the harsh and unknown landscapes in which the film is set. He combines the vocal performances at times with music that could be referred to as atonal, but even in the most dramatic sections there are still fragments of themes that shine through.

As a new language was invented for the actors to speak in the movie, Sarde constructed a sound and a style that complimented and gave life to the storyline, his use of pan pipes, inventive percussive elements, subtle woods, solo trumpet, faraway sounding horns and other brass combined with the soaring and surging strings is genius.  

I remember buying the gatefold LP record which was on the Phillips label in the UK, and playing it over and over, it is a score that I never tire of and the theme is something that has to be listened to regularly, because of its sheer brilliance and grandness. Thankfully, Universal France released the score onto Compact disc, in their LISTEN TO THE CINEMA series, which is something that they should be congratulated for. This is a gem and treasure, a pleasurable listening experience, and a brilliant score in the context of the movie and a resounding and accomplished work. From one beautiful and affecting score to another in the form of FORT SAGANNE.

This is another Sarde classic in my opinion, it is overflowing with a richness and totally absorbing air, the opening theme itself is gracious and consuming, the composers use of cello bringing an overwhelming sense of both romance and melancholy to the proceedings, I am of the opinion that the music is so touching and so beautiful it is very difficult to put into words the emotions and the feelings it conveys and creates. It is a score I never ever tire of because there is so much melodic content and poignancy within it. I do not think that I use the word Masterpiece lightly when describing the musical stature and the prolific output of Philippe Sarde, he touches peoples emotions and fashions delicate and fragile musical nuances that are effective within the films they are employed in, but when listened to as just music are also highly affecting. FORT SAGANNE is an outstanding work, with the compositions, MADELINE, FANTASIA, ROMANESQUE, L’ERG CHECH, JULIET, and the principal theme (FORT SAGANNE) that opens the recording of the score, being particularly effectual. The composer weaves this haunting theme throughout the remainder of the score and presents it in various guises by arranging and orchestrating it differently, thus keeping it fresh and maintaining its effectiveness.

LORD OF THE FLIES (1990) is yet another example of intelligent and precise scoring from the composer, the music compliments and supports aswell as enhancing the story unfolding on the screen. The cue THE ISLAND is grand and impressive, the composer employing choristers andfaraway sounding horns to open the cue, which are then joined by strings and crashing timpani, setting the scene for most of the score.

Sarde, utilises a jaunty and at times scratchy sounding violin or fiddle solo, which is also highly affecting creating tantalisingly mischievous sounding passages. As with QUEST OF FIRE the composer presents us with a daunting and overwhelmingly powerful work, performed to perfection by the London Symphony Orchestra, the score oozes apprehension, uncertainty and also is filled with a mood of hope and mystery both at the same time as the story unfolds, and the group of schoolboys that are marooned on an island revert to being savages. Sarde’s musical score perfectly underlines and punctuates the storyline, with rasping brass flourishes, choir and expressive driving strings that are bolstered by timpani throughout.

LA FILLE DE D’ARTAGNAN. Is a score that I have to admit I did not add to my collection until about two years ago, I had always seen it in shops and online but would always side step it for some reason, finally I purchased it and am so glad I did. Again, the composer displays a unique talent and an adept connection with the subject matter. The score is classical as in renaissance sounding, with the composer employing a string ensemble or chamber orchestra, or at least it sounds as if this is who is performing. I love the use of solo trumpet in certain places and the added inclusion of organ, authentic period woodwinds and choir with subtle but effective and inventive percussion. There are also performances from guitar, or maybe it is a lute, either way it perfectly suits the movie, its storyline and the period in which it is set. An enjoyable listen.   

Philippe Sarde, has fashioned, created and brought to fruition, scores for movies that have become a part of cinema history, his intricate tone poems lacing and ingratiating scenes and passages from films, making them more memorable because of the placing and the impact of his  music. He is a specialist, a Maestro and a music-smith of immense talent.



After learning the piano and drums from a very young age, composer Segun Akinola later turned his attention to composition, graduating from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with first-class honours and the National Film and Television School with an MA in Composing for Film and Television. He was a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit in 2017, with the composers other works including the scoring of BBC Two’s landmark four-part series Black and British: A Forgotten History, written and presented by Historian David Olusoga OBE. Regularly collaborating on BBC projects, he completed the scores for the major three-part series The Human Body: Secrets of Your Life Revealed and two-part series Expedition Volcano, both for BBC Two and PBS. He is better known for his music in the latest series of Doctor Who, series 11 and 12, which feature the first female Doctor, portrayed by Jodie Whittaker. 

Can I start with series 11 of DR.WHO which is when you began to score the show, How did you become involved on the show and did you like so many of us watch the series when you were younger, and were you given any specific instructions as to what style of music you should compose for it?

Chris Chibnall was looking for a new composer for the show and had come across my work, so we started to talk from there. I had not watched the series, but I’d always been very aware of its musical history, particularly the ground-breaking work of Delia Derbyshire and the Radiophonic Workshop. My remit was to start from a clean slate musically, bring my personality to it and to take it in a new direction.

 Are any of your family musical in any way, and can you remember the first piece of music that you took notice of?

My sisters both learned instruments during their teenage years and my mum always sings around the house but that’s it really! What I can say is that my family love music and it’s always been a big part of everyday life. Sadly, I have no idea what the first piece of music I took notice of was, but I do know that I always enjoyed it.

When you began to work on DR. WHO were you aware of the style of the previous scores and was it a little unnerving creating a new arrangement for that familiar theme?

I was very aware of all the music that had come beforehand. For the main score, I had so much creative freedom to come up with a new sound world, which was a lot of fun. The main theme was of course daunting to tackle but, once I’d figured out the overall sound world for the series, it made the main theme much easier to approach.

Do producers use temp tracks at all on TV shows to let the composer know what kind of music they want if so, do you find this practise helpful or distracting?

Yes, they definitely use temp music which can be incredibly helpful and can also be a little limiting but it depends on the particular situation and I’ve certainly experienced both. Fortunately, I’ve found that a lot of the people I work with really do see it as a guide and they’re very happy going in a different direction that works for the storytelling or, are happy to do something that fits better with their overall desire for the score, or, are happy to take general ideas from the temp music without becoming too attached to it.

The scores for the series 11 and 12 I think have been amazing, so atmospheric and they really do give the series storylines a great lift and create an even higher level of intensity and atmospherics, what size orchestra do you tend to utilise for the series and what percentage of the instrumentation is made up of electronic or synthetic elements?

With the change of sound world that arrived with series 11, there was also a change in approach. As the stories each week took place in different locations and time periods, the intention was also for the music to change with the story whilst maintaining a core, recognisable series sound. As such, the instrumentation changes almost every episode! There’s usually at least one live instrument in the score unless the specific musical approach for an episode really doesn’t call for it and an orchestra is only used on select episodes too. I’ve created a number of bespoke sounds, synths and atmos that are used throughout the series so there’s a healthy blend of acoustic instruments, synths (both created from synthetic and acoustic sound sources) and electro-acoustic experimental elements too.

I noticed that even when there is an action cue on the soundtrack, it still maintains a level of thematic content, do you think it is important for films and TV shows to have a theme or themes that the audience can identify with and do you think that the main title as we knew it is now a thing of the past in movies?

Thematic material is (generally) very useful in the storytelling but that doesn’t mean that a theme has to be melodic. It could be a sound, a motif, a harmonic progression, a texture – anything goes! The most important question is: how can the music best serve the storytelling? A lot of the time, themes will be part of the answer but that’s not always the case.

What in your opinion is the purpose of music in film and TV?

At its core, it’s quite simple: the purpose is to help tell the storytelling being depicted on screen in the best way possible in conjunction with any other sound e.g. sound design.

When you are asked to work on a project do you like to see the film or show a number of times to allow you to become familiar with it and then start to figure out what style of music is required and also where it should be placed?

This depends on when I’ve been brought onto a project, but I don’t tend to watch it a great deal of times before I start writing. At the moment, I generally get brought on early enough to write some sketches based on the script or on conversations with the director and then when there’s a rough cut ready, I can watch that through and have a spotting session with the director and possibly the editor and/or producer too, to figure out where music is needed and what it should be doing.

There is a cue entitled MI6 in series 12, which sounds a little 007, was this something that you did consciously, or did it just develop as the scoring process progressed?

It was very intentional! That particular piece is from the first episode of series 12 which was titled ‘Spyfall’ so it of course required an equally Bond-influenced score throughout which was enormous fun!

Do you score the episodes for DR WHO in sequence, and how long approx: does it take to score an episode?

This depends on the production order and when the edits get completed. Sometimes I follow the order they are aired in and other times I’m jumping around the series. As for how much time it takes, this can vary quite a lot and it’s very much a question of how much time I’ve been given! For series 12, I was usually working on different stages of two or three episodes across a two-week period on average, but usually that time shrinks a bit the further into the series we get.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 15/12/2019 – Programme Name: Doctor Who Series 12 – TX: n/a – Episode: Launch (No. n/a) – Picture Shows: TARDIS INTERIOR **STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL 15/12/2019 00:00:01** Tardis Interior – (C) BBC – Photographer: James Pardon

How do you work out your musical ideas, maybe straight to manuscript or via PC or keyboard, and is there a particular routine that you have when scoring something, ie; main title to end title, central theme first and build the remainder of score around this etc?

Because of time limitations, I generally work straight into my computer. If I have time and I’m working on quite a traditional or classical-based score or theme, then I’ll sketch it out first and that may be on manuscript paper but that’s quite rare at the moment. The approach I take depends on what I’m working on so I don’t have a routine as such but I do like to figure out the central theme, idea or whatever the heart of the score will be, before I get into the rest of the score.

Do you work on the orchestrations yourself or is this sometimes not possible due to schedules, also do you conduct at all or do you prefer to have a conductor so you can monitor the scoring process from the booth?

With the time constraints and everything else to keep on top of in this line of work, an orchestrator is very handy! Orchestration is incredibly important to me and I write into my computer exactly as I’d write on manuscript paper, so all the same detail is there. I work with a great orchestrator who also conducts my scores, this way he already knows the music and my intentions and I get to sit in the booth very much with a composer-producer hat on rather than a composer-conductor hat on. I really enjoy conducting and take every opportunity to do it but when I’m recording, I prefer to be in the booth.

What artists or composers would you say have influenced you or inspired you and was writing music for film and TV something that you always looked at as a career?

I’m very influenced by a wide range of artists, composers and producers so there’s a very, very long list. I think some of my key influences are Earth, Wind and Fire, Quincy Jones, Hans Zimmer, Brian Tyler, John Williams, John Powell, Xenakis, Walter Afanasieff, Leonard Bernstein, Holst, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Foo Fighters, Snarky Puppy and many, many others. I was particularly influenced by arranger-producers so from a young age I wanted to be a record producer but, as I watched more films and read more and more books, that slowly morphed into film/TV composition, at which point it definitely became my focus.

You have been presenting a show on Sundays for Scala radio which is called TV ON THE RADIO it’s been brilliant to listen to, do you compile these shows and when will you be returning as I think it’s now finished?

It’s so good to be able to celebrate the brilliant work of many composers, it’s a real joy. I do compile the music along with the producer and we work really hard to put together a list of some of the best music around from many different TV shows and composers in different stages of their career. For now, I’m just grateful I was asked to come back for a second series!

What are you working on at the moment, and has the pandemic affected your work schedule a great deal?

Yes, the pandemic definitely affected my work schedule as projects were temporarily put on hold but thankfully things have picked up again and I’m currently working on the Doctor Who festive special and a feature-length documentary.