Category Archives: Biographical Essays

GENSHIN IMPACT CITY OF WINDS AND IDYLLS & GENSHIN IMPACT-THE WIND AND THE STAR TRAVELLER.

As a film music collector, I never would have thought that I would be attracted to music from video games or any sort of game to be fair. But in the last decade or so music for games of any sort has certainly come a long way. I sometimes think this is better than some of the film music that is being written today.  A recent video game GENSHIN IMPACT CITY OF WINDS AND IDYLLS contains a truly wonderful soundtrack, the composer credited is YU PENG CHEN and straight away I have to say that this is just a brilliant score, it is nearly two hours in duration and contains so many beautiful and affecting themes it is very difficult to come to terms with all of this emotive and quality music coming from just one video game.

It’s a soundtrack that has absolutely everything, intricate and subtle tone poems, female wordless voice and dramatic and driving passages that are inspiring and stirring. The composer utilises a wide range of instrumentation as in strings, brass, guitar, harp, woods and a scattering of percussion. The score which is spread over three discs is a delight to listen to and one that I returned to after my initial listen, but I also found myself going back to the start of certain tracks after I had heard them, it is honestly one of the best video game scores I have heard, in fact its one of the best scores from 2020 so far, I was thinking only the other day about the best of 2020 thus far, and I singled out four scores, I wont say what these are, but I hope that one of them will be in an awards list somewhere when the season for giving out awards begins. I now have to re-think that list and add this to it, along with another Yu Peng Chen, score for another game in the same series entitled  GENSHIN IMPACT-THE WIND AND THE STAR TRAVELLER which has music that is equally alluring and totally mesmerising.

Both soundtracks are MUST have items, the second score is shorter lasting just under half an hour but is just as affecting and haunting. There is a light and delicate sound within both works, the fragile and poignant themes wash over the listener and have about them a calming and attractive sound. These are two soundtracks that you have to at least investigate, both are on digital platforms,  will say if you are already a fan of the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Joe Hisaishi, then these two scores are for you. Lilting romantic sounds are showcased throughout, alongside proud and dramatically adventurous anthem like material. These are scores of immense diversity, vibrancy, and quality, highly recommended. Yu-Peng Chen, is known as Zhiyi Chen,  a film music composer, music producer and musical director based in Shanghai, China.

He is regarded as one of the most talented and versatile composers working in the film and music industry. His career has spanned some fifteen years thus far, and during this decade and a half he has scored not only a wide range of films, TV shows and video games, but has also written many popular songs influenced by traditional Chinese culture. Chen graduated with honours from the Shanghai Conservatory of music. During his studies the young composer received professional training in both music production and composition from renowned musicians like An Dong. Chen has worked with numerous artists from different cultural backgrounds, which assisted the composer in becoming more fluent in various genres of music and he was able to add more variety and cultural influences to his music, giving him more of a musical pallete from which he is able to add colour and texture to both film, television and video game projects. He has also collaborated with many famous directors and musicians including Jing Wang, Weiqiang Liu, Weimin Ye, An Dong, and Guangrong Chen.  He has also recorded with many world-class orchestras such as The Asian Philharmonic Orchestra, The China Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Budapest Film Symphony Orchestra. Chen has won several Chinese Academy Award nominations for his music from films such as LI BAOGUO and DA SHANGHAI. His music for THE FOUNDING OF AN ARMY, won him the best music in the Golden Deer Awards. His other films like ON FALLEN WINGS and PHANTOM OF THE THEATRE also received countless positive reviews and comments from critics and fans alike.

(Genshin Impact is a free-to-play action role-playing game developed and published by miHoYo. The game features a fantasy-based open world environment and action-based battle system, using elemental magic, character switching and uses gacha game monetization for players to obtain rare characters, weapons, and other resources. A multiplayer mode allows up to four players to play together in the world and also tackle certain dungeons within the game. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Android and iOS on September 28, 2020. The game is also planned for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 5).

UNSUNG HEROES OF ITALIAN FILM MUSIC.

ALDO PIGA.

Composer Aldo Piga is a Maestro that we very rarely hear about, and it is not often that the music of Piga is discussed, until recently that is, his romantically laced soundtrack for THE SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES (1960) was recently released on LP record, on Contempo records Italy, it was possibly the rarest unreleased Italian film score and one that has remained at the top of many collectors wants lists for years. The film is by todays standards quite tame, but it is an entertaining Italian horror, having to it some Bava influenced moments, made in black and white, which adds to the atmosphere and the mood of the film,

I have always enjoyed the movie, the opening sequence is in many ways like THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE musically at least, with a moment of horror, as we see the Female vampire, set upon and attacked by villagers and being killed with pitchforks etc, followed with a vibrant and haunting piano concerto like piece that plays over the opening credits. One maybe would think that Aldo Piga scored but a handful of movies, whereas in fact he was at the height of his career much in demand during the 1960’s and during his career as a composer scored over a hundred feature films. It is however true to say that many of these films were not exactly A features, but the music for each and every one of them is excellent.

THE SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES is possibly Piga’s best score, the composer fusing dramatic interludes with classically slanted pieces and bringing the score together via a beautiful and haunting piano composition. The music at times is near operatic and evokes memories of the works of Puccini in places. Although the movie is essentially a horror, it is also a love story, a tale of mystery that is oozing with drama and overflowing with romanticism.

The score which supports and enhances wonderfully the story that unfolds on screen, is also a work that has a life away from the on-screen action and can easily be savoured and appreciated as just music. The piano composition is lush and lavish, and the composer utilises this romantically stylish theme to great effect.  

 

Aldo Piga (1928–1994) was an Italian-American composer who worked mainly in New York. Aldo Piga’s work for the cinema was predominately composed in the 1950’s and the 1960’s, and although Piga spent the majority of his time in The United States, his film scores were mainly for Italian produced movies. He began his career as a song-writer and this eventually led to him becoming involved in the scoring of feature films. He like so many Italian film music composers was also an important figure in the pop music world in Italy, and it is probably his involvement in popular music that put him in a good position to score movies that had tight deadlines and low budgets, his inventive and at times innovative style of composition was heavily influenced by two varying genres of music, which were classical and also be-bop jazz, which he became involved with in his early career in New York.

After scoring numerous movies, Piga decided to start working as a film producer during the late 1960s. But this was a career path that did not yield many success’s and it led to Piga not only stopping making movies but also put an end to his career as a composer. The composer had a definite affinity with the horror genre, and scored a number of Vampire movies, as well as other horror orientated productions. His music was always supportive, and the Maestro fashioned atmospheric and romantically laced soundtracks, some of which have thankfully been released.

5 TOMBA DELLA MEDIUM, IL MOSTRO DELL OPERA, being two of note, the latter having to it a definite American or Universal horror musical style. The composers work on THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA is also worthy of mention, in which the composer utilises Ondes Martinote type of sound to create a spooky and unnerving atmosphere.

The composer also worked on many other genres and his score for MARK DONEN AGENTE ZENA 7, is a must for any collector who is a fan of the Euro-spy sound, and has a great up-beat title song performed by Peter Tevis.  In the early 1990s Piga left Italy to retire and re-settled in New York where he remained until his death in 1994.

UNSUNG HEROES OF ITALIAN FILM MUSIC.

BRUNO CANFORA.

Composer, arranger and conductor Bruno Canfora, was born in Milan and began to study piano from a very early age. After being trained in piano the composer moved onto focusing upon the Oboe, During, world war ll, Canfora, performed a number of concerts with his band in Trieste. After the war the composer decided that he would re-locate to Turin where he took up the position of conductor for the CASTELLINO DANCE ORCHESTRA. The composer is well known for his work in the pop music field and also for collaborating with Italian female vocalist Mina. Canfora composed the music for a number of feature films and also worked on television projects.

He composed a number of songs for Mina including a song that was a hit in Japan entitled ANATA TO WATASHI. He also worked with well known vocalists such as Shirley Bassey, for whom he wrote THIS IS MY LIFE. In 1991 he was the musical director for the Eurovision Song Contest which was held in Rome and conducted the orchestra for the Italian entry by Peppino Di Capri.

His film score career began in 1957 with THE MAN WHO WAGGED HIS TAIL and he went onto score some twenty or so movies from the late 1950’s through to the latter part of the 1970’s his last score for a feature film being in 1977 when he worked on DESTRUCTION FORCE.

His last score was for the TV series ONCE UPON A TIME IN ROME which was in 1979.

One of his most entertaining scores was for the 1966 production, IL VOSTRO SUPER AGENTE FLINT 9, which was awash with jazz slanted cues which he fused with big band sounds and dramatic scoring.This is a score that is thankfully available on digital platforms and is an entertaining musical outing.

His score for THE QUEEN OF THE TARTARS too, is an atmospheric work, and again available on digital platforms. The composer on this occasion fashioning a highly dramatic and adventurous work for this low budget Peplum. His music being driving and powerful but remaining thematic. Canfora died on 4 August 2017 in Piegaro, Italy at the age of 92.

GOFFREDO PETRASSI.

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When discussing Ennio Morricone it is very often mentioned that he took instruction in music from Maestro Goffredo Petrassi, who also tutored fellow Italian composer and long-time associate of Morricone’s, Bruno Nicolai who would often conduct for other Italian composers as well as Morricone. It has often been said that this is probably why the two composers at times shared a similar style.  In the early days of Morricone’s career Nicolai was often thought to be an alias that Morricone wrote under. However after searching through the extensive list of students that were taught by Petrassi which included Phillip Glass, I am puzzled as to why Nicolai’s name does not appear on it?

 

Petrassi was born near Rome in 1904 and was considered by many to be one of the most significant and influential Italian composers of the 20th Century. At the age of fifteen the young Petrassi began to work in a music shop to support his family, and this is probably where his love and interest of music was expanded and cemented. He is however. more associated with music for the concert hall, with his output in this area being prolific. Because of the composer’s commitments to teaching and the world of classical music his forays into scoring movies were few and far between, although when the composer did work on movie score’s he always produced works that were supportive as well as being  thematic. Petrassi began to write for films back in the 1940’s and in total during his career he wrote the music for ten pictures, these included six feature films and four shorts, the shorts are rare sights, MUSICA NEL TEMPO (1941), CREAZIONE DEL MONDO (1947), LEZIONE DI GEOMETRIA (1948) and LA PORTA DI SAN PIETRO DI GIACOMO MANZU (1964).

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He was known to refer to his association with the cinema as “AN UNREQUITED LOVE” and regretted not writing more for film. But it is also said that Petrassi discouraged the likes of Morricone from becoming involved in writing music for film.  Which is advice that we as film music fans have to be glad that Morricone ignored.

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His music was always received well by audiences and critics alike and it is a great pity that his scores for the features were not released apart from CRONACA FAMILIARE or FAMILY DIARY which was originally issued on the CAM label in 1962, and then re-issued onto compact disc in 1992 as part of the famous 100 disc CAM SOUNDTRACK ENCYCLOPEDIA. (CSE 076). The composers film score credits include, BITTER RICE (1949), UNDER THE OLIVE TREE (1950) and LA PATTUGLIA SPERDUTA (1954).

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There are also stories of how Petrassi also acted as a musical advisor on THE BIBLE, for which he received no credit, ironically THE BIBLE was a film that Ennio Morricone had been asked to score, but his score was replaced by a Japanese composer Toshiro Mayuzumi’s work, after the films producers and director John Huston kept Morricone waiting for weeks in Rome for a decision . There is however another version of events which are probably more correct.  Petrassi had been asked to score the movie and had worked long and hard on a score for the picture, however the director asked the composer to make many adjustments to his soundtrack.  Petrassi after being kept waiting in Rome and also being told that his score needed to be re-written in places decided to withdraw his music and took the score back from the production. Enter then Ennio Morricone who was at the time under contract to RCA, he was then asked to provide the score for the movie, he wrote some of his most exquisite music for the film according to Alessandro Alessandroni when I interviewed him. But the films producer wanted to work with Morricone on the score,  the composers contract with RCA however did not allow this, so Morricone too pulled out of the assignment. Many of the themes that Morricone penned for THE BIBLE he re-introduced and worked into his score for the movie THE RED TENT.

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CRONACA FAMILIARE, was directed by Valerio Zurlini and was based around the characters and events in the boo by author Vasco Pratolini, the movie starred Italian heartthrob Marcello Mastroianni and lesser known actor Jaques Perrin who portray two Brothers who have been separated and brought up apart. Until that is their Mother dies and the two siblings are reunited because of trouble within the family.

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The younger Brother Lorenzo played by Perrin is eight years younger than Enrico (Mastroianni) the reason that the Brothers were separated was because  their Mother passed away whilst giving birth to Lorenzo, at which point he was adopted by the butler of a well to do family, whilst Enrico was left with his Grandmother to be brought up in virtual poverty.  It is an engrossing and emotional drama and one that has been described as one of the very rare male tear-jerker movies in the history of Italian cinema.

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The score by Petrassi, is in many ways typical of what we were hearing in Italian movies from this period, fellow composer Nino Rota employed a similar style and achieved a comparative sound when he scored many of the movies of Fellini. The same can be said for composers such as Lavagnino and a number of others that were working in film scoring in the country during this period, Mario Nascimbene as another example.  Petrassi combined dramatic symphonic themes with that of a more intimate and traditional Italian sound and added to this a sense of mystery which he conjured up via the use of subtly placed Organ performances. There are a number of sections which contain  phrases and quirks of orchestration that do make one realise the influence that Petrassi had upon the likes of Morricone and maybe also Nicolai, as we can hear a sound that has since become associated with the pair but it is a style that is more predominantly within some of the early film scores of Morricone and at times within his more thematic music for the concert hall. But if you listen to other composers such as the likes of Carlo Rustichelli, this grandiose and romantic approach and neo classical style was present within his scores also.

 

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There is aa operatic aura and style present throughout the Petrassi score, which conjures up a sense of tragedy and also of loss, but the composer also manages to incorporate a more traditional or folk sounding persona. Although a fairly-short score, CRONACA FAMILIARE is a rewarding listen, and has a number of highly lyrical moments that are a combination of the romantic and dramatic, with a central theme that can be likened to LA STRADA by Rota at certain points in its use and development.  Petrassi lived till he was ninety-eight years of age, but sadly due to failing eyesight he was forced to retire from writing music in 1983, two decades before his death in Rome in 2003. During the last ten years of Petrassi’s life he lost his sight totally.

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ADOLPH DEUTSCH.

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Composer and conductor Adolph Deutsch was born in London England on October 20th 1897, but was to emigrate to the United States of America in the December of 1911. By the time 1914 had arrived the composer was working in picture houses in Buffalo where he had settled accompanying silent movies. Some six years later the composer began to work on Broadway and between 1920 and 1930 would be involved on several shows as either arranger, composer or musical director. He orchestrated musical shows for both Irvin Berlin and Ira Gershwin most notably AS THOUSANDS CHEER and PARDON MY ENGLISH, respectively.

 

In the latter part of the 1930.s the composer began to work on Hollywood movies and in 1937 wrote the music for the drama THEY WONT FORGET, which starred Claude Raines. In the same year Director James Whale called upon Deutsch to score his historical comedy THE GREAT GARRICK a film that is often overlooked and forgotten in favour of Whale’s horror movies, but nonetheless made it onto the 100 top American films list. Between 1937 and 1961 the composer was responsible for scoring some 60 movies. During the 1950’s he won Oscars for his scores for films such as OKLAHOMA and acted as conductor on SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS and ANNIE GET YOUR GUN for which he was not credited for on screen.

 

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Deutsch was also nominated for his contributions to SHOWBOAT and THE BAND WAGON. In 1950 he scored the comedy FATHER OF THE BRIDE which starred Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. It was a busy year for Deutsch as he worked on five movies including PAGAN LOVE SONG a musical for MGM which starred Esther Williams and Howard Keel. He became known for the music that he either composed, conducted, or adapted for Hollywood musicals. The composer also became associated with the genre of the Hollywood western during his career and also composed the scores for movies which are now looked upon as classics, including, THE MALTESE FALCON, THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS, NOBODY LIVES FOREVER and the 1949 version of LITTLE WOMEN (with Max Steiner).

 

 

The composer also collaborated with filmmaker Billy Wilder on two of the director’s well-known movies THE APARTMENT AND SOME LIKE IT HOT. Deutsch also wrote the scores for the movies, GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE, HIGH SIERRA and NORTHERN PURSUIT.

 

 

One of the Maestro’s last scoring assignments was GO NAKED IN THE WORLD,  in 1961 and starred Gina Lollobrigida and Ernest Borgnine, directed by Ranald MacDougall it was shortly after this that the composer retired. One of the composers most outstanding and accomplished dramatic scores for film, must be for the 1944 production THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS. Directed by Jean Negulesco, the movie features the acting talents of Sydney Greenstreet, Faye Emerson, Peter Lorre and Zachary Scott.

 

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The music is typical of Hollywood film noir productions and has to it a presence and style that can be likened to that of Miklos Rosza. Adolph Deutsch passed away on January 1st, 1980.