Recently here on MMI we reviewed FANNY LYE DELIVER’D. which contains a brilliant score by the films director Thomas Clay. The movie evoked many memories of movies that are referred to as Folk or rural movies, I personally compared the film to A FIELD IN ENGLAND and also examples such as WITCHFINDER GENERAL, BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW and to a degree films such as CAPTAIN CLEGG. My thanks to the director for taking time to answer my questions. JM.
What do you consider to be the purpose of music in film? Whilst music can support the story and the emotions of a scene, I feel it should be much more than that. The music should be integral to the film’s fabric, a key part of its identity. Ideally, the performances, the mis-en-scene and the music should all be in balance. I’m not so keen on the idea of underscore, of the music hiding away and not drawing attention to itself, just as I’m not so keen on the idea that the camera should be invisible. These are two sides of the same coin it seems to me. Which is not to say a televisual style can’t work – I’m as big a fan of Mad Men or Breaking Bad as anyone – but, you know, other brands are available.
Normally when writing music for a movie a composer spots the film with the director. Is it easier when you write music for your own movies? I spotted it in the sense of adding temp cues to the rough cut. There was a lot of Riz Ortolani’s Addio Zio Tom, and Luis Bacalov’s Quién sabe? which freaked people out to say the least! Since I was performing both roles, feedback from producers and execs became crucial.
I did get some push back over spotting music into dialogue scenes, which is considered in extremely poor taste these days, and yet you can’t achieve an authentic retro feel without it. At one point it was even suggested to drop the score altogether and replace it with atmospheres and sound design… To be fair though, this did push me to do better, and as we got closer to the recording sessions, everyone really started to get behind it. I did also carry on cutting and editing both the film and the music after recording, trimming it back further. I think we found about the right balance in the end.
In terms of internal process, it was quite interesting to discover the conflicts that sometimes arise between the director’s agenda and the composer’s. In my case, the director always wins, of course, without the need for a fight! But this did then make things tougher for Anthony (Weeden, conductor), Geoff Foster,(engineer) and the musicians – I’m thinking particularly of the click tracks. Morricone talks in his book about conflicts with Leone on Once Upon a Time in America, Leone insisting the cues hit a variety of precise sync points. And all of our clicks tracks were of this nature, constantly shifting tempo. Geoff said – with humour, of course! – that, in over 250 scores, it was the worst click track he’d ever seen…
What size orchestra excluding soloists did you have for Fanny Lye?
We had a 40-piece string orchestra that plays on most of the cues, and our choir I Fagiolini were 40 in number as well, they appear on 7 tracks of the CD. Then there was a background grouping of approximately 20 historical musicians, sackbuts, dulcian, anaconda, serpent, natural trumpets, etc, who appear in various configurations, with the lead musicians sometimes soloing and sometimes supporting each other as well. For example, Jakob Lindberg has more ornate lute passages in tracks like Dressing Up and A Story – that’s a cue that’s only in the film – but he is also playing a Theorbo ground on a number of other tracks.
To make sure the recording had a live feel, engineer Geoff Foster gave everyone their own seat within the hall, however we did then track many of the historical instruments separately or in small groups. This was unavoidable, given the dynamic ranges and tuning challenges presented by some of these instruments. The largest grouping on the CD is Old Soldiers. That was recorded with everyone together in the room, the strings, the choir, the percussionists and Jörgen van Rijen braving it out on his sackbut, so 85 players in total including conductor Anthony Weeden and choirmaster Robert Hollingworth. It caused some headaches in the mix to be honest, but it has an energy to it that hopefully compensates.
How long did it take you to write the score and when shooting the film do you play music on set? I was fortunate to have quite a free reign with regards to the schedule. It took me about a year to compose the entire score. I was learning as I was going along, and also being very fussy about the DAW mock-ups – the latter being the reason I originally gave up writing and producing music 20 years ago. I just can’t help tweaking every note ad infinitum. We played music on set for my last two films, but not on this one oddly.
What composers and filmmakers would you say have influenced you?
I would say I’ve been inspired by Riz Ortolani, Vangelis, Morricone, Luis Bacalov, Philip Glass, also by Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler, Wagner, Bartok, Ligeti, Stockhausen. In your review, you mention John Barry. I wouldn’t necessarily have made the connection, but as a 12-year-old I was quite obsessed with Dances with Wolves, so that’s quite possibly a formative inspiration. Around the same time, in the early 90s, I discovered Vangelis and early Hans Zimmer – I remember borrowing his K2 score from the library and becoming quite obsessed with that too.
My love of the Italian maestros came a few years later. Some filmic inspirations for Fanny Lye would be Once Upon a Time in the West, Heaven’s Gate, Days of Heaven, Ride in the Whirlwind, McCabe & Mrs Miller, The Searchers, Man of the West, Barry Lyndon, Satantango and Andrei Rublev.
In the movie and also within the score there are references to Morricone with a nod to his spaghetti western sound. Do you collect or buy soundtracks? If so what are your favourite scores to listen to? The first CD I bought, when I was ten, was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I go through phases of collecting soundtracks, although I guess not so often in recent years as there are fewer modern scores that have really caught my ear. Favourite scores would be The Mission, Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in America, Addio Zio Tom, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, The Thin Red Line (the full version), Alien, Aliens and Alien 3 as well. And musicals: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Meet Me In St. Louis.
Your music for Fanny Lye is very thematic. What is your opinion of the use of drone or soundscape sounds within scores for movies now. And do you think that actual themes are now a thing of the past in big movies?
Not every film requires a prominent score. My favourite filmmaker is Michelangelo Antonioni, whose use of music was extremely pared back. That said, it’s striking to me how many of my favourite and formative films are defined by their music, from Leone’s work to Kubrick to Coppola’s use of The Doors in Apocalypse Now, or indeed hearing the Indiana Jones theme for the first time when I was seven years old. So I do feel it’s a shame that music so often takes a back seat and that themes are less in demand. The way the musicians tell it, it is producers and directors driving this because they don’t want the music to be ‘distracting’. That said, there have been some good musicals lately – Moana and The Greatest Showman are family favourites that get frequent play in our car! In terms of actual scores, I thought Cliff Martinez’s music for The Neon Demon was pretty excellent. And Ludwig Göransson has been doing interesting things with Black Panther and The Mandalorian. Perhaps he will encourage the theme to make a comeback – one can hope.
Is all of the music from the movie included on the CD release?
There’s about half an hour of music that didn’t make it onto the CD – and a couple of cues that didn’t make it into the film either. I feel the CD needs to work as its own thing, you don’t want it to be too repetitive, and it’s not necessary to be strictly chronological. On the other hand, you mustn’t be too stingy and end up with something like the original release of The Thin Red Line. Hopefully the balance is about right.
You must have researched the instruments that you used in the score. Was it difficult finding the specialist soloists who perform on the soundtrack?
Certainly, there are fewer musicians playing those instruments, especially up to the standard we required. Casting the soloists was a little like casting the film, with each lead instrument representing a character in the movie. Anthony Weeden, our bookers Isobel Griffiths and Susie Gillis and myself put our heads together and ended up bringing in performers not just from around the UK but from Europe as well. Jörgen van Rijen flew in from Holland, Miguel Henry from France. Their interpretations are fantastic. And then there was cornett player Andrea Inghisciano, from Italy, who is really special. The cornett is a fiendish thing, somewhat like a trumpet but much harder to master, and he brings to it this swooning romantic lyricism. I actually don’t think there’s another cornett player alive who could have pulled off the most challenging passages – the ostinatos in Fanny’s Choice and The Ceremony and some of the atonal phrases in Retribution – the trumpet players often had their mouths open. That incredibly long note in Retribution is Andrea circular breathing, it hasn’t been edited.
The renaissance cittern however was the monster. During the original recording sessions, we just couldn’t find a renaissance cittern player able to take it on. The part must have passed through 20 hands, most just saying it was impossible. One guy did muster the courage to come in and give it a bash, but we had to give up after about half an hour. We ended up coming back to Air eight months later and splitting the part between two musicians. Miguel Henry is generally regarded as the world’s best renaissance cittern player. We found a gap in his schedule, booked him onto a Eurostar and he took on the quasi-improvisatory passages in The Ceremony and Medlars with aplomb. However, there were still the ‘three finger’ sections to deal with, in March to Joy and Medlars, requiring the instrument to be played in a folk style, like a banjo. In the end, we dry hired a renaissance cittern and gave it to banjo player John Dowling, who learned to play the instrument in 6 months. A sixth and final day with John, Miguel and Geoff and the job was done! Though we did have to restrain John to prevent him from burning the cittern afterwards.
What is next for you?
I really have no idea. Each time I get a film made it feels like a minor miracle. One hopes another will follow, but who knows. I have a TV series about the slave trade in 18th century West Africa that I’d love to get made, and another about the Apache-Mexican-American wars in 1830s New Mexico. We have full pilot scripts for both of those, but they’re not cheap. I’d also love to make a musical, something the children can watch.
Many thanks to Thomas Clay for his time and patience.
Well, it’s been another busy three weeks or so, the soundtrack new releases seem to be as in abundance as cov-idiots sunbathing on a packed beach on the south coast of England. Well nearly anyway, a plus being is that the actual releases are probably more sensible than the sun worshippers. Intrada have re-issued THE YOUNG LIONS (1958) by Hollywood veteran composer Hugo Friedhofer, this is a score that was crying out for a remastered release and as always, the Intrada label have responded giving us a quality edition of Friedhofer’s wonderful soundtrack.
This is a 2 CD set and a release that every self-respecting collector of film music should own. I have always felt that Friedhofer was so underatted, his score for ONE EYED JACKS the Marlon Brando western, was for me and many others probably one of the scores that influenced the western score as realised by many Italian composers, the style of the movie too had a great influence upon the way in which westerns were produced in both Hollywood and Europe. THE YOUNG LIONS is essentially a blockbuster, it starred Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Maximillian Schell, Hope Lange, Barbara Rush and Dean Martin. A powerhouse of a movie with brilliant direction from film maker Edward Dmytryk that contained stunning black and white cinematography by Joseph MacDonald. Friedhofer’s score earned the composer an Academy Award nomination and this edition of the score spread over two compact discs contains not only Friedhofer’s original score but also the source music from the movie as well as a re-mastered recording in stereo of the 1958 Decca LP record release.
Frank K. DeWald provides informative and easy to read notes, the release is packaged well with attractive artwork and graphics throughout. It is a must have item.
From a classic 1950’s movie and score to a new movie, and also to a composer that you may or may not be familiar with. Arthur Valentin Grosz has written an emotive sounding score for the movie THE SHEPHERD. This subtle but powerful work is available digitally on the usual platforms and will be available later this year on compact disc from Kronos records. The composer has crafted a work that is filled with emotive and lilting tone poems, it sounds as if the score is performed by a small string ensemble, with piano featuring throughout the work. Plus, there are solo performances from violin which is more pronounced within the main theme from the score. Although it is a short soundtrack, there are several moments within it that are affecting and well worth taking a listen to. My hope is that more soundtracks by this composer will be made available on compact disc as there are a handful available online, but its always good to have a CD that one can hold look at and treasure.
Another score by the composer that is worth a mention is THE BASEMENT, which was released in 2017, a horror movie, it is in many ways attractive and alluring, with the composer fashioning a melodic but malevolent sounding work, utilising various eerie sounds along the way, which are darkly sinister and unsettling which act as punctuation and support to the more conventional instrumentation and synthetics that he employs. Listening first to THE SHEPHERD and then to THE BASEMENT displays the composer’s inventiveness and also his adaptability in creating different sounds and varying soundscapes.
The next score I was attracted to in the past few weeks is DIE WOLF-GANG, now this is a classy and wonderfully melodious and haunting work, the composer Andreas Weidinger, serves up an interesting and above all entertaining soundtrack, that has to it a mysterious and magical sound. The film entitled THE MAGIC KIDS-THREE UNLIKELY HEROES outside of Germany, is an action adventure fantasy romp, Vlad a young boy joins one of the most important and famous schools of magic in the world. There he meets fairies, trolls, witches, and Dwarfs. He is accompanied by his Father, and they soon discover that they are the first Vampires in the town where the school is. But it is not too long before Vlad makes friends with other kids that are attending the school. The score is a symphonic one and has to it an air of silver age style as in Goldsmith and to a degree John Williams, flyaway strings, cheeky and impish compositions plus full on action cues and grand sounding musical themes. The composer adds some nice touches where he combines strings with voices and creates otherworldly sounding passages, but above all this score for me just works so well and not just within the film, away from the picture it is a soundtrack that is easy to listen to and also has a great action content. There are of course comic sounding cues and also the more romantically slanted pieces, which stand out because of their sumptuous and lush style. Certainly, one for the collection, check it out asap, whilst you are doing that also find his score for IRONCLAD-BATTLE FOR BLOOD from last year, another triumph of inventive and interesting scoring that is heavy on the percussion and literally radiates full on powerhouse action cues.
Composer Valentin Hadjadj wrote a beautifully subtle score for the 2019 movie, UN MONDE PLUS GRAND, it is filled with subdued but at the same time affecting compositions, the style employed did evoke a sound and style that I have maybe heard before in the work of composers such as Desplat, Aufort and Amar. The film focuses upon Corine who decides to leave Paris after the death of her soul mate Paul, she travels to Mongolia where she is to direct a film. But what she encounters there is more than she could have imagined, she meets A Shaman named Oyun and this meeting in affect changes her life. Oyun can see in Corine a rare talent or a gift, which he wants to unveil. Corine agrees to undertake a journey in which she will discover new cultures and uncover forgotten ways, but essentially the journey she undertakes is one of discovering herself. I would not say that this is a large or lush sounding work, in fact it is the opposite, but it is the fragility and also the subtlety of the music that is the attraction and also why it works so well and supports the storyline beautifully, never being overbearing, but always being supportive.
Which is what good film music is all about. Again, this is a short score available on most digital platforms, but the briefness is not a problem as I know once heard you will return to the beginning and start all over again. Recommended. You also might like to listen to GIRL by the composer, which was released in 2018, the cue FLYING being breath-taking.
As in most soundtrack supplements I like to go back and take a look at a couple of past releases that you might have missed. THE FILM MUSIC OF series as realised by Chandos records has included many great compilations of the movie music of mainly British composers from what I like to call the Golden Age of British film. Of course, many are aware of the talents of Clifton Parker, George Auric, William Alwyn, Richard Addinsell etc, but what about Constant Lambert and Lord Berners? Well if you are not familiar with these two composers and their work for the cinema, there is a simple way of changing this.
THE FILM MUSIC OF Constant Lambert and Lord Berners was released back in 2000. And in my opinion, it is a stunning collection of excellent music for film. The recording by the BBC Concert Orchestra under the able Baton of Rumon Gamba is a powerful and entertaining release and contains music from, ANNA KARENINA and THE MERCHANT SEAMEN by Lambert and NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE and HALFWAY HOUSE by Berners, it is a treasure trove of stupendous and lavish and luxurious British film music, and one that if you have not added it to your collection should do so right now. The music is superb, and the performance is polished and flawless. If you cannot get the compact Disc the recording is available on the Spotify site.
Staying with British film music, and to a score for a now classic British horror. BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW, this I think like WITCHFINDER GENERAL was on a lot of film music collectors wish lists, the music by Marc Wilkinson was an important part of the moves storyline, it added a virulent air to the already uneasy and malevolent film, oozing with an evil and otherworldly atmosphere. The composer’s music was eventually released on Trunk records back in 2012, to the relief of many who had been searching for it and asking for it to be released since the films release in 1970. The movie which is often shown on TV has attained a cult following, it deals with witchcraft and was at the time of its release looked upon as being highly controversial, because of some of the then thought to be explicit sexual scenes included and also scenes of violence. It was also the movie that placed actress Linda Hayden in the public eye an also starred Patrick Wymark, Barry Andrews, Michele Dotrice, and Wendy Padbury. Directed by Piers Haggard, it remains as chilling today as it did when first released. If you have missed this film and its score, then its about time you took time out to watch and listen.
So onwards and more horror, this time from a more recent movie, DARK LIGHT was released in 2019, but the score by Holly Amber Church has just in the last week or so been released. Again, the composer delivers a no holds barred creep fest of unnerving and totally freaks you out music. But like with many of her scores we do find some respite and quieter moments, which are welcome amongst what seems like a sea of relentless sinister and chilling material. I think that music in horror movies must be the hardest type of film music to write, it’s a very fine line that the composer walks, because they do try not to go overboard or even give the game away with any sudden musical moods, Holly Amber Church as she always does provides us with a commanding score, that not only enhances and acts as musical punctuation between the frights and those “Is it over yet moments” but also serves as the musical glue that holds the whole thing together. The composer is there all the time, adding sounds underlining sudden moves and adding atmospheres, moods and those spine-tingling musical touches that are probably the reason you are hiding behind the sofa right now. Released on Notefornote records, and available digitally this is a must have score for horror fans, and any fan of quality film music.
Swedish film music label Movie Score Media never seem to slow in their release of soundtracks that ordinarily would not see the light of day, the label will this month release THE ASCENT which has an atmospheric score by composer Max Sweiry. Released in 2019, MSM have just announced the release of the score. The film, which was also entitled STAIRS, tells of a special military unit who are sent into a civil war situation to gather vital intelligence, they find themselves trapped on a never ending stairwell, which they have to climb to escape, but to survive the trial and get off the stairs they must face past misdemeanours and sins. A mix of thrills, war and horror the score perfectly underlines and reflects the mood and tension of the move, it is however more soundscape than a musical/symphonic score, but it is nevertheless effective and contains a handful of cues that are less harsh and contain some elements that can be described as melodic. These interludes even if they are short lived make for a pleasant listening experience even if one is waiting for the mood to alter in an instant.
There have been many documentaries about the great painters, and Monet has been the subject of a number of these. One of the latest is CLAUDE MONET-THE IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE, which contains a bright and vibrantly melodious score by composer Michelino Bisceglia, this is a beautifully crafted work, filled with luscious themes and sweeping romantic passages the composer has created a highly emotive and perfectly poignant score. The music entices, ingratiates and wonderfully adds colour to a film about one of the master’s who gave us so many colourful and alluring pictures. The score is as affecting and attractive as the art-work it is enhancing. A gem of a score filled with so much heartfelt emotion and delightfully delicate and descriptive musical poems. I could listen to this score all day long. Recommended.
There are a number of soundtrack being made available on digital platforms and being dated as new scores, where as they are actually older films, one such release Is, JACQUOU LE CROQUANT which was released in 20017, the music is by the film’s director Laurent Boutonnat. The movie is based upon the 1899 novel by Eugene Le Roy and also was inspired by the 1969 TV mini-series of the same name. It tells of a young peasant who leads an uprising against an evil nobleman and was nominated for the French equivalent to the Oscars, The Cesars in 2008. The score is incredibly well written and orchestrated and beautifully performed, teeming with emotive and dramatic laden themes, it is an accomplished work and one which I am sad I have not encountered before now. Strident and vibrant strings are utilised to the maximum underlined by timpani, percussion and brass, this is a soundtrack that once you hear the opening bars you just know it is overflowing with a majestic and affecting quality. The composer also employs choir in a number of the tracks and combines this with all the elements that I mentioned at times adding woods and piano which give the work a fragility and romantic aura. There is also at times a greater use of percussion and brass that brings a more powerful and commanding element to the score.
Recommended yes most definitely. I would also recommend that you check out another score by the composer, GIORGINO from 1994, which has to it a Donaggio/Herrmann sound, this too is also available on Spotify.
The ever industrious DRAGONS DOMAIN never seem to slow from releasing good quality soundtracks from movies which maybe we would not be attracted to, this month the label re-issued Richard Bands score for the low budget sci-fi horror flick, THE DAY TIME ENDED, which as with all Richard Band scores is a delight. It seems that no matter what the budget this talented composer always delivers something that is special. This edition of the score has 18 tracks whereas other releases contained just 14, the new re-issue also boasts new eye-catching artwork and once again great notes by Randall Larson with quotes etc from the composer. This fresh remix of the Band’s score, is taken from the original 24 track masters which were recorded in London back in 1979. I for one am grateful for the expanded version of this score, and I hope for more Richard Band from DRAGONS DOMAIN soon.
The label also released composer Lee Holdridge’s soundtrack for the NBC mini-series 10.5, which was aired back in 2004. The score has never been issued onto a compact disc, and like Richard Band Holdridge is a composer that always fashions wonderful music that suits any genre, subject or situation. His scores for movies such as BEASTMASTER, SPLASH, OLD GRINGO, and the superb EL PUEBLO DEL SOL etc being essential to any film music collection. For 10.5 the composer turned to a more synthetic or digital sound, with most of the soundtrack being realised via recording digital instruments into MIDI. But as always, the talent of Holdridge shines through, and its certainly one to check out.
Back to 2108 for the next score again a case of the soundtrack coming out on digital platforms after the movie was released, WINTER WAR or FROZEN FRONT, is set in the January of 1945 and concentrates upon the first regiment of French paratroopers that fought alongside American troops in the battle to liberate, Alsace which is a province of France that borders both Germany and Switzerland. The movie is directed, written and scored by David Aboucaya, who also is in the cast of the movie. The score is not what you might expect seeing that this is a violent war movie, the themes realised by Aboucaya are for the most part emotive and rather delicate sounding, although there are a handful of cues that lean towards the action or martial style that we have come to accept in war movies that are set in the second world war. Most of the more robust tracks such as MORTAR ASSAULT, HENAQ’S MADNESS and GERMANS INCOMING all occur in the second half of the score. It’s a soundtrack that is certainly worth a listen, and as it is now on platforms such as Spotify its easy to try before you buy as it were.
Next to the music of Francois Tetaz, now here is a composer who I spotted a few years back when I heard his atmospheric score for ROGUE, which I thought was inventive and very original, I loved the way he utilised voices as part of the score, more or less using them as instruments, by this I mean he integrated them into the music so they were part of the orchestra rather than be featured as soloists etc. His other scores include WOLF CREEK and THE PORTAL. He has utilised the same style in JUDY AND PUNCH, the movies storyline encompasses drama, comedy and crime and is set in the town of Seaside which incidentally is nowhere near any sea. Two puppeteers Judy and Punch are attempting to breath new life into their marionette show, when Punch accidentally kills their baby after a mad drinking session, Judy who has also suffered a brutal beating at his hands, joins forces with a band of heretics who have been outcasted by the town to enact a terrible revenge upon her husband and the inhabitants of the town. The score is as offbeat and quirky as the movie, which I suppose is a good thing as the music helps establish a strange and completely off the wall atmosphere. Again the music is highly inventive and certainly unusual, it has to it a neo-classical persona but also the composer adds choral work that is effecting and creates a sound and style that is akin to the early film scoring assignments of Danny Elfman. One to seek out, but if you like strait-laced and unchallenging music maybe this is not for you, however if you like something that is innovative and unusual then what are you waiting for?
Now here is something that I was initially puzzled over, THE DEBT COLLECTORS, which is apparently entitled DEBT COLLECTOR 2 in some places, so I looked at the credits for both and they are basically the same. So, is DEBT COLLECTORS, THE DEBT COLECTOR 2, or is it THEDEBT COLLECTOR’S as it is also billed as? Anyway, does not really matter in the grand scheme of things does it, well unless you are the debtor I suppose because then you might have two DEBT COLLECTORS turn up looking for cash or whatever. The score I am glad to say to both movies is by Sean Murray, so that helps because after a search I found the score to the first movie as well, so bonus. But it’s the DEBT COLLECTORS that I am focusing on for now. I have to say that I have not come across Sean Murray before now, but you know there are such things as happy accidents, because I am of the opinion that this score will be attractive to many. I can’t say that it’s a particularly original work, because there are along the way many little sounds, quirks or instrumentation and slices of style that we have possible heard before, in fact if I were to say that this is like a fusion of UNDER FIRE and a handful of Italian western scores, I think you will get the general Idea, the composer utilises Pan Pipes or maybe samples of them within the work, and they add so much atmosphere to the proceedings, I have since UNDER FIRE always loved the use of Pan Pipes in a score, but Murray takes this further and employs wood instruments that mimic the sounds of THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY or EL PURO at times, which is great if you are a spaghetti fan. The score is a fantastic piece of musical fun and grabs the listeners attention all the way through. It also includes tense and dark sounding passages, with the composer utilising low and ominous sounding piano, which he laces with percussion and supports with strings to create apprehensive and edge of the seat moods. The styles included evoke a handful of genres as in crime capers, dramas, western and action. It is a relentless piece of work in that it is one of those soundtracks where you are looking forward to what is coming next with great anticipation before the track you have listened to has finished. Good stuff.
There are also a handful of game soundtracks I would like to recommend to you, these include CREATURE IN THE WELL by Jim Fowler, DESPERADOS lll vol 2 by Fillipo Beck Peccoz, DISINTEGRATION by Jon Everist and MINECRAFT DUNGEONS by Peter Hont, Johan Johnson and Samuel Aberg. All four stand out and also are all very different.
TV scores this month also have featured amongst the new releases, THE SALISBURY POISONINGS being one that I thought was particularly good. The three-part drama that is based on true events was shown on the BBC and I have to say was one of the best things I have seen on television since this lockdown started. The acting was superb, direction focused, and the score work extremely well underlining the tense and unnerving storyline as it unfolded. Music was by composer Rael Jones who has previously come to notice for the music on HARLOTS and MY COUSIN RACHEL.
ALL OR NOTHING-THE BRAZIL NATIONAL TEAM is also an entertaining score but maybe in a more up beat and up lifting way, the soundtrack contains numerous styles and purveys many moods and creates a number of atmospheres, all of which are written by composer/artist Fabio Goes, the series is produced by Amazon, and is like a fly on the wall documentary that follows the Brazilian football team after they have won the 2019 Copa tournament. The Brazilian born singer/songwriter has produced an interesting score and further cements his place as an original artist in the world of film and TV music with this latest soundtrack.
Of course if there is nothing that interests you in this latest edition of Soundtrack Supplement, I suppose you could always click onto to Spotify and find, the soundtrack from the latest Netflix movie, EUROVISION SONG CONTEST-THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA. Which actually has some nice orchestral work by composer Atli Orvarsson, which is condensed into one six minute and twenty second cue on the release, and an onslaught of quirky, over the top, cheezy songs? No! (well you do surprise me) ok see you next time.
There have been many filmmakers that have written, produced, and directed movies and have also acted as the composer of the musical score too. There have also been filmmakers that have tracked their movies with music that is already known by various artists placed previously composed and at times established themes onto their production. Quentin Tarantino comes to mind in more recent times, for using music from other movies within his, in effect acting as a music supervisor. Stanley Kubrick with 2001 A SPACE ODDYSEY must be top of the list for utilizing already written pieces and using them effectively in his masterpiece. These talented individuals are few and far between, but I am pleased to announce that we have one amongst us right now who composes the music for his movies, so for me he is a step above the directors who track music onto their productions.
Thomas Clay is a composer, Director, film editor and writer. He has been working on this film project for some time and at last his efforts have come to fruition in the form of the feature film, FANNY LYE DELIVER’D, for which he has written the original score. I say original because it fits squarely into that category, the atmospheric and absorbing soundtrack has an affecting presence as soon as one begins to listen to it. I will say to those of you who maybe are a little cautious of director/composers, don’t worry, give this a chance, ok, it is on first listen somewhat difficult to grasp, but stay with it because once you begin to delve deeper and listen more intensely it is a soundtrack that I know you will adore. I began to listen and after the first three cues I got to thinking that the instrumentation sounds faithful for the period in which the movie is set, which is the mid-17th Century. But, the way in which the instruments are purveying the music initially seems somewhat strange, however it is a sound and an overall style of composition and performance of these compositions that soon begins to come together and make perfect musical sense to any listener. I say any listener, but I mean this listener.
The music is in a word superb, it is a score that I will say right here and now I would love to see become nominated and hopefully win the OSCAR, BAFTA and GOLDEN GLOBE for best original score, because it is spilling over with originality and brimming with an inventive and innovative style. Although this is a soundtrack fashioned and created in 2020, it has within it sounds, phrases, motifs and nuances that are straight out of the Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry and Ennio Morricone book of how to score a movie, and score a movie well. The music is polished and wonderfully melodic and contains a quality that I have to say I have not heard in a long while.
The opening cue OLD SOLDIERS evokes the style of Ennio Morricone, the composer utilising to great effect, choir and strings that act as support to a beautifully flawless trombone performance by Joergen Van Rijan, this is a simple and slightly understated opening which reminded me somewhat of the DESERT OF THE TARTARS, its trombone lead being unusual but also at the same time sounding perfect, the composer adding subtle use of percussion that has a martial style as the cue reaches its conclusion. DRESSING UP, (track number 2) is a lighter piece, which contains two delightful performances by Swedish lutenist Jakob Lindberg and British recorder player Piers Adams, who is also a member of the baroque group Red Priest.
These performances blend and compliment each other whilst being supported and given a tempo or beat using tambourine with a fleeting trumpet solo adding depth to the piece with subdued but brief employment of underlining strings. It is a tantalising and haunting composition, that has an air of joyfulness to it.
The score for me was a delight to listen to, we have here a new movie, set in the mid-17th Century, that boasts a score that is arguably one of the finest I have ever heard for an independent movie production. I say it is an original work because it is, but at the same time I hear influences from a number of composers, but this at the same time does not make it less than innovative or weaker in its inventiveness. Every composer in the world has been influenced by someone or something, even a half heard sound that trickles into the subconscious and lodges there can emerge years later, with film music it is what the composers does with it, as in how they present it, arrange it and more importantly how they place it. Thomas Clay has simply got it right on this score, he fashions pleasing and dramatic themes, melancholy interludes and tense driving pieces that all combine and interweave to create a score that is richly entertaining. Its style and sound are a combination of spaghetti western, romantic drama, thriller, Horror and adventure. It also features several soloists and a chorale group.
Which is why this score is such a wonderfully diverse and attractive work. Cornetto player Andrea Inghisciano collaborates with singers I Fagiolini on the cue, THE TRUTH (track number 8), strident strings and timpani introduce the piece, the timpani fading and the strings becoming more mysterious as the Cornetto solo commences, both strings and cornetto fusing and rising to create a haunting almost ghostly sound, voices are then introduced, which again create an air of mystery these are supported by a short tremolo effect on the strings that also underline the closure of the track. Andrea Inghisciano also collaborates with trombonist Joergen Van Rijen on track number 6, SECOND MORNING which is a subdued but beautiful composition, with trombone taking the lead enhanced by strings, the composer also bringing into the equation brass that builds with the strings to create a triumphant sounding crescendo of sorts that certainly hits the correct emotional spots.
APPROACH OF THE SHERIFF (track number 7) is I think one of the more robust and action led pieces on the soundtrack, oozing with an urgent and driving musical persona that is purveyed by brass and percussive elements and struck strings, that when combined create a striking and tense sound. The track THE TRUTH (Track number 8) also has to it an urgent style, which is performed by Andrea Inghisciano and I Fagiolini. There is such a wealth of variation within this score that it is difficult at times to comprehend that it is all from the same work.
Having seen the movie, I was impressed how the music heightened the tension and added a greater depth and atmosphere to the proceedings. Within the score there are references to the spaghetti western scores of the 1960’s, and this is a style that is also present within the movie, with close ups of eyes, faces etc, the way in which the film is scored in my opinion is also similar to that of many Italian made westerns, with the music becoming part of the action and the storyline, plus adding a near operatic feel to the proceedings. But what I was struck by more than anything was the way that the composer utilised real instruments and vocalists and fashioned themes and developed them throughout, underlining, punctuating, caressing and at times ingratiating the movie with these. The music is filled with a plethora of colours and textures, one moment being brooding and dark and then altering its stance and style to purvey a more romantic or melancholy mood. The film for me personally evoked memories of WITCHFINDER GENERAL and A FIELD IN ENGLAND.
The cinematography is stunning, with misty landscapes of the English countryside captured beautifully by Giorgos Arvanitis, who is known for his work on O VALTOS in the early 1970’s and other movies such as SUCH A LONG ABSENCE and more recently BLIND SUN in 2015. The cast too are impressive in their roles, Maine Peake and Charles Dance being the most striking.
The story opens in 1657, and the storyline focuses upon an isolated farm in the county of Shropshire. Where a family has made their home, Fanny (Maxine Peake) is the dutiful downtrodden wife who is married to an ex-Captain John (Charles Dance) who fought in the English Civil War against the King. They have a young son Arthur and as a family follow the strict lives of Puritans.
However, when a young couple played by Freddie Fox and Tanya Reynolds arrive and take shelter in the barn one day whilst the family are at worship, the Lye’s commitment to the Puritan faith and lifestyle is challenged and begins to falter because of the new and extreme ideas that are brought into their world by the two visitors. The couple are being pursued by a sadistic and unforgiving Sherriff and his odious henchman, who track them to the Lye’s family home. For a movie that takes place in one location and only having a handful of key characters the director gifts us a story that is intense and raw but at the same time thought provoking violent and intimate.
The ending is superbly done, but I will not spoil it for you, I urge you to seek this movie out, but more importantly for Movie Music International followers, please check out Thomas Clay’s richly vibrant and wonderfully inventive score. The end titles music is also something to savour and enjoy, MARCH TO JOY is a new take on ODE TO JOY but given a totally new rendition, Beethoven meets spaghetti western, now that has got you curious.
If I was to be asked to name one film studio that I thought had shaped the minds and also captured the hearts of a nation I think it must be honest and say Ealing studios and the films they produced throughout the 1930’s through to the 1950’s. But let us also not forget the other film studios that were active in Gt Britain during the 1930’s right through until the 1970.s. There are within this collection of motion pictures many titles that are now regarded as classics, and for me anyway they became essential weekend afternoon viewing on the television making empty Saturday afternoons and late Saturdays nights that extended into Sunday more bearable. When I was younger and right up to the 1980,s I would say, there was at least one British made black and white film production being shown on the television every week, whether it was on the BBC or the Independent channels in the UK. Stars (I mean real stars) such as Alec Guinness, Alistair Simms, Hugh Griffith, Stanley Holloway, Thora Hird, Benny Hill, Peggy Cummings and David Niven all featured. And via these and other convincing performances by so many iconic actors we as a movie going audience started to build up an affection with not only the films, but the ever familiar faces that we saw on screen, and I think this is an affection that continues to this day and has been passed down to younger generations.
Their style and mostly their humour transcended into later productions and influenced films such as THOSE MAGNIFICENT MENT IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES, MONTE CARLO OR BUST and to a degree films such as THE OBLONG BOX and TV shows like HERES HARRY, HANCOCKS HALF HOUR and BOOTSIE AND SNUDGE and even maybe went a little further in 1970’s sit coms such as ON THE BUSES, BLESS THIS HOUSE and GEORGE AND MILDRED. The same can be said for dramas thrillers and horrors they were produced during this furtive period and certainly the war movies such as REACH FOR THE SKY, THE CRUEL SEA and I WAS MONTYS DOUBLE to name three had a lasting influence on later productions such as WHERE EAGLES DARE, 633 SQUADRON and their like.
To pick out one or even two films and mark them as superior or as favourites I think is almost impossible, the quality and inventiveness of the productions being second to none, whether they be comedies, dramas or of any subject matter. Only the other night Talking pictures the TV channel, screened GUNS IN THE DARKNESS(1962) which was a great movie, starring Leslie Caron, David Niven and the wonderful James Robinson Justice, a lesser known example of British film drama but one that was well acted, wonderfully directed and scored by Benjamin Frankel. The film was directed by Anthony Asquith, and produced by Associated British Pictures, and Cavalcade films.
The British studios that were active in the aforementioned decades commissioned many great composers to score the movies that they released, Sir William Walton for example and George Auric, John Addison, Ernest Irving, Eric Rogers are all names that featured on the credits of many of these movies, and later as the 1950’s unfolded composers such as James Bernard, Richard Rodney Bennet, Malcolm Williamson, Clifton Parker, etc began to also feature in films produced by the likes of Hammer Pictures who were re-inventing many of what were seen as classic horror tales as produced originally by Universal in the U.S.A.
So, I thought it might be interesting to look at these studios and also investigate the films and the musical heritage left by them. A heritage that was created by so many talented composers, who were in certain cases at the early stages of their careers and some accidentally at times stumbling into film music composition because of their ties with so called serious music. Mention Ealing, British lion, Renown etc and people straight away think of the many comedies that they released, but it was not all about comedy, one movie that has lodged in my memory is WENT THE DAY WELL? A war movie with a difference, and one I am certain inspired the author Jack Higgins to write his novel THEEAGLE HAS LANDED.
Released in May 1942 whilst the second world war was still being fought, the movie was directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, based upon a story by Graham Greene, with a score composed by Sir William Walton. It Focuses upon a small English village, BRAMBLEY END where the war seems to be almost put on a back burner, until that is it is taken over by German Paratroopers, who arrive in the village disguised as typical British tommy’s, the movie was a semi unofficial propaganda film, produced by Michael Balcon and displayed the real fear that many British people felt at the time of a German invasion, although by the time the film was released these concerns had somewhat dissipated, because the Battle of Britain had been fought in the skies some two years previous and any real threat of invasion had been averted. Nonetheless WENT THE DAY WELL? Was a masterful and a gripping piece of cinema.
The score by Walton was quite sparse, in that there was not a great deal of music in the movie, but Walton was known at times to write short scores and use his music sparingly not swamping the movie he was working on with music, allowing the actors and the storyline to grow, and the audience to absorb the films ongoing story. In Hollywood however the style was the opposite for many productions, with many American composers doing the opposite and almost smothering films with music, at times the score running continuously, like a musical wallpaper, that did not support or enhance, but was just in effect there.
The style that Walton employed on many movies from this period would eventually deal him a great blow in the late 1960’s when because of the composers meticulous and precise way of writing which was time consuming and also for producing a score of a short running time led to his work for THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN being rejected by the film’s producers, with only one cue remaining on the finished print which was BATTLE IN THE AIR, the remainder of the score being written by composer Ron Goodwin. In later years, many aficionados of movie music agreed that the Walton score was a worthy addition to the composers already impressive canon. With the DVD of the film being released containing both the Goodwin and Walton scores available for the viewer to listen to and reach their own conclusion, the rejection and replacing of the score was done so quickly that a number of prints of the movie were released into British cinemas crediting Walton for the score that was conducted by Malcolm Arnold.
British studios produced so many movies that I think we have to agree are classics, they are films that are iconic and also important within the history of cinema, many being simple romps that were a slice of escapism, with other examples at times being based upon true events and were seen as not only entertaining and informative but thought provoking. Then there were other examples such as the Ealing picture DEAD OF NIGHT, released in 1945, this is a horror anthology, which included four different stories, directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Basil Dearden, Charles Crichton and Robert Hamer, four filmmakers that figured large in the Ealing studios output.
The movie had a strong cast that included, Googie Withers, Sally Ann Howes, Michael Redgrave and Mervyn Jones. The film is still today hailed as a remarkable and unsettling piece of cinema, the concluding section of the movie, which features an evil ventriloquists dummy being the most memorable and harrowing. It is true to say that DEAD OF NIGHT was the inspiration for the handful of horror anthologies that were produced in later years by the likes of Hammer, Tyburn and Amicus films as in VAULT OF HORROR.The last story in the quartet of films also it is said served as inspiration for later movies such as MAGIC, which starred Anthony Hopkins.
During the war years films that were of the Horror variety were banned from being produced, so Ealing were treading on unfamiliar ground with DEAD OF NIGHT, but it was a gamble that paid off as the film is probably one of the most successful British films from the 1940’s. Although the movie was essentially a horror picture, it did contain elements of comedy, which is what Ealing became more remembered for.
The music for DEAD OF NIGHT was the work of French born composer George Auric, who also became a music critic, he scored a number of movies for Ealing studios, many of them such as PASSPORT TO PIMLICO, HUE AND CRY, THE LAVENDER HILL MOB and THE TITFIELD THUNDERBOLT, becoming firm favourites of cinema audiences. But he was not under contract to score just films produced by British studios, the composer wrote the soundtracks for a wide variety of movies and worked in France on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and wrote a suitably majestic and romantic soundtrack for CAESER AND CLEOPATRA in 1945, as well as scoring MOULIN ROGUE for John Huston and in 1961 produced a superb score for THE INNOCENTS a screenplay adapted from the story THE TURN OF THE SCREW and directed by Jack Clayton, it starred Deborah Kerr. I was always attracted to the music of Auric, I remember that he utilised solo trumpet a great deal within his scores as well as strings.
The composer had a style which I considered to be rather like that of Walton, but at times when required he could adapt and alter his style and the sound achieved became a little more flamboyant.
He displayed a great versatility in his work and specifically within his film scores and excelled when writing for comedies in particular, the composer seemed to be able to purvey the correct amount of comedic tone but also had the ability to incorporate more romantic and melancholy sounding themes into his soundtracks. PASSPORT TO PIMLICO is probably one of his better known Ealing comedies, the composer fashioning a not only highly enhancing work but an entertaining one, that in later years when sections were re-recorded took on a life all of their own away from the images on screen, but re-kindled fond memories of the movie and its stars. George Auric was born in Lodeve Herault in France on February 15th 1899, he was associated and considered to be one of Les Six which was a group of artists who worked with and were mentored by Erike Satie and Jean Cocteau. Auric was a prolific composer and also an arranger and orchestrater. Before the composer had reached his twenties, he had already orchestrated and composed music for ballets and stage productions. Which would stand him in good stead when he began to write for the motion picture industry. His involvement with music began at an early age, he would perform piano recitals when he was twelve years of age and several of his songs were performed as he reached his teens at The Societe Nationale de Musique.
Auric also studied at the Paris Conservatory and was schooled in composition by Vincent D’Indy and Albert Roussel at the Schola Cantorum de Paris. Auric was a recognised child prodigy and because of his abundant talent became the protégé of Erik Satie, from 1910 through to 1920, he contributed many pieces to the world of Avant-garde music in the French capital. It was in the 1930.s that the composer began to write for film, scoring the movie A NOUS LA LIBERTE in 1931, the movie itself was criticised heavily for its communist themes, but the score that Auric penned was well received. In 1931 he composed a piano sonata which was It seemed at one point that although the composer’s music for films was being applauded his music for the concert hall was entering a period of stagnation, his 1931 piano sonata received very little recognition and this led the composer to enter into a five year period where he wrote very little apart from three film scores. The composer’s friendship with Cocteau continued during this period and Auric penned the score for his LE SANG D’UN POETE. But by 1935 had decided to write for what he called a younger audience and began to compose music that he thought would reach a more general audience rather than the elitist few he had been previously associated with. He also began to attempt to express his own political views via the way he wrote music, and between 1935 and 1945 worked on a variety of pictures all of which were French language productions, these included.
THE MYSTERIES OF PARIS (1935), THE MESSENGER, THE ALIBI, THE RED DANCER, (all 1937), THE LAFARGE CASE (1938), BEAUTIFUL ADVENTURE (1942) AND FRANCOIS VILLON (1945). It was also in 1945 that he began to score British pictures his first being DEAD OF NIGHT for Ealing studios. The rest as they say is history. Auric died on the 23rd July 1983.
Alan Rawsthorne was a composer who was prolific in the writing of music for British films, his scores for THE CAPTIVE HEART, WEST OF ZANZIBAR, WHERE NO VULTRES FLY and THE CRUEL SEA being classics in every sense of the word. The composer scored a handful of films for the Ealing studios, THE CRUEL SEA and WHERE NO VULTRES FLY to name but two, his style was grand and dramatic, often with emphasise upon rasping or exciting brass, that was accompanied by strident and melodious strings underlined and punctuated by percussion and timpani. In many ways his film music resembled both William Walton and William Alwyn in style and sound, it had to it a patriotic and proud aura, which was perfect for the type of movies he worked upon. Alan Rawsthorne was born in Haslingden, in the county of Lancashire on May 2nd, 1905. He studied at the Royal college of music from 1926 through to 1930 and then in Berlin from 1930 to 1931, where he was tutored by Egon Petri.
As well as his film music Rawsthorne composed for chamber orchestra and the concert hall. He died on July 24th 1971, in Cambridge England.
From films scored in the 1930’s and 1940’s.to a film that was made in 1951 and contained a score by British composer Richard Addinsell. SCROOGE starring Alistair Sim, was in my opinion the quintessential cinematic version of the classic story A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens. Released by Renown pictures and produced and directed Brian Desmond Hurst, this is a film that never ages, it entertains and keeps giving even after all these years. The score too by Addinsell, is an accomplished one, a large symphonic work that is overflowing with melodies and filled with an air of festive cheer and apprehension. The composer underlining both the miserly and miserable persona of Scrooge, whilst at the same time providing a light and airy sense of carefree thematic material for the likes of Tiny Tim and his long-suffering Father and employee of Scrooge, Bob Cratchit.
It is without a doubt a musical work that deserves the label classic, and one of the best scores from that period in British cinema. Richard Addinsell, was born in London on the 13th of January 1904, one of his many popular compositions was from the movie DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT, for which the composer penned the dramatic, haunting and now classic piece called The Warsaw Concerto, which was brought to greater life by the wonderful orchestration of Roy Douglas. The film’s producers had told Addinsell that they wanted something in a similar style to Rachmaninov and Addinsell obliged them with The Warsaw Concerto, the music became an instant success and was recorded by numerous artists and has to date sold well over five million copies, the piece was released on many recordings and appealed to three sets of fans, the classical market, the popular market and also admirers of film music and it is still to this day performed regularly as a standard concert/film music piece. Addinsell studied at Oxford University and then later at The Royal College of Music in London. The composer began his career by writing songs for revues and providing stage productions with incidental music. In 1928 he wrote the incidental score for ADAMS OPERA which was by writer Clemence Dante, and this was the beginning of a collaborative partnership that was to endure until Dante,s death. Addinsell also on many occasions wrote music for and accompanied singer Joyce Grenfell, who became a close friend. During the early 1930, s the composer travelled to the United States and there began to write music for a few Hollywood motion pictures.
The composers first major film score was to be GOODBYE MR CHIPS in 1939, but his greatest success however was to be his music for the film Dangerous Moonlight, which included the Warsaw Concerto for piano and orchestra. On the actual film score the concerto was performed by Louis Kentner with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the great Muir Mathieson.
Addinsell’s film scores included, Amateur Gentleman (1936 for Alexandre Korda), Fire Over England (1937), South Riding (1937), Goodbye Mr Chips (1939), Gaslight (1940), The Lion Has Wings (1940), Men of the Lightship (1940), Love on the Dole (1941), Suicide Squadron (1941), The Avengers (1942), Blithe Spirit (1945), A Diary for Timothy (1945), Passionate Friends (1949), Under Capricorn (1949), The Black Rose (1950), A Christmas Carol (1950-aka SCROOGE) ,Highly Dangerous (1951), Tom Brown’s School Days (1951), Encore (1952), Sea Devils (1953), Beau Brummel (1954), Out of the Clouds (1957), The Admirable Crichton (1957) for which he received no credit, The :Prince and the Showgirl (1957), A Tale of Two Cities (1958), Loss of Innocence (1961), Macbeth (1961), The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (1961), Waltz of the Toreadors (1962), and Life at the Top which was the composers last film score in 1965. He passed away on November 14th 1977.
For the next film and score we stay with the writings of Charles Dickens, and to probably his most well-known tale OLIVER TWIST, directed by David Lean in 1948, the musical score was by The Master of the Kings Music no less, Sir Arnold Bax. The score is as windswept, jolly and as desperately heartrending as the tale of the orphan who runs away to the streets of London to find fame and fortune, but all he finds is? Well you know the story.
The score does much to add a greater sense of drama to the proceedings and makes a good movie a classic one. Again, there is a sense of pride and also an air of the regal within the score, strings play a major part within the work, supported by ample use of the brass section and thundering and ominous sounding percussion. Bax was born on November 8th 1883, in Streatham London, his family was wealthy and he was always encouraged to pursue a career in music. Because he was already wealthy it meant that he could follow the career path that he wanted to and write music that he wanted to also. Whilst still studying at the Royal College of Music Bax became fascinated to the point of obsessed by the Ireland and the Celtic culture. During the years leading up to the First World War he lived in Ireland and whilst there became a member of the Dublin literary circle, writing fiction and verse under the alias of Dermot O’ Byrne, later he developed a keen interest in Nordic culture and this interest remain till well after the end of WW l.
In 1942, Bax was appointed the Master of the Kings Music, but it is ironic that he wrote very little music whilst in the position, during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s many regarded his music as being old fashioned, and it was rarely heard in concert, but after his death in Ireland from heart failure in 1953, it seemed to enjoy a resurgence in popularity. Bax, was not that active or prolific when it came to writing music for film, and his two other scores MALTA G.C. and JOURNEY INTO HISTORY are both for short films.
Sir Arthur Bliss is another composer who is linked with cinema in Britain. His most well-known score being for the Alexander Korda movie THINGS TO COME from 1936. The film focuses upon a period of war that has lasted for many years and the story of one forward thinking and coherent State that decides to rebuild the infrastructure and the ethics of civilization whilst eventually making strident steps to attempt space travel. The score for THINGS TO COME, is itself a ground-breaking work. Bliss was a composer associated with the composition of symphonies, choral works and Ballets as opposed to the writing of musical scores for films, but in the 1930’s many producers of movies sought out established names within the classical or serious music arena maybe to bring sort of credibility to film music in those early days of both sound pictures and music as in original scores for motion pictures.
Bliss trained under Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst, and began his career writing Avant garde pieces, however as his career progressed and the 1940’s began the composer turned to a more conservative or conventional fashion of composition. In 1950, the composer was Knighted and three years later in 1953, he was invited to become the Master of the Queens music. Like Sir Arnold Bax, Bliss concentrated more upon music for the concert hall, and only occasionally ventured into the world of writing scores for film. Bliss was born in London on August 2nd 1891, his film credits include, THINGS TO COME (1936), SEVEN WAVES AWAY (1957) and AN AGE OF KINGS (1960). He died on March 28th, 1975 in London England. The composers music for THINGS TO COME was something of contentious subject with the author of the story H.G.Wells. Wells, admitted himself that he had no real understanding of the way music worked in the context of film, but despite this expressed specific ideas as to how he thought that the score should be utilised within the movie. Wells, insisted that Bliss write the score, a work which he had completed in the early part of 1935, and then sent copies of it to Sir Henry Wood who started to work on arranging it into a seven movement work.
One section of the score entitled IDYLL was not used in the film which was due to the sequence being dropped from the production as Korda was experiencing financial difficulties, eventually because of the financial limitations and a looming deadline Korda decided to called in another arranger Lionel Slater and also asked Muir Mathieson to conduct the score. When the movie was released it received a very mixed reaction, but the music was applauded. Some of the score which had been recorded onto discs sold well, which was a first for music from a film.
Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Danny Green, Jack Warner, Frankie Howerd, Katie Johnson and Philip Stainton. An impressive cast list would you not agree? Yes, nowadays this would be called an all-star cast, but in 1955, this was normal for a cast in an Ealing production. THE LADYKILLERS is one of the most watched and discussed comedy thrillers to come out of a British studio during that period. The music for this iconic movie was the work of Tristram Cary, Born in Oxford England on May 14th, 1925, Tristram Ogilvie Cary was the third child of the novelist Joyce Cary and Gertrude Margaret Cary (nee Ogilvie). He was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford and Westminster School, London. He served in the Royal Navy between 1943 and 1946, which interrupted his education, whilst in the Navy; Cary developed independently the idea that was to eventually become tape music.
Upon his demob from the service, Cary took a BA at Oxford and then headed for London, where he studied composition, piano, horn, conducting and viola. The composer died in 2008, aged 82. I was fortunate enough to talk to the composer some years ago whilst interviewing composers who had scored Hammer films, I also asked the composer how he became involved with THE LADYKILLERS as it was the composers first foray into scoring a feature film.
“I had by this time already done some work for the BBC, the director of THE LADYKILLERS, Sandy Mackendrick had been listening to some of my music for BBC plays etc, consequently, he thought that my style of writing would be well suited to the black comedy that was THE LADYKILLERS. I went to Ealing and had some discussions, pretending that I was very experienced in the art of scoring movies, (which of course was not the case), and they knew that. Any way, they asked me to submit a couple of test sections, which I did. These two sections were recorded at the end of another recording session which turned out to be a John Addison score. Anyway, they laid these tracks to the film and they seemed to like them, because the very next day, they offered me the job. I was good friends with Sandy afterwards, and I last saw him a few years before his death in Los Angeles”.
Cary went on to score numerous British movies, plus he also worked on TV shows such as DR.WHO for the BBC. As his career progressed, he moved more into the world of electronic music, and was one of the pioneers who was responsible for creating and perfecting this type of musical content in movies. He started an association with Hammer films in the 1960’s as he recalled.
“I did Quatermass and the Pit in 1967, and then in 1972 I returned to Hammer to work on the music for Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. I cannot remember how I got involved with Hammer, 1967 was a frantically busy year for me, I am sure that it was Phil Martell who called me asking me to write the score for Quatermass. I have to be honest and say that I was not keen on the idea of doing the score, there was a lot of work to do, they wanted masses of electronic music plus a great deal of orchestral music also, but I had three kids to feed all of whom were in fee-paying schools and I needed every penny I could get, so of course I said yes”.
A composer who was active in the scoring of British movies during the 1950.s was John Veale. Born John Douglas Louis Veale in Bromley Kent on June 15th,1922, composer John Veale, is again one of the driving and original forces within British concert hall and film music that is at times sadly overlooked. Veale attended the Dragon School in Oxford from 1930 through to 1936, and then later went to Repton school which was in Derbyshire from 1936 up until 1940. After this Veale attended The Corpus Christi College in Oxford until 1942 where he studied History. Even when he was a young child Veale took a keen interest in music, which was something of a surprise as none of his family as in his parents or siblings were musically inclined, although his Father did like to listen to Gilbert and Sullivan. It was the arrival of his new music teacher in 1939, John Gardener who opened the young composers mind to other composers and widened his appreciation of the classical music world, in the form of Sibelius and Shostakovich that really fired up Veale’s interest in composition. It was Gardener who also introduced Veale to the work of William Walton via a performance of Walton’s first symphony.
Veale also became interested in the music of Bartok, Bax, Ravel, Vaughn Williams, Rawsthorne and Barber. All of which made a lasting impression upon him and shaped the way in which he fashioned his own music in the following years. During the second world war, Veale spent his war service in the Education Corps, and during this time he continued to study music unofficially with Egon Wellesz and had lessons from Sir Thomas Armstrong in harmony and counterpoint. After the war he began to write incidental music for the theatre, and it was a piece of music from one such production LOVES LABOURS LOST (1947) that began Veale’s involvement in writing for films, the composer sent a copy of his score for the production to Muir Mathieson, who after seeing it asked Veale to write music for The Crown Film Unit, it was via this assignment that Veale met conductor John Hollingsworth, who was assistant to Sir Malcolm Sargent. Veale then became friends and moved in musical circles with many of the most respected composers of that period, Elizabeth Lutyens, William Walton, Humphrey Searle, Constant Lambert, Alan Rawsthorne plus poets and writers such as Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis.
It was around 1954 that Veale returned to writing music for film, John Hollingsworth attended a performance of the composer’s clarinet concerto and had heard that Muir Mathieson was looking for a composer to write the score for THE PURPLE PLAIN which was a movie that starred American actor Gregory Peck. After hearing Veale’s clarinet concerto Hollingsworth spoke with Mathieson, who agreed that Veale would be right for the film. The score was a great success for the composer and this led to other film scoring assignments that included, WAR IN THE AIR which was a documentary for television and the feature films, PORTRAIT OF ALISON-aka POSTMARK FOR DANGER (1955) and THE SPANISH GARDENER(1956) which starred the then British heart throb Dirk Bogarde. John Veale may not have written the scores to that many movies, but the few he did write were impressive and filled with rich thematic material. He battled prostate cancer for many years and had to leave Oxford and return to Bromley where he resided in a care home, he died on November 16th, 2006.
Edwin Astley is a composer that we normally associate with Television themes and scores, but he also wrote for the cinema, one movie that stands out probably because it was such an oddball comedy is THE MOUSE THAT ROARED (1959). Edwin Thomas Astley was born in Warrington in 1922. His father was a manual worker mostly working on building sites. Astley left school before he was sixteen and started work at the age of 14 working in an office where ovens were made. He was always attracted to music and took a keen interest in all things musical. He was given a violin by a relative and decided that he wanted to make music a career. He joined the R.A.S.C. band when he was still a teenager and took up the clarinet and saxophone, by the time he had reached his 18th birthday Astley was not only performing music but was arranging it for the band. In 1945 he won a cash prize for a song that he had co-written and was lucky enough to have it recorded by Dame Vera Lynn no less. It was also at this time that he met and married Hazel Balbirnie. After leaving the army Astley joined the Peter Pease dance band and soon had become accomplished enough to lead his own band, he re-located to London and was given a job at the music publishers Francis, Day and Hunter where he acted as an arranger for various vocalists. During the late 1950, s Astley moved into writing music for television, one of his first being ROBIN HOOD which became a popular series with adults and children alike. Another early TV series that he worked on was THEBUCCANEERS which led to him becoming involved on THE SAINT and DANGER MAN. In later years he worked on RANDALL AND HOPKIRK DECEASED and also provided some of the scores for THE PERSUADERS. He also worked on movies from as early as 1959, the aforementioned THE MOUSE THAT ROARED for example and in 1962, composed the score for Hammer films version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, which included an original operatic composition and in 1973 wrote a serviceable soundtrack for DIGBY:THE BIGGEST DOG IN THE WORLD.
During the late 1970,s Astley went into semi-retirement, and moved to the countryside, but even there he could not stay away from music, he constructed a recording studio at his home and installed a number of synthesisers and started to work on building a music library. He died in Goring, Oxfordshire on May 19th, 1998.
The Boulting Brothers also contributed much to pre war and post war British cinema, one film I remember is SEVEN DAYS TO NOON, the score was the debut work of composer John Addison, released in 1950, it starred Barry Jones and was directed by John Boulting and produced by his Brother Roy. It is a tense thriller, that interestingly was written by Paul Dehn and James Bernard, yes, the same James Bernard who would later compose the ominous sounding DRACULA theme for Hammer films. He recalled his involvement with this in interview with me back in the 1990’s.
“Basically, Paul and I concocted this story and Paul wrote it down,” recalled the composer, “We then sold it to Boulting Brothers, and to our surprise got Oscars for our trouble. The ceremony that we had was quite different from all the glittering razzmatazz that we see nowadays, in fact it was not a ceremony at all. We did not get to go and receive our awards in America; we found out that we had won via an article in one of the London evening papers. A few weeks later a representative from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences arrived at our home in Chelsea, with him he had a cardboard box, which contained our Oscars. It was a case of one quick drink, a handshake and, well, that was it really, no fanfares and certainly no lengthy acceptance speeches”.
A composer who contributed much to British cinema productions and is very rarely mentioned is Francis Chagrin. Born Alexander Paucker on November 15th 1905 in Bucharest Romania Chagrin’s Jewish parents insisted that he should pursue a career in Engineering, so whilst studying for a degree in engineering Chagrin unbeknown to his parents was also studying music at The Zurich music conservatory. He graduated from the conservatory in 1928, but soon left home and moved to Paris because his family refused to support him in his musical career. It is at this time he changed his name so that it sounded more French. Whilst in the French capital the young musician earned a living and further funded his musical ambitions by performing in some of the many nightclubs and cafes, and also turning his hand to composing songs that became popular. He was also doing further studies at this time with Paul Dukas and Nadia Boulanger, in 1936 Chagrin decided to leave France and relocate to England, where he settled. In 1940 and throughout the war years he was appointed the composer in charge of music for the French service and in particular the programme, Les Francais Parlent Aux Francais. He scored his first movie in 1939, which was a British production entitled THE SILENT BATTLE which starred Rex Harrison.
The composer worked on wide variety of movies from 1939 through to 1963, with titles such as THE COLDITZ STORY, THE BEACHCOMBER, SIMBA, LAW AND DISORDER, THE INTRUDER and GREYFRIARS BOBBY being his better known works, the composer also worked for Hammer films in 1958, providing the score for THE SNORKEL. In 1959 he composed the stirring theme and the dramatic background scores for the TV series FOUR JUST MEN, which starred Dan Daley, Vittorio De Sica, Jack Hawkins and Richard Conte. He died on November 10th 1972. His rich melodies and vibrant dramatic compositions served each project well and the composer left a luxurious sounding musical legacy which should be cherished and applauded.
A common link between many of the scores for British films was the musical director that studios often looked to for securing the services of composers that were suitable for each picture. The names of Muir Mathieson, John Hollingsworth, Phillip Martell etc are often displayed on the credits for movies, and it is true to say that without these MD.s or conductors, musical supervisors, many scores for British movies would have probably sounded very different.
They encouraged new talent and enlisted the help of established concert hall/classical composers such as Walton, Vaughn Williams, Richard Rodney Bennet, James Bernard and their like, and in essence they helped to shape and create a sound and a style that is now synonymous with the golden age of British cinema which for me was from the mid 1930’s through to the late 1950’s. Paving the way for the composers of the 1960’s to build upon the strong foundations that had been put in place. There are so many UNSUNG heroes of British film music, whos music also established the style that is now associated with British productions, Douglas Gamley, John Ireland, Brian Easdale, Charles Williams, Bruce Montgomery and Temple Abady. Then there were the composers who were active in the 1950.s and continued to work through to the 1970’s and beyond. John Addison, Stanley Myers, Malcolm Arnold etc.
Associated British Picture Corporation, Ealing Studios, Renown Films, British Lion, Hammer Films, Tigon, London Film are all names that are synonymous with British cinema and if I have omitted to mention any others I apologise. Each had their own role in contributing to the great British cinema, each were different but all of them produced films that had entertaining storylines, convincing acting performances and polished direction, cinematography, and production. They also boasted some of the most inspiring and memorable film music scores that have been written for Cinema.
What would you say were your earliest memories of any kind of music and were your family musically inclined?
One of my strongest memory is of an audio tape my parents used to listen in the car. It was a music sampler including Apache by the Shadows, Good vibrations by The Beach boys and an excerpt from Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Belles (an album I would rediscover many years later and still adore now). I just loved to listen to these songs. My parents like music, they listen to Jazz and French pop but that’s about it. There is no known musician in the family.
A lot of your music is realized via syhnths etc, but the sound you achieve sounds like it is being performed by conventional instruments with live performances, what software etc do you use, and what percentage of the scores are performed by live players?
I have not had the opportunity to work with live players yet on documentaries projects. I use synths and sound samples libraries: Vienna libraries, Native Instruments, East West softwares, Cine-samples softwares… I use a lot of these, and some are really wonderful.
You wrote the score for a documentary on Hammer films, did you do a great deal of research before starting work on the score?
I didn’t need to do much research: I was already familiar with the works of James Bernard, Harry Robinson etc… I particularly love Twins of Evil by Robinson (wonderful main title!). I also had seen many of those movies and knew the kind of sound they used.
I loved the score for PEPLUM, the sound you managed to create was in many ways so much like the original scores for many of these movies, were you familiar with the genre and its music before you were asked to write the score?
Oh yes, I had seen a lot of Peplum’s and loved their scores (Alfred Newman’s The Robe is one of my favourites, as well as many Rozsa…) and of course I knew the more recent of them (Gladiator, Troy…) The classic peplum genre has such a distinctive sound, brassy, masculine and thematic. I love it. And at the same time, PEPLUM was an opportunity to give it a synthy spin, mating it with 70’s and 80’s electronica – A shared taste with director and long time collaborator and friend Jérôme Korkikian.
When you are asked to write the music for a project, what is your starting point, do you look at a script or do you spot the film with the director and then decide what musical route you will follow?
The starting point is always to discuss the film with the director, to get as much information as possible about his point of view, his needs and how he sees the film. Often, at this stage, the film is not edited at all and I get to see some rushes to have a first feel of the story. Then I compose while the film is being edited, working on ideas and specific scenes the director mentioned. After that, when some sequences are edited, I get to work on them more specifically. But the bulk of the work is done during the editing.
You did a series of documentary films about NAPOLEON, great music, how did you become involved on these scores?
Director and producer Jean-Louis Molho contacted me after having heard and liked some of my work. I did some demo and easily got the job – a dream job: Napoleon’s life gave me the opportunity to score exciting elements: battles, romance, more battles, victory… and defeats! The score blends traditional orchestral elements, world music and electronics. It was a real pleasure as I love to work with these elements!
What musical education did you receive?
I’m musically self-taught: I learned slowly but always with pleasure. A great deal of my musical education consisted in listening to music, all kind of music, but more importantly soundtracks. I’m a big collector of soundtracks and, as they are themselves linked to all kinds of musical genres, it made me discover many kinds of music.
Do you think that it is still important for a film score to have thematic direction and a central theme that the audience can identify with?
Yes, I love thematic scoring. It represents and help identify and empathize with characters or situations. But all scores don’t have to be necessarily thematic, depending on the movie or the intent of the director. A main theme is the identity of the film and, when done well, it summarize the intents of the film, its heart. It’s an anchor for the audience.
On average how long does it take to work on a score and record it, maybe use PEPLUM as an example?
It varies, as I work in parallel with the editing. If they have some time to edit, I have the same time to compose. Of course, at this point I rarely have all the elements of the film, and sometime must wait to have the sequences to score them. I must keep a global feeling of the film while working on it in disorder. For Peplum, I think the all process took one month. The rare times were I had all the film already edited and completed (for the documentaries AU NOM DU FILS and BEN LADEN, LES RATES D’UNE TRAQUE), it took me two weeks to do the score.
Working on documentaries, I would imagine requires that you write a lot of music, probably a lot more than a feature film, do you get much input from producers or directors, or maybe requests that you compose something that sounds like Morricone, Goldsmith or Williams?
You are right, I compose sometimes way more music than is needed in the film. It’s because of the process of working during editing: first you submit many tracks to the director, and some of them are not used. Then, as the sequences get re edited, you have to re-score or adapt your material. And end up with many versions of the same music. Sometimes, the director gives me references of music he wants the score to sound like. It’s merely indication and is often useful to find the right tone he desires. Temp tracking happens, for certain sequences, but not that often as I work during editing.
You released a series of recordings which contained some wonderful music entitled THE SILENT MOVIE COLLECTION, could you tell us what this is?
In 2003, I was asked to rescore silent movies as part of a collection for French DVD reissue. Once more a very exciting project. Yet I had very few time to score them: one week for the 60 – 70 minutes ones (THE SHOCK, SHADOWS, BLIND HUSBANDS), two weeks for the 100 minutes WAY DOWN EAST and, thankfully, four weeks for my favourite: 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS. This one I recall more fondly as I had a very great time scoring it.
Do you score a movie in any set way, as in main titles through to end credits, or is every project different?
Every project is different. In the rare occasion when the film is already entirely completed, I like to work from beginning to end: it helps the music to grow and develop as the story goes. But when working while editing, I usually begin with main themes for the different aspects of the story. Then the sequences and ideas the director needs first. It’s impossible in these conditions to work chronologically.
What artists or composers have been your inspiration?
There are obviously movie music composers: James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Elmer Bernstein, Christopher Young, Basil Poledouris, Alan Silvestri, John Carpenter, Hans Zimmer, Graeme Revell, James Bernard, Miklos Rozsa, to quote but a few….Outside of the soundtrack genre, I am inspired by Tangerine Dream, Klaus Shultz, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Mike Oldfield… amongst others!!
Photo Ghislain VIDAL
What for you is the purpose of music in film?
Film music should enhance the movie, tell the audience what the others mediums don’t: the emotions, the feelings, the unsaid thoughts of the characters. It can also be a commentary on the film, the thoughts and ideas of the filmmakers.
What is next for you?
I just finished the score for a feature length film, HAPPY NIGHT, directed by Mustapha Ozgun that should be released in 2021. It’s a crime story and a drama that demanded a synthetic score. I really enjoyed scoring it!I am now working on a historical documentary for French TV about the Vicking Rollo, directed by Alban Vian. An extremely exciting project, once more!
FILM AND TELEVISION MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD AND MOVIE REVIEWS AND NEWS.