On listening to the latest offering from French composer Philippe Jakko, I was immediately struck by his ability to create styles and sounds that are in effect a homage to the creative genius of Delerue, a tribute to the upbeat melodious phrases that were penned by Lai, with the composer also conveying a sense sophistication via jazz influences which could be the work of the Maestro Michel Legrand. I am not saying that Philippe Jakko has in any way plagiarized the music of these composers but when listening to this score I just cannot help but think of them and their collective genius when it came to weaving haunting and ingratiating themes for the cinema. Philippe Jakko has created a classy and wonderfully thematic work for the new French TV series Nona et SesFilles (Nona and her Daughter’s ) it is filled with cool and ultra-elegant compositions with the composer treating us to so many styles and sounds that it’s hard to believe that the music we are listening to comes from one TV series, it is overflowing with a tasteful, effervescent and attractive style.
With the composer fashioning so many beautifully written and refined pieces that encompass the styles of Baroque, Jazz, neo classical, dramatic, and romantic with a definite nod in the direction of J.S. Bach. There is within the score a fragility and a delicacy that shines through at key moments, with intricate but at the same time luxurious sounding phrases and interludes making an appearance as if from nowhere, the composer introducing these and weaving them into the fabric of the score alongside up-tempo pop influenced tracks. Which make the work even more alluring and attractive to listen to. I love the way in which the composer combines layered strings with an emotive piano that itself is acting as background and support to a refined and tantalizingly stylish flute performance. The soundtrack also has a up-beat and albeit short but effective opening theme, which is performed by a choir or singing group and again I think successfully sets the scene and evokes the 1970’s as it has that kind of style, a style that we all heard and loved back in the day from the already mentioned composers plus Serge Gainsbourg, Michel Magne and Francois De Roubaix. It has to it a compelling and warm aura and is also lively and spirited. The fusion of jazz, classical and more traditional film music is stunning, the composer flawlessly combines all these styles and elements and brings to fruition something that is not just special but something that is outstandingly superb.
It is not very often that a score such as this comes along, and I am so grateful for the composer allowing me to hear it before the score gets a release. I found myself drifting off into a nice calm and chilled out place at times, listening to the touching piano performances, and the romantic sounding themes that populate the score. When it is released, please be sure to listen, experience, and immerse yourself in the composers eloquent, elegant, and wonderfully affecting and eclectic sounding score, it will be one I am confident that will stay in the player or on the PC for a long time, and on each listen you will discover something new, something fresh and something that is moving and mesmerizing. The series is directed by filmmaker Valérie Donzelli and tells the story ofthe unexpected pregnancy of a 70-year-old woman who is already the mother of 40-year-old triplets. In this, her first series, actress, director, and writer Valérie Donzelli has brought together a star-studded Franco-German cast that includes Miou-Miou, Virginie Ledoyen, Valérie Donzelli, Clotilde Hesme, Barnaby Metschurat, Rüdiger Vogler, Antoine Reinartz, Christopher Thompson, Léonie Simaga and Michel Vuillermoz, for this contemporary comedy drama that is overflowing with humour, awash with poetry and oozing with sensitivity that deals with social and universal themes. I urge you to not only listen to the marvellous score but also check out the series. Highly recommended…..
Acknowledgements and many thanks to Maestro Philippe Jakko.
It won’t be long now before The Kingsman series of films becomes a trilogy, the soon to be released TheKings Man will we are told be in cinemas on December 22nd this year, the film, which is much anticipated by fans of the franchise, is also something that film music collectors are waiting for because the score by Dominic Lewis and Matthew Margeson has generated certain mutterings saying that it is something special. The movie was slotted for release in February then in September 2020, but the pandemic happened.
Well, I can tell you the whisperers and the rumours about the musical score are all true, it is brilliant. The work is a powerhouse of robust and vibrant themes, the composing duo never letting up and creating so many powerful and commanding moments. The opening track The Kings Man is an imposing and affecting piece for proud sounding horns that are laced with strings, creating an uplifting and I would say confident and at the same tie beautiful opening flourish for the score. It has a sound that is more than uplifting and so much more than melodic, it is totally consuming and inspiring. The cue moves into a more apprehensive and dramatic vein as it develops, the composers adding driving strings that are shadowed by brass and percussion, which give them an even greater atmospheric clout.
At times I was reminded of the work of both John Barry and John Williams and I thought there were also affiliations to the sound as in the melody to Morricone’s Ecstasy of Gold, just hints at least that evoke that wonderfully affecting four note motif from the Italian Maestro’s now iconic theme.(well I can hear it). But I digress slightly, the music for TheKingsman is probably one of the most richly thematic scores from 2021 I say thematic as in anthem like and action packed, but even when the music becomes action motivated the themes still shine through and develop and alter throughout. What the composers have done here is create a solid score that twists and turns along with the plot and retains a melodic and attractive musical persona, that most certainly entertains without having to see the movie, which is great because it’s not yet out. But as soon as it is the score has made me want to see the film even more.
But just listening to the score, one just knows that the film is going to be a powerhouse of a production, which hurtles along at break-neck speed, never relenting or holding back, and if it does in the quieter moments then these are even more effective because of the luxurious and deeply emotional sound achieved and purveyed. It is for the majority a symphonic score, and utilises to the max strings, percussion and brass, the composers also adding little quirky nuances performed on cymbalom here and there, creating a haunting and mysterious air. I just wanted to alert you all to this wonderful score, it’s a triumph, and sorry to say you will have to wait until at least December before you are able to listen to it. But it is certainly worth waiting for.
Christmas comes but once a year and when it does it normally starts in September, and we get those pre-Christmas ads, followed by post Halloween ads then post Guy Fawkes ads in the UK, well what normally happens is that as soon as the Bonfires of November 5th are just glowing embers and the smell of gunpowder is still thick in the night air we return home to hot chocolate and on the TV there it is the first of many ads, instructing you to have a VERY merry Christmas, (of course other Christmas’s are available) such as M&S with its sparkle, glam, and law suits against other supermarkets involving a caterpillar made out of cake? (see there is still Christmas cheer around). Aldi’s carrot named Kevin in a night shirt showing a banana called Abananazer what the true meaning of Christmas is (is this working for you)? and of course Holidays are Coming, Holidays are Coming, encouraging us to drink more sugary drinks filled with e numbers and coloring so that we are even more hyper on the big day. And at midnight just as we are trying to get to sleep and that annoying song being used by some retailer in an ad is going round and round in your head you get the last firework of November 5th BOOM out in the still night air waking everyone up, which normally starts a succession of sky rockets loud bangs etc with each person setting them off hoping they will be the last one to do so, why? Because they can that’s why and of course because they are annoying. Also, we have had by November so many Christmas films shoved down our throats on the various Christmas 24 channels, all of which are not even good movies but TV movies that didn’t make the grade to be shown at Christmas starring people who look familiar but are really not. I would add Humbug at this point, but that’s something that has been copyrighted by a Mr. Dickens apparently, so I suppose I could add, Twaddle or balderdash at this point, or even a word that I made up Twaddledash (I quite like the sound of that) but its Christmas, so I wont…..just yet. Anyway, talking of Christmas films, I don’t think there has been a great Christmas film as in about Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus for a while, there was Santa Claus the movie, but was that a good movie? I’ll let you ponder that (I mean Dudley Moore? Really!!!!).
A Boy Called Christmas, is a Sky original movie, that we have been seeing ads for since November first, This year more than any other I think we all need something that is joyous, fun and overflowing with that Christmas spirit and the feelings and emotion that maybe some of us felt as Children. And this film I have to say has those elements, (Twaddledash), it is filled to overflowing with the warm and that mystical aura that we associate with the festive period, and it’s a movie that does this well. Of course, on MMI we focus on the musical score normally, but its Christmas lets live dangerously and maybe discuss the movie too, shall we? Often as a soundtrack collector I will often hear the score before seeing the movie, which is fine because it is the music I am primarily interested in, but its always good to see a movie and listen to how the music works within it, see how it underlines, see how it punctuates and a how it adds depth, atmosphere, and drama to the proceedings. Also, it’s watching the audience in a cinema too, seeing how they react to scenes or sequences that are scored and if the music does its job. Unless of course you get someone catch you watching them and they decide that they don’t want you to watch them, which is embarrassing at times.
Anyway, A Boy Called Christmas is a brilliant family movie with so many feelgood elements, I don’t think I can be negative about it in any way, kids of all ages will adore it, and it will I am sure be returned to every year and watched repeatedly. I have a suggestion when there is nothing on the TV (so like every night) and you are not doing something more interesting than watching nothing on the TV like counting the leaves falling from the ash tree in your garden, why not sit down comfortably lights out, snuggled on the sofa with a warm drink and a snack and just watch the film. You will soon see what I mean. Just watch, don’t analyze don’t judge just watch, take it in and enjoy. It is nearly Christmas after all, in fact, at the time of writing this I thought this time next month Christmas will be over for another year and we then all get depressed because the Christmas ads and films are not on and the Christmas songs have gone from the radio waves and the TV screens, yes, the same songs, films and ads we have been moaning about since September.
I thought the movie was well made had a brilliant story and an impressive cast too, including Dame Maggie Smith, Sally Hawkins, Toby Jones and the unstoppable Jim Broadbent, effects are superb and then there is the music yes that is also wonderful with composer Dario Marianelli creating a score that is emotive, elegant, sparkly, and dramatic. So do I spoil it for you or just leave it there, well it is Christmas, so are you sitting comfortably, (spoiler alert guys). As I was watching the film I got the idea that this could possibly be categorized as one of those Origin movies that Hollywood studios are doing at the moment you know the type of thing when Iron Man was just a nut and bolt and when Batman was hanging upside down in a damp, dark cave in Transylvania (joking) 😊.
It is a story that sets out to explain how Santa Claus came to be and it does this quite well without being to over the top and cliched, or maybe that’s the way I saw it as most Christmas films are cliched and have to them sweet syrupy sentiments, but that’s Christmas love it, loathe it, or indifferent about it, Christmas is here to stay guys and with it we will get all the trimmings and baggage that goes with it. Anyhow, the movie, The Origins thing is a little worrying because the film or the way that the film is projected does hit me as an origin tale, and we all know what happens with those, you get about three maybe four movies in the series and it then fizzles out, hopefully or maybe hopefully depending on your attitude towards the festive season this will not happen or will happen, (confused I am).
And if it does fizzle out there is always the merchandising that goes with the movies, and that’s good because Santa will be able to get a job delivering it. The film tells us that: simply believing in something is all you need for it to become real? (Ok, let’s try that now—–nope not working). So, it’s all very well saying if you believe it will become real, but maybe we should really ask where did Santa come from, was there a person on who he is based upon because let’s face it Mr. Claus didn’t just magically appear out of thin air did, he? The story of A Boy Called Christmas is relayed to three wide eyed children as a bedtime tale by Aunt Ruth who is marvellously portrayed by Dame Maggie Smith on Christmas Eve. The children’s mother has died and their father is struggling to maintain the necessary levels of magic and wonder that his departed Wife had created at this time of year, the children from time to time interrupt the story, but are soon put in their place by the sharp tongued Aunt. The story is basically about a boy named Nikolas who lives in the woods with his sombre looking father.
The head of the family has been killed by a bear, now apparently their only hope to attain a better standard of life is to prove to the King that Elves do exist. Nikolas is left under the care of his wicked aunt Carlotta, whilst his father struggles to feed and keep the family afloat. The boy is kept company by a turnip carved into a doll and pet mouse called Miika, who Nikolas is determined to train to speak and does later in the movie voiced by Stephen Merchant. The life he lives is totally dismal and miserable, until that is he discovers something that will change things forever, what is this something, does it change his life, the film is on Sky movies why not head over there to find out.
So to the musical score by Award Winning composer Dario Marianelli, this is a score that ticks all the right boxes and more to be honest, its dramatic, romantic, nostalgic, wistful, magical, sinister, chilling and filled with a Christmas sound and melancholy that honestly does one good. It is lavishly symphonic, and also contains an intimate and affecting musical persona.
The composer utilises choir and sweeping string passages to fashion a style and sound that is both mesmerising and beautiful. The haunting and affecting music adding depth and atmosphere to the storyline as it unfolds and develops.
There is also a kind of epic and grandiose feel to the work, which is punctuated and laced with delicate sounding tone poems, music box sounds, and quirky stylised interludes. Images and music go hand in hand and compliment and support each other, and as a listening experience away from the movie Marianelli’s eloquent and charming score is truly tantalising and enthralling. Go watch the movie and experience the music and images working together, then sit and listen to the score on its own, highly recommended. Oh and Merry Christmas.
Official release date, Friday, November 26th 2021.
Winnetou und sein Freund Old Firehand.
Or Thunder at the Border as it was entitled in the USA and the UK, is a German/Yugoslavian co-produced western, that was released in 1966, when the Euro western was just beginning to become popular in countries such as the UK, Japan, and the USA. It was to be the last of the Winnetou/ Karl May stories to be committed to celluloid.
The brutal Siler gang are responsible for killing four young Apache braves. Old Firehand and his friend Winnetou are determined to bring the murderers to justice. So, they join forces to track down the gang of cutthroats responsible. Directed by Alfred Vohrer, the movie is probably the least popular of the movies in the Winnetou series and came in for much criticism at the time of its release, some referring to it as the lowest point of the entire series. However, in recent years the film has become more acceptable to audiences and even applauded by connoisseurs of the Euro western genre.
The musical score was also at the time of the movie being in theatres given less than positive reviews with composer Peter Thomas replacing the seasoned Winnetou composer Martin Bottcher on this occasion, it being the only Karl May penned western that Thomas would work on, which is not surprising as the composer was in great demand working on numerous TV shows and motion pictures and he also scored other westerns including The Last of the Mohicans.
Winnetou und sein Freund Old Firehand, certainly leaned more towards the violent persona of the Italian western rather than the already established format of the German western, which was looked upon as being tame compared to the Spaghetti western genre. And this is probably the reason there was so much negativity towards the film initially. The opening 10 minutes having a quite high body count for a German western as we see the gang attack a party of Apache led by Winnetou and then are themselves fired upon by Apache’s and Old Firehand and his companions who ambush them killing many and also having one of their own shot dead. Many thought that the German produced westerns which were the forerunners of the Sergio Leone directed films A Fistful of Dollars and ForA Few Dollars More, were too cliched and basically clones of the Hollywood produced western. But, what ever one’s opinion of the German western, it is certain that the genre played a major role in the development of the Italian western and in turn would influence American westerns that were produced after the Spaghetti westerns appeal began to lose momentum, they also influenced filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino in later years. The German western may not have been as raw or even as quirky or inventive as later Italian examples, but it was entertaining and, in most cases, memorable.
It did seem to stick to the time-honoured tradition of heroes and villains, good and bad, with good mostly winning out, and that is why comparisons were drawn up between the American B westerns of the 1950’s and the German produced westerns of the 1960’s. What always struck me about German westerns was the clean-cut heroes even if these were native American characters. Which was completely removed from those American B features and a long way off from movies such as Soldier Blue and Little Big Man. The same can be said for the musical scores, the Martin Bottcher soundtracks having to them a rich and lush sounding melodic persona, the composer creating vibrant and quite lavish sounding compositions that were appealing and haunting, these scores also had sections and passages that contained a degree of dramatic music too, but often the scores were out of step with the action and if I can say this in untechnical terms and without actually criticizing, were often too melodic, the music at times seeming out of place or as if it had been tracked onto the soundtrack without taking into consideration what action was unfolding on screen, it has at times been compared to easy listening music by some and referred to as James Last meets the wild west by others.
The score for Thunder at the Border by Peter Thomas, contains a haunting central theme which was not unlike Bottcher’s themes for Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. Thomas cleverly arranged and adapted his core theme throughout the movie to suit various situations and scenarios, which worked well but comparing these with the direction and sound of the Italian western still seemed slightly out of touch or distant from the storyline on screen. The soundtrack for Thunder at the Border was released on compact disc back in the early 1990’s on the Tarantula label, but was soon deleted, it was then re-issued as part of the Bear Family records western box set, which is now a rare item itself. So, this latest re-issue on LP and CD by All Score in Germany is warmly welcomed, and the label has done such a grand job of presenting it. It not only contains more music but also improved sound quality and boasts some eye arresting artwork and comes in a de-luxe gatefold package for the vinyl releases, I say releases because there is a Turquoise LP and a Black LP being pressed. The vinyl editions containing forty-two tracks and the compact disc release having forty-six tracks. All the tracks have been remastered to a high quality, with the CD version boasting three previously unreleased music tracks that were discovered in the vaults of the Peter Thomas estate as well as a bonus track with the composer himself on piano where he is presenting his first themes and ideas to the film‘s producer (recorded 1966 at Bavaria Tonstudios in Munich).
This is for me and probably for fans of the genre a landmark release and one that will I know give hours of pleasure to fans of composer Peter Thomas and will also act as a reminder of the inventive and innovative talent that the composer possessed. It will also in my opinion attract new fans to the music of Thomas and the Euro western as produced in Germany during the 1960’s.
The style he employed on Winnetou is an entertaining fusion of the symphonic and expansive to which he added pop and upbeat influences and colours, this approach works so well as a score and as a listening experience away from the images. It has to it a blend of sounds that resemble Aaron Copeland’s sprawling and expansive style, Ennio Morricone’s inventiveness and a melodic appealing sound that can be likened to the style employed by Riz Ortolani within many of his film scores. The latter himself scoring a German/Yugoslavian produced western in 1964 entitled The Apache’s Last Battle. It’s a not to be missed release, and hopefully All Score will be releasing more of the scores that Thomas penned in the future. And also more westerns by other composers, Gert Wilden for example.
Composer, session musician, conductor, Philippe Jakko is a French award-winning composer. He has created music for ballet, theatre, film and has had two number 1 singles in the French and European pop charts.
I first encountered your music while ago when I heard the score for Que D’Amour. I straight away fell in love with the music, I thought this was a superb score, classically slanted and I also thought it evoked a sound that I had encountered when listening to Georges Delerue.
I didn’t know you knew that score! It was my very first one in 2013, and yes your right the reference to George Delerue was a choice and an idea which I submitted to the director, Valerie Donzelli, and she liked it. I knew she loved some tracks of Delerue as she used “radioscopie” in her Cesar awarded ‘The war is declared’ for example, and as it was my very first score, I wanted to show her my taste could fit her taste!
So why did you think of George Delerue for the movie?
Because the film was a TV adaptation of the 18th century play of A French Author, Marivaux , transposed in the streets of Paris nowadays. I wanted to link the film through the music to the 18th century, the dialogue was the original as in from that period, so with 18th century inspired music, it would give coherence to the whole thing if that makes any sense? But let’s come back to Delerue. I did my musicology master’s degree on Delerue’s music and the narration in film music, he by this time had already died unfortunately, but I was fortunate enough to meet with Colette his wife on several occasions and to do my research. I analyzed ‘The last Metro’ sequence by sequence, minute by minute studying the images and music. Colette showed me his handwritten scores. I was hugely privileged to be able to read some master pieces, including scores like Camille, Le Mepris, Stellaire 1, and the Grand choral of Truffaut’s Day for Night etc, and in his own piano room, in his home where he worked in Soissy Sous Montmorency near Paris. I will never forget it. So, I have a special connection with Delerue! And it happens that he was inspired often by 18th century music, like many composers in the 1970s, it was a trend , the world re-discovered baroque music , William Christie , The Albinoni Adagio etc were “new” for the people in those years , baroque music became sort of trendy in the 70s. Delerue’s Grand choral of ‘Day for night’ is literally baroque music, Camille theme is not far from Bach either, and he won an Oscar for A Little Romance’ directed by George Roy Hill in 1979 in which he references the music of Vivaldi and employs baroque music.
I composed my score in a sort of “Neo Baroque” way and I paid my respects to George Delerue in adapting and copying his style and sound on purpose, my main theme being a homage to the style in which Delerue created the main theme from a Little Romance. You can listen to my soundtrack and compare my composition “Final Alla Delerue” to the main theme from A little Romance. Well, everyone loved it, first the director and then the film music community, I was surprised! I even won the Jerry Goldsmith Award in 2014 for best international TV score. Thank you so much everyone!
It is indeed a wonderful tribute and a most gracious and entertaining score. What size orchestra did you have for the movie?
That was a small music budget, I spent most of the money on recording the score, 16 players, strings, flute, and oboe (actually, that was to create a better baroque sound) I did almost everything myself, orchestrations, conducting, I even mixed it to save money. The only music soloist I got because the director wanted an expert on Mozart and Schubert was my mother! She is a very good piano player and very cheap (free for me obviously) we saved money on the whole budget, there was no need to buy the tracks. Being a composer on small budget projects, you must find solutions to deliver quality music, no matter what it takes!
In 2020 you scored Enemy Lines, another wonderful score, it is a score that I felt evoked some of the vintage war movie soundtracks of the 1960’s, and although there was a lot of action cues the themes that you created for the score shone through.
Thank you very much, I have the feeling that score hasn’t been really noticed! It was in the middle of the pandemic, which didn’t help. The premiere and theatre releases in the UK were cancelled as well as other things. I think it is a good score though. Anyway, About the style, yes I wanted something quite classic but I also wanted to avoid war films cliches: “trumpet and snare themes” etc. I wanted to avoid also having too much percussion as in the “let’s go to war” stereotypes – my question was “how to do a war film score set in the 1940s, without using these elements? So I re-watched war films for my pleasure and to get in the mood, from 1962 The Longest day up to Saving private Ryan, and it was whilst watching Platoon I formulated an idea: I’ll write a main theme based on strings, almost like an adagio. (Oliver Stone uses Barber’s adagio in his movie as the main theme) – it will be perfect for Enemy lines, matching the drama, the struggle of the young guys doing a lethal commando job, they won’t be seen as heroes with snare and trumpets bravado but reluctant heroes, it won’t end good. I thought it was a pretty good angle, I was lucky that the director and producer also liked it.
Do you think it is important to have themes within scores for movies and TV so that the audience can identify certain characters with a specific theme or musical phrase?
Themes are important yes, especially if you are looking for something classic, this current trend of atmospheric music is just music that is easy to do in my opinion, because of the use of computers and electronics now. As for the audience, unconsciously when you watch a film you can often get the point better when you can sort of recognize a few notes which help also to set the mood. It is not new, it is an operatic way of composing, but it still works. Film music must help you to understand the script, the mood, and the characters better and take them onto another level. Otherwise, there is no point in putting music in a film. If it is only non-melodic/atmospheric music without themes or leit motivs you get what Stravinsky called ” wallpaper music”, which is a style of music which can set the mood, but that s all, but is without a strong narrative path. For a composer, it is easy to put nonthematic tracks, one after another in a film. What is more interesting to do is to build throughout one hour and a half, a narrative process, playing with the themes, sounds and their meaning.
What musical education did you receive, and do you come from a family background that is musical?
I have to thank my mum who was a teacher but wanted to be a concert player, she was good enough for it but didn’t have a wealthy family to support her. The result was that she worked as a professor and played piano every evening when I was a child for hours! which was my first memory going to sleep and listening next door to Shubert, Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven etc being played. At the age of five, I began learning the piano and learning classic music. at age twelve, I became bored with Mozart, and I got a guitar to play pop and rock music, what a blast for the teenager I was!
I started to compose instrumental music on the piano and then songs on the guitar aged at around eleven or twelve I think. After that I went to different Conservatoire, French music Academies, in my hometown Besancon, and in the Conservatoire Superieur de Lyon. I studied music composition, counterpoint, harmony, analysis, and conducting. I also at the same time in university undertake studies in French literature for three years, and then musicology : I did a masters and masters two at the research center IRCAM in Paris, sort of starting a PhD on narration in film music ( Film music as a modern symphonic poem), that PhD I never finished because I began to work in the pop music industry and I did not want to be a teacher!
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Le-Magasin-2/dp/B00R19S5PU/ref=mp_s_a_1_6?crid=3QO6FAUAY3YMP&keywords=philippe+jakko&qid=1637809439&sprefix=philippe+jakko%2Caps%2C87&sr=8-6 I have been fortunate to get master classes and courses with amazing composers like Pierre Boulez, Pascal Dusapin, and Philippe Manoury, which I am so grateful for. Modern music is not all however as I liked to compose songs in my teenage years, so I did pop and rock music as well. Students at the IRCAM thought I was weird to do so but for me it was natural, I have always been quite eclectic. I remember one morning being in a analysis master class with Pierre Boulez at the IRCAM, and in the evening I was in a studio making pop music for the French channel TF1 : not really the same universe ! But I guess all those experiences helped me to do film music because you need to be able to work in very different genres and styles and have a very open mind. That’s what is exciting with film music on my opinion.
As you have said you work in other genres of music not just film scores, when you began your career was it always your intention to score movies, or did you just want to be involved in any kind of music?
After being a student and trying not to be a teacher, I had to work. A few songs I composed were signed by a publisher/label and one of them became a huge Hit. ‘Yakalelo’ 1998 TF1/Sony-music. Following this first success, I worked as a song composer, producer, and an arranger during the early years because it was better than being a teacher -lol. I’ve been fortunate enough to have several songs in the charts during those years, and another one of them became another big hit Parce qu’on sait jamais, Christophe Mae /Warner France 2007.
I Scored also music for Ballet, contemporary and modern dance companies, and also instrumental music for myself, and I did regular rock and pop gigs in small clubs and bars with my friends. That was great because I would have been frustrated to compose only songs for the industry. I wanted to score movies, but I had no contact whatsoever in the cinema industry and despite success as a song writer, nobody was that interested in giving me an opportunity to score a film even a short. So, eventually I did score a few short films and by chance I composed at some point for a famous Actor/theatre director Charles Berling, who happened to sing as well and he introduced me to people. And one day, it was a lucky day, there was no composer for a tv film, and I knew the first director assistant she was aware I wanted to score films for a long time, she had some instrumental demos I had composed in her i-phone, so she introduced me to the director and that was Valerie Donzelli and the film was Que d’Amour! a very lucky day!
A very lucky day for us all I would say. Do you think that orchestration and conducting are just as important as the actual writing of the music? I ask this because sometimes the list of orchestrators on a Hollywood score is lengthy and some composers use associate composers, additional music composers etc?
Composing finding musical ideas when you have imagination is not very difficult actually. Everybody can sing a melody and with computers nowadays, if you’re smart enough you can do something which is not too bad. And it can be quick to do it. What is trickier is to be able to do the full job from finding ideas, to mockups, to building the themes, and orchestration and conducting. You need to learn to do this and especially demos and orchestration, but this takes a long time to master.
That’s the reason why A list composers work with several orchestrators and assistants, they don’t have enough time (or they get lazy). They can also move on to another film to compose whilst four orchestrators are finishing and cleaning the job. Without them, they would not be able to score ten films a year, only very few now do not use orchestrators. Colette Delerue said to me that Georges did not want to work with orchestrators, he wanted to control his music, and he was scoring therefore an average of four films a year only. But there are two types of composers who work with orchestrators, the one who knows how to orchestrate, and they don’t have time, but would be able to do it, and the composers that don’t know. And I have to say I respect the former, especially because there is a new generation of film composers who know nothing about it, these are within the electronic scene often, or composers that happen to be well connected and they get jobs without being very skilled and cannot score a film alone and that’s a shame, I think.
Film music should be something you respect and put high standards on it. If you introduce yourself as a film composer you have to be able to do music properly, today everyone is a composer! You can have assistants, orchestrators like Rembrandt or Michel Angelo or artists of the renaissance, no problem but only if you’re skilled enough. Those painters knew their craft 100%. That is the problem nowadays with computers they help to create Charlatans! As for conducting, for me it is a pleasure to share music with the musicians after composing music alone for weeks. But it is not a necessity.
Have you a set routine when you start work on a score for a movie, ie do you like to see the movie more than a handful of times or is once enough to begin to formulate ideas about the placing and style of the score you will write, and do you start at the opening and work through to the end of the movie?
Actually I prefer to read the script, talk to the director, and let my imagination do the rest. Then when a few themes and demos are ok, I start to work with the images. No rule though, and especially not starting at the beginning and finishing at the end. sometimes you start in the middle because you have a good idea! Composing is building the music and finding a balance throughout the film , no matter where you start.
A few composers I have spoken to seem to think that the current trend for that non melodic film score you spoke of earlier will soon come to an end, what do you think ?
I’m not sure it is going to disappear fast because the number of young electronic composers working only with computers, they are more and more… unfortunately…and it is an economic thing as well, it is cheaper to score with computer and synths. As I said, the point to being a composer is to build and play with themes, motives, chords throughout one hour and a half. And on my opinion, When, it is only drones and pads and repetitive music, it shows that the composer is not on the highest level with music skills.
There are a few of your film scores available on digital platforms, when you are told a soundtrack by you will be released do you have an active role in the compilation of the music for that release, or do you have no control?
Most of the time it is the label who choose the order of the tracks, but I can give my opinion. I trust them, they are experienced. I guess they know better what is best for the soundtrack than me.
Do you perform on any of your scores, and how do you work out your musical ideas, on piano or by other means?
In general, I play the piano, keys and guitars, sometimes a few notes of oud, (I play a little) – I conduct the orchestra when I can. Ideas can come on the piano but very often for me I record my voice singing melodies on my I phone. I have ideas in the most unusual places to do music, tube, street, during the night, then I play around on the piano and build.
I have always maintained that film music is an art, and the composers who work in film must be so disciplined to be able to write music that fits scenes and scenarios, what composers have inspired you and what film music composers do you find interesting and innovative?
I like the way Georges Delerue never gave up working alone. That’s quite heroic knowing he was in California half the time and he had that special French touch coming from Maurice Jaubert, emotion, great tunes, delicate music. In another style, I have a great admiration for Henry Mancini, a very skilled man as well. Beautiful orchestral writing, and great tunes. More recently, I like the French way of Alexandre Desplat of course, in the UK Daniel Pemberton or Ben Wallfish are creative. For instance, Ben Wallfish mixed electronic and orchestra, and with him it is ok because it is not easy listening to electronic drones during an hour! and he is a very skilled musician as well.
You have scored feature films, shorts and TV Projects plus written and arranged music for popular songs that have entered the French music charts, there must be a great difference between these mediums, can you identify any for us?
The Pop music industry and film industry are different worlds. Composing Pop songs it is very “skimpy ” comparing to composing film music. There are more styles and genres to embrace. In TV there are different projects, sometimes you need to do it quickly on a budget, sometimes it is better and you have more time ( like the series “Nona et ses filles “- that will release in December). And the pop industry for me all I had to do was find a good hook and a nice arrangement. A few years I was so bored. I much prefer working with a director, talking about artistic things, looking for the best way to bring the film further, imagining a music setup, a sound for the film which matches the images, the story …it is so exciting every time!
The pandemic hit the film/music industry hard, was it still possible for you to work during this time using zoom etc for any film projects you were engaged on?
Yes definitely. I ve been lucky to be involved in a project just before the start of the pandemic . A French series ( Nona and her daughter by Valerie Donzelli -gaumont/Arte) and we had loads of time to do phone calls, demos, zoom, etc during lockdowns! I have never been out of work actually. I also had to choose musicians that can record from home because of lockdown and uncertainty. The series will be broadcast from 25th November to January in France and Germany and the soundtrack will be released in December. That’s a soundtrack 100% lockdown recorded remotely.
Do you have any preferences when it comes to where you record your film scores?
No, not at all but it is nice to sort of know the orchestra and the musicians, their abilities etc…
What is next for you?
Another series made last summer for Gaumont / France 2 will be aired in 2022, as well as a TV film for Arte “Cleves” Director Rodolphe Tissot. And I am currently starting demos for a feature film produced by Amazon France.
Many thanks to the Maestro for his time and patience. JM .
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