JULGAMENTO the movie was released in 2007, and it has taken three years for this wonderful score to reach compact disc.Nuno Malo maybe not a name spoken by film music collectors that often, but he has written some excellent music for film, TV and also adverts. His music for the SAGRES beer advertisement is a driving take on the style of Barry and Arnold when they were in Bond mode and his mesmerising theme for BACKLIGHT (his latest assignment) is something that once listened to must be repeated and repeated as it gets inside your head and haunts you. His work on JULGAMENTO is like all other things that this composers touches, pure gold. A mainly symphonic score, the music being performed by an orchestra of some 58 musicians and the composer utilises these musicians superbly, bolstering their sound Continue reading Julgamento
Released in 2006 THE CELESTINE PHROPHECY was in many people’s eyes a less than good movie version of the marvellous book by James Redfield. The music for the movie was composed by Portuguese Maestro Nuno Malo. In my opinion Nuno Malo is one of film music’s most gifted younger generation composers, he has an abundant gift for melody and his music contains real emotional depth that I have found hard to discover in other composers works for the cinema or television. Many critics and collectors have compared his score for THE CELESTINE PHROPHECY to the romantic writing of James Horner and yes to a certain degree I would have to concur that there are little nuances of sounds and certain lines of orchestration that maybe could be mistaken for Horner’s work in movies such as FIELD OF DREAMS for example and to a certain extent COCOON, Continue reading The Celestine Phrophecy
IN April 2012 MovieScore Media released a compilation of film music by Danish composer Søren Hyldgaard. This was one compilation that was way overdue. The composer has written numerous film scores and has always created appealing musical tapestries which work more than adequately in the films they are penned for. Hyldgaard has been unjustly neglected by collectors but hopefully this wonderful disc will make collectors and critics realize just how versatile and talented this Maestro is – and will be able to savour and appreciate his outstanding compositions for the world of Cinema and Television. The CD boasts music from no less than 18 scores and is the first in a series of albums called “The Spotlight Series” which focus on the talents, originality and versatility of certain film music composers. This first volume is overflowing with luxurious, highly thematic and beautiful symphonic music. It includes highly dramatic and sumptuous examples in the form of EYE OF THE EAGLE but also showcases the composer’s work for more romantic and intimate motion pictures such as SOMETHING IN THE AIR and THE ONE AND ONLY as well as comedic and grand-sounding works, including the animated films HELP I’M A FISH and JESTER TILL. Then there are dark and serious offerings from the horror genre such as ISLE OF DARKNESS and ANGEL OF THE NIGHT. The album also features the composer’s music for RED (or REDEMPTION as it has been re-titled for its international release) which was Hyldgaard’s first foray into scoring a film in Hollywood. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is a landmark release and a collection which will be very much welcomed and enjoyed.
John Mansell: This compilation is long overdue. It contains so many great themes and an array of musical styles; were you responsible for selecting the cues that appear on the CD? And if so, how difficult a task was this considering the amount of music which you have composed for movies, television etc.?
Søren Hyldgaard: I concerted the actual cues selection with album producer Mikael Carlsson. He has followed my work through the years, and I trust his instinct for selection and sequencing better than I trust myself on these matters. The tough part about selecting, of course, is that you always end up omitting ten nice pieces for every single one you include. And then there’s the limit of the CD, which is 700mb or just around 80 minutes. For the ”download” version of this album, we can potentially include however much we want – and we can link too much more extensive liner notes, etc.
John Mansell: The compilation opens with a suite from the animated movie JESTER TILL. It begins with a Korngold-like fanfare, and parts of the suite reminded me so much of the work of Erich Korngold, and of Franz Waxman’s Prince Valiant and the very grand sound of the Golden Age of movie music. Of course it also has some comedic styles mixed in but it largely gives an impression of lushness and opulence. Was this something you set out to do when working on the picture or did the director have specific ideas regarding the music?
Søren Hyldgaard: Mr. Eberhard Junkersdorf, the director and co-producer of JESTER TILL had co-produced another large-scale, pan-European feature animation film, HELP! I’M A FISH. Junkersdorf loved the dramatic-symphonic angle to the scoring and he particularly liked the humour that I sprinkled it with – for instance, the lazy-sneaky jazz theme for Alan Rickman’s bad guy of a fish. But for Till Eulenspiegel – the great historical-fictional hero – I instinctively looked in the direction of Korngold and saw a rare opportunity to pay tribute to one of the truly original masters of classic film scoring. Another reason was that I love to embed musical inside-jokes whenever I can get away with it; so how could I not quote Richard Strauss’ familiar E-flat clarinet motif from his lush and in some places downright cartoonish Merry Pranks og Till Eulenspiegel?
John Mansell: You have worked on television productions and also feature films, including animated movies. What would you identify as the main differences between working on live action productions as opposed to scoring an animated feature or television productions?
Søren Hyldgaard: As far as working experiences go, live-action films are from Mars and animated films are from Venus. The editing or rate of montage is inherently so much faster and wilder in animation as opposed to even an action-packed live-action movie, and jolting tempo and mood changes, known as “Mickey Mousing”, are still valid in animation but rarely so in contemporary live action. I love to work in animation and I am a big fan of the art of animation, but anyone who has done just a three minute animation score will agree with me that it’s a lot of work. I couldn’t do what I do in feature film animation without my skilled Music Editor (Berklee-trained Thomas Lester), who does all the math and the timing required to catch the “hits” of the action.
John Mansell: RED is, I think, your first Hollywood movie? The score is a rather understated one, but none the less it enhances the movie greatly, adding another dimension to the storyline and creating a brooding atmosphere. How did you get the assignment; where did you record the score and do approaches and attitudes differ greatly between Europe and the United States when it comes to scoring a movie?
Søren Hyldgaard: Yes, RED, which has now been internationally re-titled as REDEMPTION, is my first experience with a U.S. produced film. In terms of musical approach and work process, there isn’t much of a difference. Contracts, publishing and copyright is an entirely different matter! Anyway, the assignment came by because of another movie that I did years ago as my second feature film, a Norwegian thriller called ISLE OF DARKNESS. The director was Trygve Allister Diesen who now has an agent in L.A. and was offered RED as his first American film project. We approached the film as sort of a modern, urban western, and it called for an almost underplayed score that was mainly focusing on Brian Cox’s sad, mellow character. When he has “had it” near the end, the shock and revolt is even more powerful… We had some debating going about how to approach the scoring of the nasty execution of his dog, the title character ‘Red’; though tastefully executed and edited, we decided not to score this sad scene. Rather, I chose to underscore Cox’s emotions after-the-fact when he has to bury Red.
By the way, I utilized a rare instrument on RED, the Glass Harmonica, as a voice for the sentiment and the longing in the score. Ostensibly invented by Benjamin Franklin, the Glass Harmonica is a rotating roller with glass discs, played much like a glass-player performs by gliding his fingers on the rims of crystal glasses. It produces a beautiful, ethereal sound –- almost otherworldly in quality.
Because the movie was a non-union production, we were allowed to and chose to record the music at ‘Smecky’ in Prague. With the proverbial 20/20 hindsight, though, I think the country – and especially the folk music fiddle playing would have been more authentic-sounding, had we recorded it in L.A. – but there were also financial issues to consider.
John Mansell: How many times do you like to see a movie before you begin the process of writing the score, and do you like to be involved at the script stage or is it better for you to wait until the rough cut of the film is ready?
Søren Hyldgaard: I’ve found over the years that, after viewing the picture by myself, it gives me a lot to go through the movie – usually a rough cut – with the director. You could call it an early spotting session, I guess; we talk tentatively about where to use music, we deal with any temp pieces the editor might have used. Based on this, I usually commence writing demos – to demonstrate tone and style, thematic ideas, etc.
John Mansell: What are your earliest memories of music in film, and when you became interested in music did you think of becoming a composer that would write for the cinema straight away. Or was this something that just happened as your career progressed?
Søren Hyldgaard: Apart from remembering noticing and humming and playing the music from shows like Yogi Bear and Flipper in the middle/late sixties, the Rosetta stone for me was really when my mom took me to what must have been a second run of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, the movie. I was around seven; fell in love with all the girls of the Von Trapp family. And I demonstrated my “photographic memory” for music by being able to recall and play at least three or four of the wonderful songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Even today, I am enthralled by and in awe with the magnificent arrangements Irwin Kostal did for shows like this, Disney’s MARY POPPINS, and others.
The next cathartic flash for me was the summer of 1972 when Swedish television broadcast a cavalcade of the classic Universal horror films. I was nine and I literally cried for Boris Karloff’s monster when he was put through the ordeal and torments of the villagers. And I noticed – and again learned by heart – the different motifs for Karloff and for Elsa Lanchester, the Bride. I remember playing the Bride theme on the piano, and my mother would tell me it was Bali Ha’i from SOUTH PACIFIC. The themes are virtually identical, but Franz Waxman actually wrote it first! Of course, many years later I was instrumental in reconstructing Waxman’s score for the world premiere CD recording of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.
As I grew up I had – and I still have! – a foot in each camp. I love movies, drama, and I love music.
John Mansell: Your first movie score was THE LAST FERRY, which was not a commercial movie, but a graduation film by Peter Flinth at the Danish Film School. How did you get this assignment and what budget if any did you have?
Søren Hyldgaard: THE LAST FERRY was a ”No Budget score for a No Budget movie!”. We had a crate of red wine to bribe people with, and that’s about it. Peter Flinth was and is an ambitious guy, and he had heard some of symphonic music and had this ambition to have an orchestral score for his graduation project. The orchestra was the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Copenhagen, spiced up with members of The Danish Concert Band, for whom I have unofficially been the composer-in-residence for a long time. The choir, on the other hand, was the renowned Tritonus Choir led by the now retired maestro John Høybye. For decades he and the choir have been working for Disney on the Danish versions of their films. So when I called Mr. Høybye about helping out on THE LAST FERRY, I remember being summoned for what was really an audition, to present themes and ideas for him. As I presented my scores and sketches at the piano, John went, ”So who wrote this for you?”. ”Well, I did!”, I said, asking him why this question. He wryly replied that he wasn’t used to working with film composers who actually knew anything about music and who actually wrote their own stuff! That was so hilarious. Well, later I found out what he meant…
John Mansell: You have worked with the film maker Peter Flinth on a number of occasions, THE LAST FERRY, THE FAKIR, EYE OF THE EAGLE, and others, does he have a hands-on approach when it comes to music in his films, or does he have discussions with you at the spotting of the movie and leave you to create a score?
Søren Hyldgaard: I haven’t worked with Peter for a few years now, but he remains one of my favourite collaborators because of the balanced mixture of high expectations and respectful distance to the composer. He has an innate ear for music – in fact, as a kid he wanted to become a conductor ”Because the conductor looked great standing in the limelight in his white tie and tails, and all he has to do is follow the musicians!”. With Flinth, we have the agreement that the film is our master; if the movie tells us it doesn’t want this sound or that cue, then we will follow it. That’s something I like, when it’s not just the director’s (or composer’s!) ego that’s setting the rules. I am fine about ‘sacrificing’ my best cue in the film, if it’s because the film is ”telling” us so.
John Mansell: How much time are you normally given to work on a score, I mean how much time do you get to prepare, write and then actually score a production, or does this vary from assignment to assignment. Maybe you could use ANGEL OF THE NIGHT as an example?
Søren Hyldgaard: Well, ANGEL OF THE NIGHT is not necessarily a good example simply because it’s so many years ago now. I remember having ample time and the extra benefit of being able to hire William Motzing as orchestrator. The movie was very low budget but great production value none the less – and it boasted a good old fashioned main title sequence that truly called for a broad, melodic theme. I am still very proud of this ”vampire theme song” as performed by Louise Fribo, who also contributed the semi-mock Hungarian lyrics. ‘Iubiere infiniti’, eternal love…
Though I am a pretty fast writer, there certainly is a congruence between how much pressure there is and what kind of overall experience I have on a project. I prefer, if at all possible, to orchestrate everything myself. It takes more time, of course, but not that much extra time because I can write a score almost as fast as I can deliver a detailed demo. That said, however, in this day and age where directors are very media savvy and tend to expect more or less perfect sounding mock-ups, a lot of time can go into producing these. So, provided there is money for it, I either do fulfilling demos using sample libraries, and then leave the orchestration to someone else – or vice versa!
And then there’s the new trend of the financial set-back where there simply isn’t money to hire a big orchestra – or any type of orchestra – and the score ultimately is delivered as a polished version of the symphonic demos. I have done this a couple of times now; taking extreme pains to create a score that practically no one can detect being a ‘plastic’ score. One such example is a film I did in 2010, MY SISTER’S KIDS, which featured a real guitar in one single cue, and the rest was samples. I actually deceived some musicians who saw the movie and were sure it was orchestral.
John Mansell: You are obviously happy to work within any genre of film, from comedy THE ONE AND ONLY, through to tales of adventure THE EYE OF THE EAGLE, drama THE SPIDER plus enchanting movies such as TOMMY AND THE WILDCAT and ULVEPIGEN TINKE (Little Big Girl) plus a number of romantic and animated projects, but is there a particular type of movie that you warm to more than others and is there any genre that you have not worked on that you would like to?
Søren Hyldgaard: SOMETHING IN THE AIR, a romantic comedy that came out late in 2011, is an example of something I really like to do. I am not exactly a sucker for ”Rom-Coms” as a genre, but as a writer this is a platform where my knack for melody and tunefulness can unfold almost unlimitedly. As with suspense and horror, romantic films really need music to enhance emotion, and that makes it a lot of fun to do. Again, the same with horror films – they’re DEAD without music and sound effects. Try watching a horror flick with the volume switched off!
A true aficionado ‘Americana’, I have always dreamed of scoring a real western. I came pretty close with my scoring of RED a couple of years ago, but I wouldn’t say no if someone approached me with another SILVERADO under his arm…
John Mansell: How do you arrive at your musical solutions. By this I mean what instrument or technology do you utilize to work out your ideas?
Søren Hyldgaard: I can see myself changing bit by bit over the years – I will use more hands-on sampled comco sounds now than before because of what technology is offering us. If I select, say, a Piano + Strings patch, I can still ad lib freely while at the same time convey the style and sound of the music more realistically to the director, than if I just play a simple piano sound. Then again, if I wish to present a theme as ‘neutral’ as possible to someone, then it’s back to old drawing board – the piano! And since black and white keys are all I know how to play on, the piano remains the place where I feel most at home.
John Mansell: You were involved in the restoration and re-recording project of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN by Franz Waxman a few years ago. How did you become involved with this particular project and would you at some time like to re-record any other classic film scores by Waxman or any other composers and if so which ones?
Søren Hyldgaard: As I said, BRIDE as well as Waxman’s music, is part of my backbone in terms of film music. When I actually approached Silva Screen Records around 1990, it was out my own frustration with not being able to find anything from BRIDE, apart from the splendid but over-orchestrated ‘Creation of the Female Monster’ on the Charles Gerhardt Classic Film Scores LP/CD series. James Fitzpatrick and Reynold da Silva took up the challenge and got John Waxman, Franz’s son, on board. It was a baptism of fire to me – having limited experience and working with a mixture of piano sketches and and all the work he’s done with reconstructing the scores of Dimitri Tiomkin. Or John Wilson and his behemoth feat of building from scratch the old, lost MGM musical classics. It’s a huge undertaking, huge!doing take-downs of orchestrations, based on a low-fi VHS tape. This is why I hugely admire people like Patrick Russ
I must say I haven’t looked back much since completing the BRIDE project, but on the other hand I am much more experienced now, and if another pet project came by, I might be tempted. But then again, I should probably just call up Pat Russ!
John Mansell: EYE OF THE EAGLE is a rousing and proud sounding score that contains so many wonderful themes. When working on a project, do you like to try to include specific themes for each movie’s main characters, if it is possible to do so?
Søren Hyldgaard: There’s a historic bond between the late-romantic idiom and the Wagnerian leitmotif approach, and EYE OF THE EAGLE is a typical example of this. The movie was even labelled ”Wagner for Kids” – heroes and dark knights set in pre-medieval times in a story based on true events in Danish history. For this type of film, I think that themes and motifs for different characters will never go out of fashion. In EYE, we have a theme for the boys – a friendship theme, and The One-Eyed, the avenging dark knight and his eagle have their sinister, brooding theme in the minor key etc. It’s a classic recipe, a proven approach that can help focusing the story-telling. I wouldn’t want to use it for a kitchen sink-realism social drama, but it’s great for TILL EULENSPIEGEL, HELP! I’M A FISH, fairytale stuff!
John Mansell: Do you conduct and orchestrate all of your music for film, and do you think that orchestration is an important part of the composing process?
Søren Hyldgaard: I don’t conduct, I’m not a conductor. I can ”wave my arms” in 4/4 and 2/4 time, but I have too much respect for friends of mine who have studied for years at the Sibelius Academy to call myself a conductor. And in films, the job of conducting is such a specialized craft where you have to deal with performance and interpretation PLUS having to worry about the timing! I have worked a lot with Mario Klemens at the Smecky studio in Prague. He is amazing, probably as experienced as any Alfred Newman or Muir Matheson out there.
Orchestration is an integrated part of my writing; I actually have a hard time trying to separate sketching and orchestrating. When I started working with the wonderful William Motzing on EYE OF THE EAGLE – my first feature film score – Bill had to teach me how to write a good sketch. Luckily, he sent my examples by people like John Williams and Laurence Rosenthal, so I was all set. The thing is, I have always combined sketching and final orchestration, particularly after I started using computer notation. I am a ‘Finale’ guy, for those who are into the religion wars of digital music notation.
I think I have now orchestrated more than half of my scores myself. Bill Motzing has done films like EYE, TOMMY AND THE WILDCAT, HELP! I’M A FISH, ANGEL OF THE NIGHT, while the Danish orchestrator Jørgen Lauritsen has worked on titles like TILL EULENSPIEGEL, BERTRAM and a few more. But I have contributed some orchestrated cues for all these projects – whenever there is time, I just love orchestrating. It’s like drawing a character and then colouring it.
John Mansell: Your favoured orchestra seems to be the City of Prague Philharmonic, who have performed a number of your scores. What attracts you to this particular orchestra?
Søren Hyldgaard: Recording with the good folks at the now legendary ‘Smecky’ Studios (nicknamed after the street it’s in, Ve Smeckach in central Prague) has become a tradition. Though I have recorded more in Denmark in later years, it’s still like coming home when we go to Smecky. For most of what I have written, the rich, Bohemian tradition is just perfect. I often say that the strings sound of more, sound bigger and richer. Recording quality used to be an issue, but nowadays everyone’s using Pro-Tools, and my favourite engineer bar none is Mr. Jan Holzner. Listen to the new CD recording of Tiomkin’s GUNS OF NAVARONE, and you’ll understand why!
John Mansell: HELP! I’M A FISH contains a number of songs on its soundtrack. As a composer, do you feel on occasion that films rely on the use of songs rather than score too much, and that film makers also at times include songs that are really not suitable when original music would serve the picture better?
Søren Hyldgaard: Yes and no. It sometimes happens in romantic comedies, and it happens in movies in general because producers and their record companies and publishers, who are sometimes all affiliated, have a not-very-hidden agenda where the film obviously is serving as a platform to launch or promote a potential hit song. On the other hand, we see – especially on TV – that well placed singer-songwriter type ballads can have just the right sentiment to do the job equally as good as a nice oboe – or guitar solo with strings would have done.
HELP! I’M A FISH is an example of smooth sailing in this respect. This probably has something to do with the nature of animation, where preparing, visualization and timing is everything. So we knew already during the storyboard phase where the songs would be placed, and all scoring was designed and ”woven” around it. I even took note of song keys, in case there would be tonal conflicts if a piece of scoring was placed close to a song. We recorded the orchestral arrangements for the songs in conjunction with my score – which I think is nice because you are likely to end up with a more homogenous result when the strings or orchestra has the same ‘sound’ as the score. Nick Ingman wrote most of the song arrangements and came with us to conduct them at U2’s recording studios in Dublin. We had a really great time there, and it’s a good feeling that the movie is still having a life out there and being enjoyed by a new generation of kids after more than ten years.
John Mansell: What composers or artists would you say have influenced you in your approach to composition?
Søren Hyldgaard: Well, although I do think of myself having some span in terms of style, I guess I am rooted in orchestral, mostly melody-based scores. I can’t deny that the touchstone for me was John Williams’ score to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND – more so than STAR WARS, actually. So I guess it’s not unfair that I have been accused of being Williams-’esque’ at times, though it is really more a case of relying on the late-romantic stylistic approach I have used on some projects. To find the original sources of classic, you have to travel back to the Golden Age composers – Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, Dimitri Tiomkin. But Erich Wolfgang Korngold is my top favorite of them all. What would Errol Flynn and Bette Davis be without him, what would ”adventure” be without Korngold – what would Williams be without him? My TILL EULENSPIEGEL score is an evident tribute to Korngold, though there is also a hats off to the ingenious Bernard Herrmann in the Ray Harryhausen-inspired Skeleton Fight in TILL. So there you have a few of my heroes listed! But I forgot the inimitable Jerry Goldsmith, who I think was a true chameleon who always somehow let his unique voice shine through in everything he did.
John Mansell: Did you come from a family background that was musical at all?
Stelvio Cipriani: Nobody in my family was interested in music. I became involved with music accidentally: It was something innate inside me! I qualified and for one year I worked as accountant, but during this year I was also studying at the conservatory.
John Mansell: What musical education did you receive?
Stelvio Cipriani: When I was a child I usually went to church and I was fascinated by the organ. A priest gave me my first lessons: he taught me the ABC… the five-line stave… and he was the one who signalled my grand father about my big improvements and great interest in music. Everybody in my family wondered who I was like! At 14 I took the exams to enter at the conservatory… and from that time I have never stopped with music!
John Mansell: Had you always wanted to write music for the cinema, or was this something that developed as your career progressed? What was your first film score?
Stelvio Cipriani: My first movie was BOUNTY KILLER. A western, it was the 10 July 1966: my film music career started with that movie. I could exploit that opportunity thanks to my previous experience, differently from the present composers… Experience is very important: after my training and experience in piano, before starting with soundtracks, I lived many different situations. I played for 6 months, with a small music band, on cruise ships. At that time there were many ballrooms (or “balere” in Italian) – it was a very popular fad! – and we played in the manner of many other bands… like Peppino Di Capri and Fred Bongusto, to tell only two names. These ships sailed from New York to Portorico, Haity, and Caribbean Sea…
When I came back to Italy, I was enlisted as pianist and accompanist by Rita Pavone the famous singer, who at the time started her career. Again, I’m never stopping to repeat how these experiences were fundamental for my skill and proficiency. An essential platform who, after 5 years, would have given me an useful knowledge, necessary to work in cinema.
John Mansell: Your style and sound is very original and in many ways unique, do you undertake all the orchestration work on your scores for the cinema?
Stelvio Cipriani: Generally yes, I personally interested in it. When you have the possibility to do it, I think it’s important.
John Mansell: When you are working on a motion picture assignment, how many times do you like to watch a movie in order to get any ideas as to, what type of music is to be written or where the music should be placed for best effect?
Stelvio Cipriani: This is an interesting question. I think the answer is subjective for any composer. I certainly need to remember exactly the images while I compose music, but fortunately I have an impressing photographic memory! I don’t need to see the movie many times. Sometimes Dino Risi was impressed by my memory, because I remembered better than him any particulars of the frames. I would at times make fun of him joking about our age gap, saying he was getting old and he could not remember the movie.
John Mansell: You have toured with orchestras and given concerts of your film music and also other composer’s works, are there any composers that you find particularly interesting or original? Are there any composers that you think may have influenced you in the way that you compose or orchestrate your music?
Stelvio Cipriani: When I was young I was a great fan of Henry Mancini… and still I am! He represented an aim for me, like a searchlight in the sea. While I was working at my second movie, UN UOMO, UN CAVALLO, UNA PISTOLA, I was very honored because his attention to my music theme from the film. I don’t know… it’s a very big satisfaction: it’s a sign of your artistic value! When a few years later I met him, he was amazed to know me in person and said: – I thought you were older, with white hair! I studied on his books, I still have them. I did not imitate him, but I considered him as an example by a professional point of view.
As for Italian composers, the great Nino Rota would have to be the top of my list, he became very famous thanks to his soundtracks in Fellini’s movies, and actually he was a very complete musician. I often play famous themes in my concerts (“Via col vento”, “Il padrino”, “L’amore è una cosa meravigliosa”, ma anche “Titanic”!) and I usually start with Nino Rota’s music this is out of, respect for his wonderful talent… then, in the end, I conclude with Anonimo Veneziano! Which of course is my own composition.
John Mansell: Your score for UN UOMO, UN CAVALLO, UNA PISTOLA, and in particular the theme is probably one of the Italian western genres most popular musical works. How did you become involved with this particular project, and what size orchestra did you utilise on the score?
Stelvio Cipriani: It was because of the work I had done previously on THE BOUNTY HUNTER, the director wanted me so he contacted me and I agreed to write the score. I would say the size of the orchestra was number to between 30 and 35 players.
John Mansell: You have worked with both Alessandroni and Nora Orlandi’s choirs. Did you have a preference to which vocal group that you utilised, or was it just a matter of availability?
Stelvio Cipriani: No preferences. They’re both very good and, moreover, they’re great professionals. My choices were merely based on their availability.
John Mansell: A number of your film scores, have recently been issued for the first time on the Digit Movies Label, are you pleased that these are now finally available to collectors, and did you have any involvement in the preparation of the releases?
Stelvio Cipriani: Surely! It pleases me a lot! But I don’t intervene… I leave them free to choose.
John Mansell: BLINDMAN, is one of your popular works from the Italian western genre, within the score you use a sitar, an interesting choice of instrument for a western, was there any reason that you selected this instrument for the score?
Stelvio Cipriani: Well, this is an arrangement issue… it’s a sign of a musician’s intuition! To do an example, in another movie I used an anvil and a hammer. Their sound changed according to the part you stroke and it was very interesting. Another time, working for the movie “Tentacles”, I had to realize some music to communicate the effect provoked by some giant octopus’ enormous tentacles! And I’m not a great sea lover… I prefer mountains… so I can’t surely know anything about octopus! One day, walking in a record studio called Forum, inaccurately I trampled on some broken glasses on the floor: thanks to those accidents I realized the solution. I put a microphone in the right way to record the noise provoked by a big glass falling on the floor, being turned in thousands fragments. The record speed was 35, but in the movie we used a slower speed, 7 1/2: a very bizarre sound came out, a very realistic water whirling sensation…
John Mansell: Have you ever composed a film score under another name?
Stelvio Cipriani: Surely! My nickname was Steve Powder, a “revisiting” to my real name: Stelvio became “Steve”, Cipriani became “Powder” (because in Italian it means the “beauty face powder”).
John Mansell: What do you consider to be the role of music in film?
Stelvio Cipriani: It’s undoubtedly fundamental, it’s an integral part in a movie… but of course a good soundtrack is more enhanced when the movie is good too!
John Mansell: Have you ever had a score rejected, or declined to work on a film?
Stelvio Cipriani: No!
John Mansell: How much time were you given to compose a score for a movie, maybe you would like to use L, IGUANA DALLA LINGUA DI FUOCO as an example?
Stelvio Cipriani: Generally… one month, considering all the movie’s phases: to watch the film, to compose the music, to orchestrate and record it.
John Mansell: When working on a film score, how do arrive at your musical solutions, do you use piano, synthesiser or do you write your music straight to manuscript?
Stelvio Cipriani: I usually take some notes about the pictures, during the movie spotting session. Then, at the piano, I think again to the movie scenes and I invent the music. I have a great visual memory and I exploit it a lot to compose soundtracks.
John Mansell: When scoring a film, do you have any set routine in which you do this, by this I mean do you start at the opening titles and work through to the end or do you tackle smaller cues first leaving larger ones till later?
Stelvio Cipriani: Generally I primarily work to the key scenes in the movie, then, according with the director, I start working to the theme. When the director gives me his assent about the theme, I go on with the remaining scenes, trying to respect and to express in the best way their sensibility and feeling.
John Mansell: You have worked on numerous movies and many differing storylines and genres, is there any genre in particular that you are happier working on?
Stelvio Cipriani: Yes… I have a deep disposition in love movies, classic movies in which I can better express my piano. I’m a hardened Schopenian! I love Romantics! However I love to experiment new solutions too, relative to different genres… you have to be versatile in my work. Besides I like Italian Comedies, like Dino Risi’s. Sometimes, thinking to my past compositions, I remember some strange contrasts… metallic music by one side, the Opus Dei by the other.
John Mansell: You worked with Dave Brubeck at times, what was your involvement with him?
Stelvio Cipriani: I met Dave Brubeck in a very emotional situation! I was in New York: when I was young I experienced for a long time on cruise boats and those was the reason of my American stay. At the end of every cruise they had to clean and control the ship, so we had a 3-4 days break. During one of those breaks, I was with my band’s drummer Fausto, we went in one of the more famous jazz night clubs of the place: the Birdland. As we entered the club we could smell a typical smoke and alcohol odour… and we couldn’t believe to our eyes: it was the Dave Brubeck Quartet who plays!!! I fainted. Then we came back again in the club… and I was honored to play for him at the piano the second prelude by Bach… it was one of the strongest emotions I’ve ever had in my life.
John Mansell: As a composer where do you get your inspiration from?
Stelvio Cipriani: From the pictures surely, but I don’t know the way: it’s a mystery. Every time I am in front of something new and I am amazed!
John Mansell: You worked with Mario Bava on a number of films, what was he like to work with, did he have much involvement with where the music was to be placed etc?
Stelvio Cipriani: My collaboration with Mario Bava has always been very good. He was a very careful director: he was always present when we had to record. Generally, however, I have been on good terms with all my colleagues.
John Mansell: ANONYMOUS VENITIAN has to be one of your most lyrical and beautiful film scores, did you perform piano on this soundtrack?
Stelvio Cipriani: No… He was Arnaldo Graziosi: a big pianist, besides a wonderful person. When he was charged with having killed his wife and they asked my opinion (in an interview for the RAI, the Italian public television), I put in the recorder the disc of Anonimo Veneziano, and I said: – This is Arnaldo Graziosi.
He has a rare sensitivity and politeness. He is a friend with I have a marvelous relationship. He unfairly spent 15 years in a prison: I have no doubt about his innocence.
John Mansell: What are you working on at the moment?
Stelvio Cipriani: At the moment I’m working on a thrilling serial TV, who is going to be broadcast all over the world. It is being entitled “The 5 senses of death” and is being composed from 5 movies. Moreover now I am working for Pope Benedetto XVI: I am very religious. One time I met Pope Giovanni Paolo II in Torino: an immensely spiritual person. While he was walking he had all round a special light, he didn’t appear like a hearthly guy. I composed for him some music in honour of Don Bosco. Pope Wojtyla loved much salesians.
Thanks to Maestro Cipriani, BEAT records and a special thank you to Valentina.
John Mansell: I think my first re-collection of your music, was for THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, the theme was so full of energy. Do you think it is important that a TV series has a strong and vibrant theme, so that the audience can identify with? I remember Jerry Goldsmith saying a theme was so important, it got people out of the kitchen or the garden into the living room and in front of the TV?
Patrick Williams: THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO was very important to my career as a television composer. As I recall, the show ran seven years and was extremely popular worldwide. In all of the themes that I wrote for television shows, most important to me was to try to set up the mood and style of the show itself, as well as try to find something a little distinctive. Also, back then, the themes were one minute long, so you had a chance to do something. It seems nowadays, the themes are so short, I wouldn’t know what I would do.
John Mansell: One of my favourite scores by yourself is BUTCH AND SUNDANCE THE EARLY YEARS. The movie was really good and your score carried the film along giving it great pace and atmosphere. How did you become involved on the project, and what size orchestra did you utilise for the project?
Patrick Williams: I utilized a symphony orchestra for the score and, at the request of Richard Lester who was the director, I tried to find some evocative and ethnic sounding instrumentation. He was very strong on the idea that the American West was an amalgam of many European cultures, especially Irish. So I tried to give the score somewhat of an Irish twist while keeping it “American” at the same time. I also featured the baritone horn which was beautifully played by Dick Nash.
John Mansell: You have worked on both feature films, TV series and TV movies. What would you say are the main differences between working on a project for the big screen and then composing for TV?
Patrick Williams: The main difference that I found over the years was nothing more or less than money and time. Feature films had a larger music budget and more time, as a rule, than television. But the basic scoring process was essentially the same.
John Mansell: You worked on episodes of MONK. Did you collaborate with Randy Newman on the title song, or was this something separate from the scores for the series? Also, when working on a series that has a theme by another composer, do you try and weave the theme into your score or do you avoid this practise?
Patrick Williams: I had a brief experience with MONK and although I’ve known Randy for a long time, I did not work with him on the show. I don’t consider my contribution to be very significant at all.
John Mansell: Time is always something that a composer for film and TV is always up against. How long did you get to score an episode of THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO for example, and did you re-use any of your material from one episode on another?
Patrick Williams: We scored an episode, as I recall, every two weeks and there were some seventeen one hour episodes a year. Each episode was scored with a 35-piece orchestra and the average length of the score was 25-35 minutes.
John Mansell: You started out studying to become an historian, when did you decide to focus upon music as a career?
Patrick Williams: I actually majored in history to appease some of the anxieties of my parents who were terrified I was going to become a musician. They felt very strongly that music would make a good hobby, but I would starve to death as a professional. Looking back on it, the odds were that they were probably right, but I was lucky enough to beat the odds.
John Mansell: JESUS, was an Italian/German/American co-production, how did you become involved with this project; I was told that initially Ennio Morricone was in line to do the score?
Patrick Williams: I scored JESUS because Roger Young, the director, asked me to. He directed a number of bible oriented mini-series produced by an Italian production company and JESUS was the last of them. I did a number of projects with Roger over about a 25-year period and we got along great together.
John Mansell: When a soundtrack is being prepared for release, do you have any input into what music will actually be released onto CD, or do you have to abide by what the record labels decide to put out?
Patrick Williams: I have no idea when I take a picture if there’s even going to be a soundtrack, much less what they will do with it.
John Mansell: As well as your musical career in film and television, you have also acted as arranger, and musical director for recording artistes such as Barbara Streisand, Amy Grant, Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel to name but a handful. How does this type of work compare with scoring films etc? Is it just as hectic and how was it working with Sinatra who was an accomplished singer/musical director himself?
Patrick Williams: I’ve always felt that the purpose of an underscore was to embellish, enhance and unify the theatrical experience with the audience. Each picture, of course, has different requirements in terms of the way that it is approached. But if the foregoing qualities are in the score, it will usually be successful. I am also a great believer in the use of a few themes which can be repeated and augmented in various ways for dramatic purposes. One of the things that concerns me about some of the contemporary film scores that I hear is the lack of cohesion. It’s as if they were almost tracked by a music editor rather than scored by a composer.John Mansell: When you begin to score a project, how many times do you like to view it before getting any ideas about what type of music, how much music and where music should be placed – or do you prefer to be involved at the script stage as opposed to seeing the rough cut?
Patrick Williams: I rarely have been involved at the script stage. Essentially, I don’t see the script as having too much to do with what I’m dealing with in the finished product. What I prefer is to look at the picture by myself for the first time straight through, without thinking about the music at all. I hope to get some feeling for the overall theatrical experience before I start thinking about what kind of music would be appropriate. I’ve found that there’s a definite germination that needs to happen before specific musical ideas can be bantered about. I have found that the most interesting scores are when the music can go to the more dramatic undercurrents than simply what you see on the screen. In other words, what’s going on emotionally with the characters is really what’s most important. The fact that the character is frightened and running does not mean that the music has to be fast and loud.
John Mansell: Have there been any assignments that maybe you have thought midway through, “I wish I had not agreed to doing this”?
Patrick Williams: Naturally, some projects have been more gratifying than others, but I always try to treat each of them with respect and to do my best. I figured that I had to sit there and write it, so I might as well make the best of it. The most disagreeable experiences had to do with when people couldn’t get along and consequently, a course of action, in terms of music, was hard to find.
John Mansell: You also have given concerts, have these been purely of your film and TV material, or have you also included non score items on the programme?
Patrick Williams: I have done a few concerts where I played some of my television themes and so on, but not too many. I’ve written a lot of original orchestral material as well as a number of big band albums and I prefer to perform those things.
John Mansell: What composers, if any, would you say have influenced you in your way of composing?
Patrick Williams: To name a few: Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Victor Young, Alex North, David Raksin, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams.
John Mansell: What is your opinion of the state of film and TV music today and are there any young up and coming composers that you think will in the future be big names?
Patrick Williams: I think Tom Newman is excellent. Michael Giacchino has a great deal of promise. I also like the score to ATONEMENT by Dario Marianelli.
John Mansell: You worked on around 60 episodes of THE BOB NEWHART SHOW – what was he like to work with?
Patrick Williams: I actually did not work with Bob Newhart. I worked with Jay Tarses who was one of the writer/producers. I met Bob a few times and he is a wonderful guy.
John Mansell: When you are working out your musical themes for a project how do you work, i.e. piano, synthesiser, or do you write straight to manuscript?
Patrick Williams: I have worked with a piano ever since I started and continue to do so. I also still write with a pencil and I like the way the blood flows through my fingers to the paper. I don’t seem to be able to get the blood flowing on a synthesizer.
John Mansell: What do you think of the increased use of electronics etc. within film scoring. Do you think film scores have benefited from their inclusion or do you think that maybe recently scores are all beginning to sound much the same?
Patrick Williams: I think that the process of scoring by samples and computer oriented technology is here to stay. Having said that, it should be nothing more or less than another tool to complement the composer’s palate. The real issues are talent, taste, and education.
John Mansell: Have you a favourite score, either of your own or by another composer?
Patrick Williams: I have so many of them that it would take too long to name them.
John Mansell: When you are working on a film or TV project, do you like to start at the main title or theme and work though to the end titles, or do you tackle themes and cues in no particular order?
Patrick Williams: I always try to work on the longest cues first. In other words, to try to thin down the themes and overall theatrical approach to the score. A successful score to me must have elements that relate to each other and an overall dramatic line from beginning to end.
John Mansell: What would you say has been the most rewarding assignment of your career, and why?
Patrick Williams: I don’t think it’s possible to give you an answer to that. There have been many rewarding projects and they have been worthwhile for different reasons. All I remember is being extremely busy in the 70’s and 80’s and even the 90’s and as I look back on it, I find it hard to believe that I really did all of that. Sometimes it seems like another lifetime.
Patrick Williams: I have done it always all kinds of ways. I’ve orchestrated my own. I’ve used an orchestrator. But when I sketch, the sketches are pretty complete because I think in a way as an orchestrator and I want things a certain way. I have also found that casting solo instruments (here in Los Angeles, anyway) can be a very interesting addition to the theatrical qualities of a score. For example, it isn’t just the sound of the flute, it’s the way a certain person plays the flute, which almost makes it like a character in the film. So at times, I cast a soloist like a director would cast actors.
Patrick Williams: I have always loved the English strings. Every time I went to London to do a score and started to conduct the first cue, I heard these beautiful in tune sonorities from the string section and my heart started to pound. I still don’t know to this day how they do it over there, but there is a sound to those English string sections that just kills me.John Mansell: What are you working on at the moment?
Patrick Williams: I just finished working on part of an album with Natalie Cole which I enjoyed very much.
John Mansell: What was your first scoring assignment, and how did you become involved with the project?
Patrick Williams: A movie called HOW SWEET IT IS which was a comedy starring Debbie Reynolds and James Garner in 1968. I got it, in part, because I was recommended by Henry Mancini.
John Mansell: When you began to become involved in music, did you always think that you would write music for film or was it something that just happened as your career progressed?
Patrick Williams: When I left New York, I had a burning ambition to become a film composer and I will always be grateful for a few people who helped me get started in Los Angeles, including Lionel Newman at 20th Century Fox, Dick Barris at Columbia Pictures, Stanley Wilson at Universal, Allan Burns and Jay Tarses at MTM, and Ray Stark.
John Mansell: The ‘Temp Track’; what are your feelings about film makers utilisation of temp tracks on films etc. is it an aid or a distraction?
Patrick Williams: The temp track is a reality. Whether I like it or not doesn’t matter in the slightest. The fact is that technology allows movies to be tracked before they’re scored, which to me limits the theatrical options of a talented composer. I don’t mind a few temp ideas. As a matter of fact, sometimes they can be very useful, but to temp every cue in a movie before a composer has had a chance to score it is nothing less than a “control fixation.” I would also point out that I don’t think SONG OF BERNADETTE by Alfred Newman, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND by John Williams, PATTON by Jerry Goldsmith, LAURA by David Raksin had temp scores. They were all products of an effective collaboration between composer and director and extremely gifted musicians.
John Mansell: Do you think you are well represented on recordings?
Patrick Williams: I wish I’d had more soundtrack releases of some of the scores I did, but when hit songs became all the rage and were stuck into movies like postage stamps, the idea of releasing a film score on its own merits became somewhat outdated. But I have made a lot of records in my career and I certainly can’t complain.