Originally slated for production in 1964, Alfred the Great was delayed by many obstacles, and after a change of directors, producers, and writers the movie finally came to fruition in 1969. It starred David Hemmings in the title role and also included the likes of Ian McKellen, Michael York, Colin Blakely, Julian Glover, Prunella Ransome and Vivien Merchant. Directed by Clive Donner, who’s claim to fame at that time was the successful oddball comedy What’s New Pussy Cat many thinking that he was an unlikely choice to helm an epic. 

MGM did not seem to have much faith in the film doing well at the box office, so remained a backseat driver on the production because they were not sure if it would appeal to the wider audiences. If it looked as if it was going to do moderately well, I think that the studio would have replaced composer Raymond Leppard and had a more high-profile Hollywood or British film music composer write the music.

Raymond Leppard.

Luckily for us film music fans Raymond Leppard stayed on board, and his score is now perceived as a classic piece of movie music history, being regal, and atmospheric, with some wonderful action cues.

The album was originally released on The MGM label and soon became a rarity because of the film’s poor showings at the box office. The LP record was deleted quickly and from time to time would show up for sale with a hefty price tag of more than five hundred pounds and even going for one thousand pounds on occasion. Leppard was not a film music composer and focused mainly upon music for concert hall performance. As well as being a composer he was also an accomplished harpsichord player and a talented and in demand conductor.

British conductor and harpsichordist Raymond Leppard (left) with English composer Richard Rodney Bennett, circa 1970. (Photo by Erich Auerbach/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Leppard did much to attract audiences to Italian baroque opera, he persuaded Glynebourne opera house which is located outside the historical town of Lewes close to Brighton in East Sussex, to present Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea, which was presented in his own spirited edition in 1962 and conducted by John Pritchard, it was a runaway success, after which the composer then travelled Italy and to the city of  Venice, where he was hoping to discover a Monteverdi opera that had been lost. Instead,

Leppard unearthed works by composer Francesco Cavalli, who was to Monteverdi, as he referred to it as, “What Schubert was to Beethoven”. Glyndebourne opera also staged Cavalli’s L’Ormindo, in 1967, and then ,La Clisto directed by Peter Hall was produced in 1970. Then in 1972, and at the BBC Proms, Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria was performed to much acclaim.

The four operas were regularly revived, Leppard conducting most of the performances. The collaboration with Peter Hall and the mezzo-soprano Janet Baker in La Calisto, Il Ritorno and, in 1982 Orfeo Ed Euridice brought unforgettable results.  His works for cinema were few and far between and Alfred the Great was his only truly original score, his other contributions to film such as Lord of the Flies, being adaptations of classical music and conducting assignments The score for Lord of the Flies was a sparse affair, the music scored running for less than five minutes.


The soundtrack to Alfred the Great was re-issued on a bootleg CD in Germany (Wessex 6954) and was sold as a promotional copy not for re-sale, it contained thirteen tracks from the score and included a brief cue from Leppard’s Lord of the Flies with a running time of just over two minutes at the end of the thirty-five-minute compact disc.

The sound quality was dull and distorted, but collectors added it to their collection because the soundtrack had become so rare. The newly re-mastered release on Kritzerland contains sixteen cues, fourteen from the soundtrack and two further bonus tracks which are film versions of certain tracks. The sound quality is excellent, and it is a superb release and one that any film music collector would be happy to add to their collection.

end titles Alfred the Great.

Born in London, on August 11th 1927, Raymond was the son of Albert Leppard, a scientist, and his wife, Bertha. In 1938 the family moved to the City of Bath, where Raymond studied piano, viola and singing with the  encouragement of Eugene Hanson who was the music master at the then City of Bath boys’ school.

In 1944 he both led the violas and played Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto in Sherborne, Dorset. The following year he won scholarships to Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Royal Academy of Music in London, but national service as an RAF radar operator intervened and he did not go to Trinity to study music until 1948. Leppard died in 2019 he was ninety-two years of age. His other works for cinema included, Laughter in the Dark (1969) and The Hotel New Hampshire (1984). 


Welcome to the latest edition of Soundtrack Supplement, I hope that you are all well. I start this supplement with a selection of releases from Dragons Domain, who always seem to release not only unusual but interesting items, the soundtracks I am about to review are from their February and March releases, and once again contain a cross section of genres and a wonderful variety of music styles.

Let’s start with one of the titles from March and to a western. The movie No Name and Dynamite opens as we meet the bounty hunting partnership of No Name (Chris Northup) and Dynamite Davenport (Richard Ting) who go their own way to collect the bounties but help each other out when it comes to the more challenging bounties. The movie is a fusion of western styles as in the more traditional that were produced by American studios and hints of the European western produced in Italy, Spain, and Germany during the 1960’s and through to the early 1980’s.

The music is by one of my favourite composers Chuck Cirino, who always manages to come up with scores for relatively low budget movies that contain excellent themes and brilliantly attractive sounding cues which he develops and bolsters to create haunting and memorable pieces of music, that work well in the context of the film and remain effective as standalone music.

This his latest score is no exception to that rule, it is literally overflowing with great themes which pay homage to Ennio Morricone and many other Italian composers who were scoring westerns in Italy back in the day, such as Bruno Nicolai, Nico Fidenco, Piero Piccioni, Francesco De Masi, and Gianni Ferrio. Cirino however, also laces the score with a Hollywood sound and style that includes sweeping strings and brass flourishes that evoke the likes of Jerry Goldsmith (Take a Hard Ride) and Jerry Fielding (The Wild Bunch) to name but two. But it is the Italian influences that shine through with bass guitar, electric guitar, dark sounding piano, echoing percussion, choral performances, and trumpet solos all contributing to the score.

The Main Title theme is reminiscent of Nicolai’s, Dead Men Ride, with dark sounding piano and trumpet, ushering in an electric guitar rift that hooks the listener straight away. There is even a jaunty saloon piano track or two included which in the Italian western score was compulsory or so it seemed. The score contains many of the stock trademarks that were utilized within Italian western scores and has to it a feint jazz influenced style at times akin to the likes of the Piero Piccioni scored Sartana movies, or the music created by composer Gianni Ferrio for the genre both composers standing out as original in their approach to scoring the Italian western. It’s a great score and lots of fun too, well worth checking out and available now via download and also on compact disc. Don’t miss out on this one.

Dragons Domain have also re-issued The Boy Who Could Fly by Bruce Broughton, no new material here but the release also contains other themes penned by the composer, which are given interesting rendition by various artists, these include selections from Silverado, The Blue and the Gray, Ice Pirates, For the Love of Money and Tombstone, and although they are not taken from the original soundtracks are entertaining and showcase the versatility of Bruce Broughton.

Another great release is The Joel Goldsmith Collection Volume 2, which is a formidable collection of themes from three projects scored by Goldsmith jnr. These are Stealth Fighter which is represented by its brief but striking and forthright main theme, and then we are treated to twelve tracks from the score to Rattled which is an all-action affair that only relents from this mode for a few lighter interludes, the score is awash with thematic material and inventive orchestration. And I am sure will become a favourite for many. After this the collection is dedicated to Goldsmith’s score for the pilot episode of the TV series Hawkeye, again very much in the action and adventure zone, filled with powerful themes that are at times overflowing with percussive elements that drive the action along with a commanding pace.

Again, a score that I am sure many will return to many times after the initial listen. The collection is brimming with bristling composition’s and is highly recommended.

The music for the TV series Pasadena has also been released and as with the majority of composer Mark Snow’s work for TV and film is a score worth adding to your collection. The series featured Dana Delany, Alison Lohman, Mark Valley, and Barbara Babcock. Catherine McAllister (Delany) is a mother at the centre of a twisted dynasty. Seen through the eyes of her daughter, Lily (Alison Lohman), the drama reveals the lengths to which a powerful family will go to protect its name. Snow’s music is hauntingly beautiful and wonderfully melodic, purveying, romance, mystery, and apprehension throughout. Again recommended. The release is available via down load only  PASADENA – Music From The Television Series | Buysoundtrax

Staying with Dragons Domain and going back to the February releases from the label. There was Atomic Train with music composed and conducted by Lee Holdridge, a no holds barred score for the TV miniseries see’s the composer flexing his musical muscles and creating a tense and dramatic work that is a fusion of the symphonic with the synthetic. This is a powerhouse of a soundtrack, thundering and booming its way through the composer utilising to great effect percussion, brass and driving strings which he further enhances with dark sounding stabs and urgent electronic support. Holdridge sustains a high level of tension and apprehension with his score and adds a greater sense of unease and energy to the storyline. Certainly, worth a listen.  ATOMIC TRAIN – Music From The Mini-Series by Lee Holdridge | Buysoundtrax

Next up is a two compact disc set, that contains the soundtrack on disc one and the score on disc two, music is by David Spear and is from the 1984 movie Exterminator 2, the music is I have to say typical of the 1980’s, up-tempo synth tracks that really don’t appeal to me personally but everyone has differing tastes so I am sure that this will be on many collectors wants lists.

The CD is well presented and there are some nice moments within the score, but its all a bit too much Harold Faltermeyer for me.

The Ernest Gold collection vol one is an interesting release and contains music selections from seven movies as scored by Gold. From Smooth as Silk from 1946, Exposed from 1947 to UFO from 1956, and through to Safari 3000 aka Two in the Bush from 1982, plus more. It showcases the talent and versatility of this movie music Maestro. The release has a running time of nearly 80 minutes and is a collection of and themes that will be a rewarding listen for all.

The TV shows of David Attenborough are always interesting and addictive. The Green Planet was a series I adored, giving us an insight into the world of plants. As far as I was concerned this was essential viewing and this alone warranted the BBC license fee. The added bonus whilst watching the series was the majestic, beautiful and affecting musical score which was written by Benji Merrison, and Will Slater, the atmospheric and gloriously thematic soundtrack oozes class and has to it a delicate and fragile persona, the composers utilizing celestial sounding choir alongside strings, woods, brass and percussion to fashion a score that is lush and dramatic. The score will soon be available via Silva Screen in the UK. Its one that you should not miss and if you have not seen the series well, please check it out and be astounded by the way the music brings life and depth to an already fascinating subject matter.

Silva Screen will also release Ian Arber’s music for The Chelsea Detective on March 25th, the Acorn TV production looks set to be a popular one, and composer Arber’s score drenches the production with a mysterious, yet upbeat and apprehensive air. The central character Arnold, whose lifestyle on a battered houseboat in Chelsea’s Cheyne Walk contrasts sharply with the affluent elite whose crimes he helps solve alongside partner D.C. Priya Shamsie, is an addictive watch, one to look out for and the score is another that we at MMI recommend you take a listen to when available.

Composer Phillippe Jakko is in my opinion one of the most talented Maestro’s that is working in film and TV nowadays. His ability to add atmosphere, darkness, light and colour to a movie is second to none. His latest project is scoring the French TV mini-series Ce Que Pauline Ne Vous Dit Pas (What Pauline is not Telling You). The central character Pauline’s ex-husband has just died. He fell from a homemade scaffolding in the garden. Pauline was there when it happened. She called the emergency services, but just a little too late, so everyone suspects her. Even her eight-year-old son is convinced that she is guilty. Facing the justice system, Pauline does not find the right words to defend herself. She has been weakened by years of contempt and daily humiliations.

The examining magistrate quickly identifies a motive and is convinced that Pauline is guilty. What Pauline is Not Telling You, is the story of a woman under the influence of a man, a victim of moral harassment, who, under social pressure and institutional violence seeks to regain her freedom and her desire for life. Jakko’s masterful and atmospheric score is once again an outstanding one, with the composer writing predominately for strings, woodwind, and piano creating tense and nervous compositions that also have to them a degree of melancholy and purvey a sense of hopelessness and a degree of desperation. Saying this the score also conveys a lighter side, with pizzicato strings fashioning a downbeat but somewhat mischievous air.

Available now on digital platforms. Recommended.  

Cowboys is from the 2021 movie of the same name the music is the work of composer Gene Back. It’s an incredibly haunting soundtrack, very intimate and totally mesmerizing. The composer utilising a whistler for most of the work which is supported by guitar sensitive percussion and a scattering of strings and synth passages. Cast your mind back to All the Pretty Horses if can, well Cowboys in written in a very similar fashion, add to this a sound that evokes Dee Barton’s theme for High Plains Drifter and there we have it.

Every track is entertaining and as the score progresses and develops the composer adds layers and a variation of sounds and styles to the score. Available on digital platforms, well worth a listen, I found I put it on and left it to play without wanting to skip any of the tracks. Recommended.

La Svolta also gets a release this month and the composer Michele Braga has fashioned a mainly dark and chilling score for this drama directed by Riccardo Antonaroli,  that tells the story of Ludovico (Brando Pacitto) and Jack (Andrea Lattanzi), two lonely souls who come across each other. The first, Ludovico, lives in an old apartment, which belonged to his grandmother, where he spends his days holed up within those walls and hidden from the outside world, which he fears too much. The second, Jack, is apparently a strong, determined guy with a rough character, maybe he could be called a “criminal” or maybe it’s just the way he wants to look. The two meet one night, which will give rise to a forced coexistence between them, to discover their respective characters.

Their living together becomes a sort of path of initiation that leads them to adulthood and to know each other, until they grow up to face the harsh realities that will present themselves to them later in life.

Although initially the music is quite dark and brooding, there are a handful of lighter moments in which the composer utilises guitar and light strings to purvey emotive and poignant senses. But the mood of the score is predominantly shadowy and apprehensive, again worth checking out, available on digital platforms. Whilst there please do sample his other scores such as the incredible Freaks Out.

So, onto a score by the incomparable composer Philippe Rombi, it seems that everything that Rombi touches turns to gold, and his most recent score shows no signs of this relenting. Les Temps des Secrets, (The Time of Secrets) is a charming, delicate, and fragile score, the composer creating wonderfully beguiling themes that have to them a touch of the magical that mesmerizes and entrances. It is a richly romantic and emotive work, filled with sumptuous and intimate sounding thematic material, with sweeping strings, beautiful piano, and attractive woods combining to fashion such fine and silk like motifs.

I am of the opinion it is one of the composers best scores over the last five years or so. Remember those piano passages from Ricky, well this not only evokes those but surpasses them in the poignancy and emotional departments, it is an affecting work that is a sheer delight to listen to.

Available on CD and on digital platforms. Highly Recommended.

Harina is a TV series from Mexico and contains an impressive and atmospheric soundtrack by Andres Sanchez Maher and Gus Reyes, I am not sure what it is about the music of these two composers? But for me it is always instantly attractive and in this case in-particular I was immediately struck by the variety and the quality of the music that they had penned for the series.

It has Latin styles that are fused with the dramatic and the mysterious, oozing with apprehension but also the work includes so many infectious sounding upbeat themes. Recommended, available on digital platforms from Plaza Mayor.

Other scores worth checking out include DMZ by the ever-industrious Kris Bowers, The Last Film Show by Cyril Morin, Corro da te by Piernicola di Muro, Lost Luggage by Peter Baert, The Outfit by Alexandre Desplat, Phantom of the Open by Isobel Waller-Bridge, and Bury Your Fish by Roberto Antonio Martinez.

There is also a nice re-issue onto CD of Raymond Leppard, s Alfred the Great which is a score that for many years was very difficult to get your hands on. It is an extremely good score, fully symphonic and in this case has been remastered to yield superb sound by Kritzerland Records, it also includes bonus tracks which are taken direct from the film score.

Leppard’s music was pivotal to the movie and underlined many of the key moments including the realistic battle scenes, it is a work that has everything action, romance and lyrical and affecting interludes. If you have never heard this score now is the time to put that right. That’s all this time.


It’s not often that MMI includes news or reviews of non-film score recordings, but recently I discovered by accident an album on Spotify, entitled Melting, music is by composer Nico Cartosio.

And it is glorious, released back in 2019 I am I know a little late to the party, but felt I had to mention it to MMI readers. In my opinion for what its worth is that Melting is a film score that is looking for a film. Filled with wonderfully attractive themes and affecting and beautiful musical interludes and passages, this is such an enriching and entertaining collection of tantalizing and emotive compositions that encompass the dramatic, the romantic, the melancholy and the thrilling.

There is such diversity so much variation and just a wealth of poignant and melodious content here that its hard to believe it is all the work of one composer and is all included on one album. The recording is just under forty minutes in duration, but it is one that has so many airs and styles to it that it is quite easy to become lost in a sea of music that oozes pure emotion.

The composer treating listeners to sweeping passages that contain romantic and windswept sections that are complimented by an equal amount of heartrending and fragile sounding pieces. But the drama is to there with cues such as The Cocaine March, which could easily be a secondary theme for a dark lord in a galaxy a few miles away. Brass, percussion and urgent strings combine to create a piece that is action and foreboding personified, which only briefly relents to bring to fruition a luxurious theme that evokes the golden age of cinema scores as in Max Steiner or Erich Korngold.

I will not examine and describe each cue, but there is Snow Above the Earth which has to it a certain Eastern European flavour, with solo violin performing a heart-breaking melody accompanied by the string section that is underlining and supporting initially with an even more lush and affecting melody, that finally is taken up by them in a tumultuous rendition of the compositions central melody making it their own.

Each track is a gem, every note is placed with utmost care into place and performed flawlessly, by orchestra and soloists, this is an album you should listen to, you will be poorer for not experiencing its many delights. Highly Recommended.  

Michael Csányi-Wills.

Michael Csányi-Wills

Award-winning composer Michael Csányi-Wills has written works ranging from chamber music to choral and orchestral works to feature length film scores, and has been composer in residence with the Welsh Sinfonia since September 2013. Recent works have been widely performed throughout the UK and commissions have taken him around Europe, Australia, and the USA. His previous collaboration with the Welsh Sinfonia was a setting of Lewis Carroll’s “Phantasmagoria” for Narrator and orchestra, which received its premiere in January 2016. Michael’s most recent commission though is a Violin concerto entitled “Revisions of the Earth” for violinist Tatiana Berman and was performed by her, with the Constella Arts Festival Orchestra in Cincinnati and conducted by Jose Luis Gomez in April 2016. Michael’s Orchestral Songs recorded for Toccata Classics and performed by Ilona Domnich, Nicky Spence, Jacques Imbrailo and The Londamis Ensemble conducted by Mark Eager were released in December 2015 to critical acclaim, and was Recording of the Month at Music Web International.
Michael has also written scores for a range of films including documentaries such as “The King of Nerac”, “Maestro”, a feature documentary feature about conductor Paavo Järvi, and feature dramas such “The Trouble with Dot and Harry”, “Be My Baby” and documentary “Chasing Flavour” written and directed by Sundance Film Festival prize-winner Gary Walkow. Michael also won the Award for Best Score at the Movie Maverick Awards for his score to the short film “A Love story in Milk”. Michael was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in January 2012 and was appointed Head of Composition at the World Heartbeat Music Academy, London in January 2013. One of his scoring projects for film is Sideshow which was released via digital platforms by Movie Score Media.

Can I begin by asking about your recent score for Sideshow which I enjoyed very much, how did you become involved on the movie?

I was contacted by an old friend Stephen Brand, who worked as the Director of Photography and he introduced me to Adam Oldroyd, the writer and director of the film. Adam asked me to send over some music that might be suitable for a dark comedy drama. He mentioned the type of music he was thinking of at the time, and I admitted that I didn’t really have anything in my repertoire that covered Central European folk music, but that I loved the score by Paul Cantelon for “Everything is Illuminated”. It’s one of my favourite scores and I’ve listened to it so much since its release. He then asked me to come up with a potential theme, which I did. The track I wrote remains the main theme of the film and is track three on the soundtrack. 

Les Dennis and Anthony Head in Sideshow.

The score for Sideshow is a quirky one which underlines the storyline that also has various twists and turns, how many times did you see the film before beginning to formulate ideas about the music?

I saw a rough cut of the film once through and then immediately started cutting Hungarian folk music up against it. It seemed to work well, so I dived straight in and tried to conjure the same mood. I then worked on specific scenes and ran the film in the sequencer as I tried different ideas. There are a series of cards in the film acting as chapters, created with Dictionary definitions of relevant words. These were very helpful; in that they gave me a very clear sense of a new cue each time. In some ways they acted as palate cleansers for me before the next twist in the story. 

You use the Cimbalom on the score and combine this with clarinet, which works so well, was this an idea you had from the start of the scoring process or was it something that developed as you began writing?

I grew up visiting family in Budapest and I remember hearing violin and cimbalom duos in restaurants all over the city. It made a huge impression on me as a child and has inevitably made an impact on me as a composer. I knew that the cimbalom was going to make a substantial contribution to the film. It has such an evocative sound and is very good at conveying mystery and tension, as well as having other worldly qualities about it. The violin was my first thought to join the cimbalom, but when I started using it, I felt I needed an instrument that was able to do both comedy and threat in equal measure.

The clarinet is often found in Klezmer, which is why I thought of using the bass clarinet. I asked the amazing Tom Verity (Principal Clarinet of WNO) whether we could achieve the same “kretch” effect (often heard in Klezmer) on the bass clarinet. Not only is it possible, but I thought it sounded fantastic, so I went with the Bass Clarinet as the main theme for everything associated with the inept burglars in the film. 

Did the director have any specific ideas regarding what style of music the film needed and was there a temp track on the movie?

It was entirely Adam’s idea to go with Central European folk music. I must confess I can’t remember the first temp score he used, only that it was of the same ilk. I was on board with the idea from the start, and so excited by it. Hungarian folk music was a big part of my childhood and writing a score in that style was thrilling for me. 

Continuing with the score for Sideshow, the soundtrack is released digitally by Movie Score Media. Were you involved in the compilation of the recording and is all the music from the movie on that recording?

Mikael Carlson at Movie Score media compiled all the cues into a cohesive soundtrack for me. He always does a fantastic job of making sense of all the cues and turning them into an album that has a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s not quite all the music that’s in the film but very nearly!

I think the first score I heard of yours was The Little Vampire, you collaborated with Nigel Clarke on this and several other film scores, including The Thief Lord, Rocket Post, Will and The Little Polar Bear. When you work with another composer do you write together, or do you tackle cues separately?

When I worked with Nigel, we’d sit and write everything together and then once all the demos had been approved, we separated to do different tasks.  

Are there any composers of film music or any other genre of music that you have been influenced by?

My first experience of music of any kind, came from my maternal grandmother. I remember one recording of Mozart 4 hand piano sonatas performed by Geza Anda and Zoltan Kocsis, which I think I had on repeat for what seemed like years. Around the same time, she and my mother hid me under a coat to go to Don Pasquale at Covent Garden. I think I was around 3 years old. Opera became a staple event for me, (this was before ticket prices skyrocketed) and so I was immersed in a world of music, voice and drama before I could string a sentence together. Film music for me, in its best examples anyway, is simply a modern equivalent of the opera I fell in love with as a child. As an adult though, my influences are obviously much more varied. From the concert hall, the composers I connect with the most I guess are the likes of Bach, Brahms, Sibelius, Prokofiev, and more recently Alan Petterson, whose symphonies have had a big impact on me in the last few years. 
I first became aware of music in film when I was 7. It was the BBC adaptation of the Scarlet Pimpernel in 1982 starring Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour and Sir Ian Mckellen, scored by Nick Bicat. If someone asked me now to sing the main theme I could. The music is steeped in classical tradition, filled with fugues and counterpoint and it worked beautifully with the drama on screen. It was this score that inspired my love of film music. Since then, the work of Paul Cantelon, Thomas Newman, and Don Davis have definitely influenced my thinking. I’m a huge admirer though of so many, John Williams obviously, John Powell, Dario Marinelli, Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, Randy Newman, the list is endless.

Do you come from a family background that has musical connections?

Neither of my parents are musicians and their parents weren’t either, but they always had and still have a love of classical music. My father listens to Wagner, The Beatles and Red Nichols in equal measure and my mother listens to Verdi and my score for “The King of Nerac”, which she seems to have on repeat. 

Can I ask what musical education you had, and what were your earliest memories of any kind of music?

I started learning the piano when I was 3. I played by ear a lot from the beginning so my sight reading as a child was always terrible. I did a few little concerts as a child and managed to get in to Wells Cathedral School, where learning piano with Hilary Coates was a real turning point in my education as a musician. From there I went to the Royal Academy of Music to continue my studies in piano, but composition slowly took over and by the time I left the Academy in 1998, having met up with Nigel Clarke, we started collaborating and found ourselves scoring a Christopher Lee epic about the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. An extraordinary piece of luck. I learnt so much from Nigel and I will always be incredibly grateful for the working relationship we enjoyed at that time. 

You also write for the concert hall, when writing for live performance do you find it less constricting than writing for film, I suppose what I mean is are you able to express yourself more freely within a piece that will be performed live in the concert hall rather than being tied to timings and dealing with sound effects etc in film?

I treat the two genres as totally different disciplines. I find writing concert music incredibly demanding. Just a few bars a day requires a lot of thought. Every note must belong and exist for good reason. I use some of the same techniques for film music, but so much is prescribed by the film itself, whether it be the style, tempo, key, or indeed exact length of cue, that it is very often beyond creative control. Film music has a different set of demands. It’s fundamentally a collaboration between the composer and the director, and a search for what works best for the film at any given point. So music that’s been specially written for the film should always serve the narrative, never itself. Concert music only ever serves itself, and in its best form, communicates without the need for words or drama. I love doing both and use each discipline as a useful break from the other!

Your Symphony number one, is such a powerful piece, and reminded me somewhat of Benjamin Britten, where do you get the inspiration to create such commanding and beautiful music?

Ahh that’s very kind of you John. Mark Eager, who is director of music with the Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra, asked me to write a symphony, as an educational project for the students at the university. I was delighted of course but was all too aware of the magnitude of such an endeavour. I started writing it in 2018, excited about the prospect of such a large work being played by so many musicians. I was conscious of writing something that would give the students a challenge, but that would also be accessible. One of my pet subjects with my composition students, is not making the music so difficult to play, that it becomes impossible to communicate past the technical problems. Working with Mark and Cardiff University students was a pleasure and a memory I will always cherish. 

Your instrument is the piano, do you use piano to work out your musical ideas or do you utilise more technical means as in computers and synths?

It rather depends on whether I’m writing concert or film music. I tend to use a sequencer for film music, so I might play around on the piano when I’m trying to find a sound world. I’ll use it to play/record in phrases and explore different sounds and synths with the keyboard. With concert music, it’s a different approach. I’ll write in notes on my notation software and start fiddling with where those notes belong and why. 

You are also an accomplished conductor, how do you divide your time between concert performances and film scores, it must at times become hectic?

I do much less conducting then playing the piano to be honest John. I divide my time between writing, teaching, performing/recording and being a dad. I take things project by project, and I feel incredibly blessed to have a varied amount of things to turn my attention to.
Teaching has become an important part of what I do. I have become far more passionate about music education over the last decade or so. More and more money has been cut from music in schools, so the opportunities that one might have enjoyed in the 70s and 80s are simply not there anymore. Ultimately I’d love music in schools to be a core subject, just like English and Maths. The evidence that music is a transformative skill in young people is overwhelming and that schools who prioritise music, achieve higher results across all subjects. 

At what age did you decide that you wanted to be a composer/conductor and follow this as a career?

I remember waving a pencil around to Mozart’s Paris Symphony when I was about 7. I’d asked my parents for a study score of it, and memorised it as best I could at the time. I was reminded of that just before the pandemic hit, when I conducted a rehearsal of it with the BBC Ariel Orchestra in 2019. Conducting has always fascinated me, and like anything, whether writing or playing, one never stops learning, I will forever be a student.  Around the same time I was always improvising at the piano, usually over dramatic primary chords that drove my parents mad!

Do you follow a set routine when scoring a movie, ie; do you start at the opening titles and work through to the end titles, or do you like to establish a central theme or themes and then use these as the foundation for the remainder of the score?

 It can depend on the project, and on the director. I often like to attach themes to specific characters in the film and it’s always useful to see how it can work around the character at different stages of the narrative. A lot of time can be saved by establishing which themes can be used in various scenes. I was once told a long time ago to surround myself by lists. Lists of cues, themes, music written, music not yet written, what’s to be recorded, what’s to be programmed, so I have an immediate visual aid to help me find my place in the project.  

What is next for you?

Over lockdown I wrote my second symphony. A much darker work, inspired by the Estonian Symphonist Mihkel Kerem. It’s this piece that has given me the motivation to write a series of chamber works, a violin sonata (dedicated to Mihkel Kerem), and clarinet Sonata (for Tom Verity) along with another piece which is yet to be conceived. An EP of three Scottish folk songs I co-wrote with the American / Scottish singer Daisy Chute was released the same week as the sideshow soundtrack. I’m hoping to write an album’s worth of songs with her at some point soon. They were great fun to collaborate on. 
In terms of film, I’m currently working on a documentary based in California and I’ll be able to say more about it soon, I hope! 



More and more Italian soundtracks are making it to CD these days, the sad thing is most of them have already seen a release, and also had further re-issues some including extra cues others being released with the same track line up of either the original LP releases from the 1960’s and 1970’s or the original compact disc release. Many of the CAM soundtracks that were issued onto LP record during the 1960’s and into the 70’s and the 80’s were notoriously short in duration, some running for less than thirty minutes. The question I ask about this tidal wave of “new releases” that labels such as Cinevox, Beat, and Sugar music are re-issuing is do the collectors need them or want them and also is it fair on collectors for so many to be released, with the same track listings for what is seen to be a high price in the retail market.

I think collectors etc would probably be more accepting of so many re-issues if they were to be released on maybe a budget label that is attached to the main record label, as we had in the days before CD’s with labels such as Sunset and even really cheap labels such as MFP and Hallmark both labels issuing some great soundtracks and compilations which were film music related for the princely sum of under a pound sterling. Instead labels that have issued scores several times continue to get more mileage out of them by presenting them with different artwork, or add different liner notes etc, attempting to make them desirable from an avid collector’s point of view, with the music which is the important thing often taking second place. All the time applying a full price tag to them. So are these a genuine attempt for labels to preserve scores or is it merely another way of getting A few dollars more out of collectors.

Ok, re-issues are in many ways a good thing, especially if you missed the soundtrack first time, second time or even third time around. But these re-issues for me personally are surplus to requirement, with some having a re-issue twice in a twelve-month period. Recent examples include The Big Gundown (La resa di Conti) by Ennio Morricone, a classic score, and a big favourite with many, but one that has been re-issued many times in its original form and in expanded and then so-called definitive editions onto compact disc, and with the popularity of vinyl was also issued on an LP record. So, in my opinion this is an example of record labels getting more mileage and of course ultimately generating more revenue from a score that is fifty-six years old this year, with very little outlay or need of a lot of restoration/remastering work. The thing is do they sell? Well, no record company ever says they do not, but often stress that the soundtrack market is “specialist”, so in other words sales are limited then, yes?

I may be wrong, but I am sure that The Big Gundown has been released on at least eleven separate occasions from its initial release on UA records back in 1966 to its most recent incarnation on BEAT records in 2022. And let’s not forget the digital releases too on the various streaming platforms, which have been many.

The so called definitive compact disc version was issued on GDM, which was re-mastered apparently, but the sound quality was as agreed by many critics and collector’s variable and even questionable because of its echoey reverb making it sound as if the mix was not quite correct or badly unbalanced. The same can be said for the recent Beat re-issue, so is it the same master? Who knows and it’s not worth asking because they wont tell you.  

American labels do also re-issue soundtracks, but they tend to be more selective and at least leave a decent gap between any subsequent re-issue of the re-issue if you get what I mean. And in the cases of La La Land, Intrada, and Varese these re-issues in most cases give the collectors content that is worth having and paying extra for, with thick booklets crammed with notes and lots of stills from the movie or movies.

Italian labels in my opinion do not, and just keep on releasing and re-releasing over and over, with some of the titles beggaring belief as to “WHY” they have even considered re-issuing them. Comedy scores for example, are at times are like the movies themselves, with anyone outside of Italy not really getting the humour or indeed the quirky sounding scores, these scores being a wallpaper of sound that accompany many movies that are just not worth the celluloid they are on. Beat records have been guilty of this many times, with some of these soundtracks literally being un-listenable or laughable because they just have no depth or substance, and this is not the fault of the composer, after all they can only do their best and if the movie is bad how can they be inspired to create something that passes as even mediocre at the best.  Again, a case of the labels releasing something for the sake of it not even thinking if they will sell or not. But I suppose that is up to the individual label, well yes, but would you not think that their time, money, and effort would be better invested re-issuing something that collectors might be vaguely interested in?  But that’s another problem, most Italian labels do not listen to the collectors, makes sense I would have thought that if you are going to release something you want to sell it and make money to invest in more releases that are popular to again sell and make more revenue? Maybe not! There are I would guess several scores that are in the music vaults of CAM, Beat, GDM, Cinevox, etc that have been gathering dust for years.

I think it all started to go wrong when, labels like Digit Movies came on the scene, who at first released lots of brilliant music, and I thank them for that. They soon showed signs of slowing their avalanche of releases probably because they realized that the material was just not good enough. But, other labels, producers and self-titled remastering guru’s (for want of a better description) then began to also release material from Italian cinema and TV, and because the number of labels grew the number of good titles dwindled, because every label wanted to issue  certain scores.

So faced with popular titles drying up, labels and producers turned to the not so good items (which there are many) and flooded the market with soundtracks that collectors had not heard of, and the labels relied upon collectors buying these because of the composer. After this the labels started to run out of the not so good items so rather stop or become more selective, they turned to the dire and dismal examples, and that’s what has been happening since. Sugar music acquired the CAM catalogue and embarked upon a re-issue program that was vast, but all had been issued before, many in the original CAM soundtrack Encyclopedia, so what was the point? Well, the point was to try and entice fans to buy again and again, maybe because of new artwork and sometimes because of an extra thirty seconds of music. Because film music collectors do tend to do this, and record labels are well aware of the habits of said collectors. Quartet records from Spain have become heavily involved with the release of vintage Italian film scores, again their programme began with impressive titles which were very well presented and remastered to a high standard, but in recent months maybe the urgency to release certain scores has overshadowed the care and attention that the label once had when releasing a soundtrack. Three releases come to mind two are Italian one is by a British composer from a British movie.

The first time I began to notice a less than remastered sound was on Roma come Chicago, by Morricone and Nicolai, the release seemed to be rushed, containing less than inspiring art work and a sound quality that leaves much to be desired, this was an important release one that had not been available commercially and was released not long after the death of Morricone, but for the few of us lucky enough to have the score already on cdr it was disappointing to say the least, as the Quartet editions sound paled in the light of the quality of something that was basically a bootleg.

This is also the case with Femmine Insaziabili by Bruno Nicolai, again nice to have the extra cues but maybe improved sound would have been a better idea? The Quartet sound quality again being surpassed by the Easy Tempo CD and LP release and only just marginally superior to the original Ariete release.

Then the re-issue of Zulu by John Barry, in both stereo and mono, the mono sounding superior to the stereo tracks, and the extra cues well less than three minutes, and that is distorted. I think Quartet are a good label they do release some great titles, but…..attention to detail especially in sound department is recommended by all. 

Now there is also the computer-generated track, or (Music never available before) there have been a number of Italian scores that have been re-issued with extra music which is great, but then after a while up they pop again with even more music? So why not include the extra music in the definitive edition in the first place? Probably because this so-called extra music on the re-issue of the definitive edition is not from the score but is elements of the score tracks that have been cobbled together by the hallowed and revered person who is supposedly responsible for the re-mastering, in other words this person remixes pieces of tracks and combines them to present them as a rare and never before released cue.

Also, there is the Karaoke version of the song?  So, the instrumental version of the vocal then? Or is it just the vocal track with the vocal taken out? Probably either way it’s what is known as a scam where I come from. And Italian labels and certain re-mastering operatives based in Italy are so guilty of this, prove me wrong, but I don’t think they can. I have been collecting now for 60 years, and I have seen so many releases and re-issues some official some not, but what I loathe is collectors being lied to for the sake of an extra few euros, yes this is an outspoken article, but its one that comes from the heart and one that I hope will resonate with other film music lovers. Of course, there are labels that release soundtracks that are genuine, and their owners etc are all devoted film music fans, and share a love of the music with fellow collectors. But this is aimed at labels that are in essence making a quick buck for very little outlay and to be blunt are conning fans out of their hard-earned cash. They know who they are which makes it even more disgusting. They are not soundtrack lovers but soundtrack mercenaries. This is no way a slight on the Maestro’s that have written so many great film scores, their music forever lives on in the recordings, but do we really need so many releases of the same score? It is also not a slight upon the legitimate people in the industry that produced so many great soundtrack releases over the years, some sadly no longer with us, and others no longer producing because of the shoddy releases that have flooded the market in recent years. In fact I say to those retired or semi retired, please come back. And to others who I think could take this personally, well if the cap fits wear it.