TALKING TO COMPOSER GERALD FRIED

You had already worked with director Stanley Kubrick on Killers Kiss and Fear and Desire, but may I begin by asking about Paths of Glory, the score was mainly a percussive one, which at the time of the film’s release was certainly revolutionary and highly effective. I know Stanley Kubrick was a percussionist so did he have specific instructions about how the score should sound and where the music should be placed?

Stanley, after a few conversations, for the most part, left me alone. But I’m sure that me knowing he was a percussionist  figured in.

You began your career as a musician playing Oboe, was it difficult to change direction and take on the role of being a composer?

It was exciting and challenging.  Me being a jazz saxophonist (jazz joints around N.Y.) and concert oboist (Dallas Symphony, Pittsburgh, New York Little Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic,) put me way ahead of most composers who were mostly pianists as far as orchestration was concerned.

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

To get the audience to feel what the actors, and writers, were feeling.

You have worked on a number of TV series such as The Man from Uncle, Roots, and Star Trek, do you approach a TV series differently from scoring a motion picture, and are episodes scored in the order that they are broadcast?   

No, it’s the same approach, and yes episodes are scored in the order that that are to be released.

When scoring a series for TV do you at times re introduce elements from previous episodes, as in re-cycle themes or phrases to keep continuity?

Yes, when appropriate, mainly to identify recurring characters, but it doesn’t happen often.

A few of your scores have been issued onto compact disc by various record labels, and recently Dragons Domain have released a compilation of your music that includes Cruise into Terror and Survive, do you ever have an input into what music will appear on any releases? 

No, well, at least they haven’t yet asked me.

The Killing of Sister George is a score that I like a lot, how did you become involved on the movie and what size orchestra did you have for the score?

I got a hiring call from Robert Aldrich.  The size of the orchestra was probably in the mid-twenties.

Roots was originally given to Quincy Jones, but you ended up scoring everything on the series and creating your own central theme. How much time did you have to work on the series? 


Because of the Quincy situation, the first few scores were under time pressure: maybe a week for a full score. But, the rest  of the series was  done in standard time.

Whatever happened to Aunt Alice is a very atmospheric score, do you think that horror movies need more music than other genres of film?

I never actually thought about it, but, I bet they did.

Staying with Horror, your score for The Vampire or The Mark of the Vampire as it was also known, enhances and punctuates wonderfully the action on screen, the music at times sounds almost like a classical piece or something that might have been utilized in the early Universal horrors in the 1930’s. was this something that you set out to do, or was it a style that developed as you were working on the movie?

I do remember using  an old liturgical chant: DIES IRIE,  Day of Wrath.

 
Another two horror movies where you adopt a similar style although at times they are more dramatic sounding are I Bury the Living and Return of Dracula, when working out your scores or your musical ideas do you use keyboard or do you work these out on Oboe or maybe even write them straight to manuscript?

I like to work things out on the piano before I commit them to the Final Draft.

 Is orchestration an important part of the composing process for you?

Hell, yes. Like I said, Playing in jazz groups and Symphony orchestras was the best preparation for movie composing I could get.

Too Late the Hero, is a great movie directed by Robert Aldrich, you collaborated with him on this, and other projects did the director have a hands-on approach when it came to the music?

I worked on a few with him yes, As for hands on no,  Bob Aldrich was not at all.

I am guessing that working on so many movies and TV projects you have at some point encountered the Temp Track, do you find this a helpful tool or is it at times a distraction?

If you mean the music they put in temporarily, we just quickly edited temp tracks out of our minds.

 Gilligan’s Island was a popular TV series in the States, and there were also a couple of movies that you scored as well, did the scoring process vary between the TV shows and the movies, or was it just about budget mainly? 

TV projects were usually low budget, but the process was the same: get into the feelings of each scene. 

You worked on two movies about Native American Indians, The Mystic Warrior and I Will Fight no more Forever, the latter was based on a true story, when writing the scores did you do research into native American instruments or sounds?

Very much so, I did a lot of research, and talked to a lot of Native American players and composers. 

Sadly, there are a few non-commercial recordings of your scores out there, and some years ago many of your scores were issued on promo CDS, do you retain the rights to your music for film and TV or does it remain the property of the studios?

 Frankly, I don’t recall who or what studio retained what rights.

What are your thoughts on the way that film music has developed over the past few years, I am of the opinion that there are far too few thematic scores and the style heavily relies upon soundscapes with very few melodies materializing, plus the main title as we knew it seems to have all but disappeared?

Yes, styles have changed.  But I’m not sure if that’s good news or bad news.

 You are still writing for movies, what have you scored recently and are you able to tell us what is next for you?

I did a comic parody of Star Trek, last year, but actually these days I’ve been writing screenplays, and enjoying  doing this.

2 thoughts on “TALKING TO COMPOSER GERALD FRIED”

  1. I enjoy the new look of your website with bold graphics and links to the music. Do you know if THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE has had a LP album release or out on CD?

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