Ever had a conversation that went something like this?
“So, you collect film music”? Yes, I do, “Oh that’s great I love the SOUND OF MUSIC AND MARY POPPINS and INTO THE WOODS is awesome don’t you think”? Ummm, well, that’s not exactly what I mean by film music. “Oh you mean SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and THE KING AND I then”? Yep that’s it spot, on well I must go. (exit stage right rapidly, dancing and singing One Day More). Not that there is anything wrong with any of those films, but I think you know what I mean.
Yes, people who do not listen to film music have no idea what it is do they? Do I get annoyed/ no not really, I feel sorry for them more often than not because they have not experienced this wonderful art form. I thought I would take a different approach to soundtrack supplement twenty five, and ask a few fellow collectors what they thought were soundtracks that maybe influenced them and guided them to the path that led them to being a collector of film scores, and what is it about film music that holds the attraction?
I’ll start, shall I?
John Mansell U.K.
“The score that took me on a journey through film music that has lasted for 58 years so far, was LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (I first encountered it when I was 7). It was and still is romantic, mysterious and dramatic, I loved it. Why? I suppose it is the element of escapism, which is something that we need even more in these strange times. Jarre’s score just allows me to drift away and also recall better times. I hope for a few more years to continue this journey and discover more scores that will delight and mesmerise”.
Over to you then.
SERGEJ KAROV, Croatia.
“There were three of them, Maurice Jarre’s THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN, TOO LATE THE HERO by Gerald Fried and Jerry Fielding’s THE WILD BUNCH, they were all unavailable at the time, and I was rewinding VHS tapes to listen to the music again and again, Also another was Ron Goodwin’s WHERE EAGLES DARE, I ruined many VHS tapes in those days. The films were all recorded from the TV if it was an original VHS I was more careful”.
STEPHEN SMITH, Scotland.
“Well it’s a boring one for me, but the first time I fell fully in love with a score was, STAR WARS, how many folk will say that? But collecting wise, there were a few, Morricone’s FRANTIC, Kamen’s BRAZIL and DEAD ZONE, but FRANTIC more than anything”.
MARS MISIK, Turkey.
“If I remember well, firstly I had been enchanted by Dr ZHIVAGO when I was just nine years of age. Then it was Louis De Feunes classic GENDARME A ST TROPEZ and DOULIOU, DOULIOU by Raymond Lefevre. As for the actual collecting of soundtracks, as you well know I am not a good collector, but firstly I started to collect them after compact discs were available, Beginning with Morricone soundtracks”.
PHILIPPE BRAUD, France.
“I am 58 years old. My first crush for a score goes back to 1975 at the age of 13 with the LP “The towering inferno”. I live in Bordeaux, so a province of Paris. At that time it was very difficult to access film music. But the big shock was my second LP “The Omen” by Jerry Goldsmith. I came across this LP by chance in a second-hand store. First LP (Tattoo records) pressed in the USA. From that moment on, I got into film music and never came out of it again. It was Jerry Goldsmith who gave me the most thrills with these works. My favourite composers are : Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry, John Williams, Bernard Herrmann, then for France, Philippe Sarde, Georges Delerue, Michel Legrand.
I can no longer do without it. Film music does me a lot of good, even when I’m in bad mood or bad spirits. It allows me to escape and not think about anything. And I need that every day”.
ERIK WOODS, Canada.
“The quick answer would be, RETURN OF THE JEDI, I was 7 yrs old. Then I knew I wanted all the albums when I heard Kunzel’s GREAT FANTASY ADVENTURE album when I was in high school, I was around 14 or 15 then”.
TIM BURDEN, Ireland.
“Big Question, I suppose it would have to predictably be STAR WARS. The 1993 box set paved the way for my collection”.
BRENDON KELLY, U.K.
“I was blown away by John Williams’s Superman score when my parents took me to the cinema in April 1979. I was 8. It was then that I really started to notice music in films and as I got older realised that the ‘big’ music I was interested in was by the same composer. So, I started collected everything I could get my hands by John Williams starting with Return of the Jedi in 1984 – that’s when I started collecting. A year or two later I did a blind buy, and that one score started my passion for my very favourite composer – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by James Horner.
Superman is still my favourite score”
DONNA JOAN LACKLUSTER. Ireland.
“This goes way back to the early 80’s, when we were taping music from the TV! We did not buy records before 1985/1986. I think my sister and I; we got the bug from watching and listening to whatever was on repeat on TV. The spooky b/w Sherlock Holmes serials by Frank Skinner, The Invisible Man by Henry Mancini, Buck Rogers by Stu Phillips, Streets of San Francisco by Patrick Williams – also his music for The Magician. Later on, The Fog by John Carpenter and Future world by Fred Karlin. Also, Tarantula. I think we spent two or three years without even touching Goldsmith, Williams or Barry. So, our first soundtrack records were Return of the Jedi and A View to A Kill, we got both on Christmas 1985. From then on, we gradually started collecting, of course. But the appetite developed a couple of years before that”.
TIMOTHY FIFE. U.S.A.
“When I was a kid the Flash Gordon soundtrack made soundtracks pretty accessible. When I was in college the Virgin Suicide score by Air and the Vampyros Lesbos soundtrack were pretty important to me realizing I really appreciated the genre. After watching Tenebre and getting into Italian films I started to become a serious collector. This was before the reissues and you could still find originals at a reasonable price”.
GERMAN BARON BORRAS. Spain.
“Since I was a kid, back in the seventies…I started with TV series, and in the theatre with STAR WARS, but my all time favourite score is EL CID”.
RANDALL D. LARSON, U.S.A.
“Easy; ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. That’s the one that opened my eyes (and ears) to the power of film music and started my journey as a collector and a connoisseur of film music”.
PETR KOCANDA. Czech Republic.
“ALIENS, then later JURASSIC PARK”.
GREGORY WOODWARD. U.K.
“When I saw BEN HUR and THE TEN COMMANDMENTS as a kid, I had to have the soundtracks”.
So, we can see that film music is a global thing, and everyone is different in their taste of film music, favourite film music composers etc. The first buys or soundtracks that led people to start collecting and appreciating film music are varied, but there again so is film music itself. Onto soundtrack supplement twenty-five, and afterwards more from the collectors on wat started them off into the world of film music.
As I said my first soundtrack was LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, it was a score that for me just connected, I don’t know why as it certainly was not the first movie that I had seen, the sweeping theme, the mysterious sounds and the grand style that Maurice Jarre employed, was stunning and still today has the same effect upon me when I see the movie. I get goosebumps, and even become emotional, and this is nearly sixty years after first seeing the film and experiencing the same emotions as a seven-year-old. But, don’t you find that a lot of movie music does this it has the effect of reducing us to emotional wrecks at times, I was listening to THE DA VINCI CODE the other day, and the cue CHEVALIERS DE SANGREAL completely floored me emotionally, it’s weird because it’s not like I have never heard this piece, suppose its about how one is feeling on the day or at the time when you are listening to a particular piece of music. Hans Zimmer’s gradually building theme, just keeps coming, keeps building and gets right to the heart and the soul of any listener. Well this one specifically, the music flowed became grander and then in came the choir and the tears flowed. Damn you Hans, but thankyou at the same time. So in soundtrack twenty five let’s look at scores that hit the emotions, take no prisoners, reduce us to gibbering and shaking wrecks and make even the hardest of the hard wipe away a tear, and also scores that inspire and stir something inside. A soundtrack I came late too was THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, now this in no way qualifies for anything that resembles heartfelt or emotional or romantic, but it does however stir other emotions and for me sends shivers up my spine, I think its because I never listened to this score when it first came out, I had basically had it with the whole superhero thing, and thought Oh Yeah it’s a Batman movie. But how wrong was I! after watching the movie on TV I sat and just reflected on the images, the darkness of the characters and the superb way in which the film was directed and scored.
The cue LIKE A DOG CHASING CARS is for me the highlight of the score, music of course credited to both Zimmer and Newton Howard, but I think we can safely say that this is down to Zimmer, it’s a builder of a cue, the composer layering and adding elements to slowly but dramatically cultivate an atmosphere that is thick with a sense of the foreboding but at the same time there are musical sounds and a style that says that this is music for the good guy, it enhances the action, gradually gathering momentum until the percussive components that are utilised become uncontrollable and usher in the driving strings and the tense sounding brass, it’s a great piece of scoring and has to it an almost Wagnerian sound about it, it is bold and grandiose, operatic, sinister, apprehensive and total consuming. The composition taking on more and more instrumentation as it continues to propel headlong all the time adding tension and excitement to the proceedings. The score as a whole is a shadowy and brooding one, but look at the movie, Neil Hefti would be a little out of place here and totally out of his depth too. The score is like a saucepan filled with water that is threatening to boil over on the hob, it ebbs flows, simmers, builds and withdraws but all the time maintaining a heady and fearsome musical persona, which is effective in the film and affecting when listened too away from the images. Whatever you do don’t listen to it on a long car journey, or you could end up becoming the Dark Knight weaving in and out of the traffic and trying to avoid capture by the law. It’s funny that certain film scores do have this effect, take CONAN THE BARBARIAN, if I put the THE RIDDLE OF STEEL/RIDERS OF DOOM on, everyone in my house goes out. It certainly is energetic to say the least, so if you like me missed or by passed THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, please give it another chance, it is well worth it.
As I mentioned CONAN THE BARBARIAN we might as well go there, it would be rude not too. I am of course referring to the classic score by the greatly missed Basil Poledouris, and not the later soundtrack by Tyler Bates, (why did I even mention that?) The score by Poledouris purveys a plethora of emotions, the music is epic, grandiose, action led, romantic, mysterious, well its just brilliant. I remember when I first got the LP on Milan records, the cover art blew me away and the score, well awesome is not description enough of this now iconic soundtrack. The thundering percussion, Carl Orff styled choral passages, dramatic and rasping brass flourishes and the driving but at the same time romantic strings all came together to create a score which is still now in my top ten soundtracks of all time. It’s a work that contains so many themes, so many haunting compositions and so many pieces of music that it is hard to take in that these all are from the one score.
Tracks such as THEOLOGY/CIVILISATION and ORPHANS OF DOOM/THE AWAKENING are filled with a romantic air, but also have to them a slightly menacing aura, the composer turning to the string section and woods with brass to convey the emotions of hope, the unknown and the final triumph of good over evil. Then there is the cue WIFEING or THE LOVE THEME, it is tender, touching, and over ally affecting, when listening to the track as just music it is one of those shudder moments in film music again, goosebumps galore and hairs standing on end. It is raw emotion and filled with a gloriously melodic theme, that undulates and builds till it arrives at its gloriously rich and romantic crescendo. CONAN THE BARBARIAN is probably one of the finest film scores ever written. On the subject of Basil Poledouris, it would be re-miss not to mention his rousing score for FLESH AND BLOOD, also his work on CHERRY 2000 is more than worthy of mention, an lets not forget, QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER, FAREWELL TO THE KING, RED DAWN, STARSHIP TROOPERS and LONESOME DOVE. I hope you will excuse me whilst I go off for a Poledouris session.
Ahh that’s better!!!!
But, now onto a handful of newer releases, as per normal here are a few short reviews or even just a recommendation on certain scores that have caught my attention, or been recommended to me, as always I must stress this is only my own opinion.
Composer David Reichelt has written an interesting score for the movie, BREAKING EVEN, its a work that contains many musical textures and employs a varied line up of instrumentation throughout and although it is nt a score that I would call romantically laced or highly melodic, it is a thematic one. The composer providing compositions that to be honest cannot be ignored, as once you begin to listen to the score it is hard not to want to carry on and discover what is coming next, it’s a work that certainly invites the listener in and has to it an attractive and alluring musical persona. The orchestration is inventive, with subtle but affecting nuances being scattered throughout its approx. forty-minute duration. Largely made up of synthetic instrumentation and I would guess just a handful of conventional instruments, it is a pleasing work, that includes half a dozen vocal performances which have to them a mysterious aura. It is a score I would recommend that you do take a listen to, as I am confident it is something that you will take a shine to after a couple of outings. Maybe also check out some of the composer’s other film scores, KONIG LAURIN or 8 DAYS both available on digital platforms. CRIMINAL AUDITION is a score that has a few interesting moments, including what I took to be homage of sorts to the Italian western score, with whistling and also a quirky guitar/banjo type sound, however for me when a soundtrack includes dialogue snippets, it becomes a little annoying rather than entertaining, I would much prefer to just have the music from the movie and not dialogue at the beginning or in the middle of tracks, it’s just off putting, and for that reason I found it difficult to focus upon the actual score, you can hear the dialogue in the movie when you watch it, so why include on the score album? It is available on Spotify, so maybe take a listen, as there are some interesting sections, which although short lived are worth a listen, but the beauty of digital sites is that you can preview and try before you actually buy. This one is not for me.
LOVE AND MONSTERS, is probably the best of the bunch for this edition of soundtrack supplement, it’s a robust and vibrant work with urgent brass and relentless strings that drive and catapult the music headlong at pace. The music is courtesy of Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp, and I have to say is an exhilarating and entertaining musical tour de force, of sounds and styles, which perfectly suit the various escapades of the hero of the movie. Set in a world that is infested with monsters, Joel (Dylan O’Brien) discovers that the love of his life is just eighty miles away, but to get to her he has to travel through a monster filled landscape, that is populated by all sorts of strange creatures, to do this Joel discovers his inner hero so that he be with his girl. It’s an entertaining romp, which one does not have to really think about, but go with it you might just enjoy the ride. The score is outstanding and for me is one of the best Beltrami soundtracks I have heard in a while, it’s like the composer has stepped back in time musically and delivers a action generated work that is in a word unstoppable. The majority of the score is symphonic, and it is filled to brimming with a rich and dark thematic sound, in places there are references to maybe a handful of old horror scores as in the style employed and even a sound that could be looked upon as being vaguely Jerry Goldsmith influenced in places, but we also hear some interludes that can only be the work of Beltrami, with harsh brass and booming percussion being utilised. This is one for your collection.
TIGTONE SEASON ONE AND TWO both scores are available on digital platforms and both have music composed by Leo Birenberg, the scores are really good indeed, I have to honest and say never heard of this series at all till now, but because the scores are so good I will now be looking to see what it’s all about and also whilst doing this will be on the look-out for more by this composer. So, is it an MMI recommendation, are we saying yes to the score? yes, we are. The music is grand and epic, and in certain places it evoked THE LORD OF THE RINGS by Howard Shore as it is resoundingly dramatic but also melodious and romantically laced at the same time. I love it, and listened through three times, as there are so many themes present. One to look out for.
TOORBOS is a film that explores the uprooting of a young forest woman and her community during the time of the last forest inhabitants of South Africa’s Knysna forest of the 1930’s. The music for the movie is by composer Andries Smit, and is a delightful score, I would say that the sound achieved is haunting, but not in a spooky way, it is made up of electronic or synthesised instrumentation, the composer layering the sounds and bringing them all together to fashion an effective soundscape, there are also a handful of cues such as HELPENDE HAND that evoke the style that Thomas Newman employed on many of his scores, by this I mean the sound is subtle and the style being lilting or slight, there is a theme there but it is as if the composer is stopping it developing, building slowly but never reaching its goal. It’s a style that is effective, but at times one would really like the themes to develop more, nevertheless I enjoyed the delicacy and the fragility of the work.
Daniel Pemberton’s score for THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO SEVEN is released, Now Pemberton I think is one of those composers that has to be applauded, because he never sticks to a uniform approach when scoring a movie, his scores are all different, and I have to say have over the past three years become essential purchases and must have albums for one’s collection. This is a varied work, but one that never seems to let up, building tension, creating atmospheres, fashioning pieces of music and weaving thematic material that at times off beat but at the same highly effective. This score is no exception, and again its one to check out. The vocals by Celeste too are brilliant. One day I hope Pemberton will end up scoring a Bond movie, as I know he would do a great job.
METAMORPHOIS, the score for the gameby composers Mikolai Stroinski and Garry Schvman is soon to be released, this is a work of great quality, it’s a mystical and also a grandiose sounding work, I felt whilst listening to it that I was listening to the soundtrack of a Russian historical epic, or maybe the score to a big screen version of one of those Tales From Europe that the BBC used to screen back in the 1970’s. This is a score that includes large and sweeping cues, with driving or romantic sounding strings taking the lead or establishing the foundations of the composition, there is definitely an air of the mystic within the music, which comes across throughout the work, the atmospheres created are apprehensive and eerie, with the use of a female vocalist too being slightly unsettling, but also rather alluring and beautiful.
I was impressed in the way the harp is utilised, although being an instrument that is normally associated with the melodious and delicate, when employed here the atmosphere conveyed is one of an unnerving nature, almost chilling but at the same time fragile, it was reminiscent of the style of Bernard Herrmann and also evoked memories of the way in which John Williams used the instrument in the scene leading up to the savage shark attack in JAWS. Piano too is employed, but in a less than melodic fashion, instead the instrument conjures up a spidery and sinewy mood, that is given weight by harp and underlying strings. The score I am sure is made up of mostly of symphonic elements, but has also synthetic support, or maybe it’s the other way around as technology nowadays can be deceiving. The composers spoke of the game and the score:
“This very unique game, inspired by Franz Kafka’s famous novel, takes place in a bizarre and nightmarish world inhabited by insects and a corrupt bureaucracy. The game gave us an astonishing opportunity to write music inspired by the expressionist era of art and music in the early 20th century. Composers Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, as well later composers such as Bernard Herrmann were inspirations. We incorporated techniques of the era such as Sprechgesang (half spoken half sung), 12 tone, aleatoric, tonal and atonal harmonies to invoke a past age that worked perfectly for the world of Metamorphosis.” – Mikolai Stroinski and Garry Schyman.
(Interview coming soon with the composers to MMI).
This is a score well worth having, so many colours and textures, and an at times complex but rewarding listen.
Synopsis of the game: Set out on an extraordinary journey to unravel the mystery of why you transformed into a tiny bug. In the surrealist world of Metamorphosis, your newfound abilities are your last and only hope for redemption.
From a game score to a soundtrack that you may well have missed, released in 1973, TITO or THE BATTLE OF SUTJESKA contains an emotional and dramatic soundtrack penned by Greek Maestro Mikis Theodorakis.
This score I think is quite different from anything else the composer has written for film, we all know his scores for ZORBA THE GREEK, PHAEDRA and Z, but TITO is more of a slow burner of a soundtrack as in the composer creates drama and fashions a tense and emotional atmosphere, symphonically, without the aid of the instrument we associate with him rightly or wrongly, the Bouzouki, TITO contains what I would call more of a conventional score, but it does resemble some of the composers later concert music, with strings and brass working together to create haunting but subdued thematic material. The composer also utilises choir to great effect if but fleetingly, the subtle but affecting work is one that you should at least listen to once, it is proud and patriotic sounding and also filled with poignant and emotive nuances and interludes.
On the recording of the score the music is split up into eleven suites, some being just two minutes in duration others lasting up to six minutes plus. But saying this the score is still noticeably short, the film being scored sparingly and running for just under forty minutes. I have always thought that this is such an underatted work by Theodorakis, and at times there are certain passages and compositions that for me posses a style that is not unlike that of Ennio Morricone, available now on digital platforms, as is his up-beat work for THE DAY THE FISH CAME OUT which is also a soundtrack certainly worth a listen.