Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Classical Connections

Aaron Copland conducting the soundtrack for Something Wild, 1961
Aaron Copland Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
Classical, or concert music composers writing film music is not new by any means.  We have seen composers like Philip Glass and Eric Whitacre recently.  Many of the composers listed have done many different genres, so it is no surprise that they worked on films.  As a director or producer, it must have been great to have a prestigious "serious" composer to score the film.  So here is a list of a few of those "serious" composer and their foray into composing for films.      

One of the first well documented scores was the film short from 1908 L'assassinat du duc de Guise, with music by Camille Saint-Saëns.


William Walton (1902-1983) composed for both concert and film throughout his life.  His most well received film scores are the ones for Laurence Olivier’s Shakespeare adaptations Henry V (1944) and Hamlet (1948), both of which received Oscar nominations.  Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) composed few works for film, many being short films or documentaries.  Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) wrote several for several films in the 1940s.

One major composer to straddle both worlds was Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957).  He actually wrote more concert music, but his film music is what he is most remembered for now.  Most of his concert pieces have been recorded and are performed across the world.    

Two popular American composers also wrote for films.  Aaron Copland (1900-1990) wrote nine scores including Our Town (1940), Of Mice and Men (1939) and The Red Pony (1948) and Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) only did one original film score - the haunting score for On the Waterfront (1954).  Bernstein was Oscar nominated for Waterfront, and Copland was nominated six times, winning in 1949 for The Heiress.

One composer who has blended music from both worlds is John Corigliano (1938-).  The only films he scored are Altered States (1980), Revolution (1985), and The Red Violin (1999).  His score for Altered States was Oscar nominated and was brought to a global audience as he won for The Red Violin.  He has since reworked his thematic elements from the score and turned it into a suite and his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra “The Red Violin” to be performed on the concert stage.  Talk about full circle. 

Philip Glass (1937- ) is another composer who has transitioned smoothly, as his style of music fits nicely as underscoring.  His work on documentary films is most impressive, including the Godfrey Reggio trilogy (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi).  His other notable scores include Candyman (1992), Martin Scorsese’s biopic Kundun (1997), additional music for The Truman Show (1998), The Hours (2002), The Illusionist (2006) and Notes on a Scandal (2006).  

Tan Dun (1957- ) is another name that appears in both categories.  Mostly known for his scores to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Hero (2002), he has composed several operas and concert works.  He is known for using his Chinese techniques and instruments and applying them into his works.    

The two major composers that come to mind are Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) and Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).  Both are known for their extensive concert repertoire and are common in just about every major symphony orchestra.  Most regular concertgoers aren’t aware of their scores for film.  Shostakovich’s film work began in 1929 and continued until 1970.  Many of the scores were written for director Grigori Kozintsev, including 1930’s Alone, 1964’s Hamlet and 1970’s King Lear.  While many conservative audiences find his main musical output to be too complex, his film music is more accessible without removing the composer from the work.  Having played piano accompaniment for silent films, Shostakovich was easily able to transition to score composing.  Many of Shostakovich’s film suites and soundtracks have been released and slowly making their way into his standard repertoire.  

 Prokofiev on the other hand is known for his suites arranged from his few film scores.  One of his more popular orchestral suites is Lieutenant Kije, based on the film of the same name.  His other popular film score is for Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938).  This score in particular has been an inspiration to many future film scores and composers.  This brilliant score was turned into a cantata by the composer and has been recently re-released.  Prokofiev’s other film masterpiece is the multi-part epic Ivan the Terrible (1944, 1958). 

These composers (and several others like Richard Strauss, Richard Wagner, and Igor Stravinsky) have shaped the film music we listen to today.  Without many of these composers, we wouldn’t have the sound achieved by Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Patrick Doyle and John Williams. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Animated Movie Scores

Animated movies are everywhere – they seem to open every weekend.  Thanks to the classic Disney movies, the music is often just as well known as the films themselves.  The best part is most people don’t know the composers of those films (George Bruns, Oliver Wallace etc).  Since the Disney “renaissance” starting with The Little Mermaid in 1989, songs and composers have been extremely important to the films.  Big name composers have been working on animated films since then. 
 
Looking at the all time box office US domestic grosses, animated movies show up numerous times.  As of June 2011, these films are in the top 100:
5. Shrek 2
9. Toy Story 3
18. Finding Nemo
22. The Lion King
23. Shrek the Third
40. Up
50. Shrek
52. The Incredibles
58. Monsters, Inc.
59. Despicable Me
64. Toy Story 2
65. Cars
70.  Shrek Forever After

To see who worked on animated films, I’ve made some handy graphs for the main studios working now.  We have Disney (1989-), Pixar, DreamWorks and Blue Sky.  I didn't include Studio Ghibli because it wouldn't be an interesting graph.  (Joe Hisaishi composed them all).  So here are the fancy graphs:


Animated movie scores have been nominated for Academy Awards a ton (especially during the Musical/Drama split in the 90's).  Winners include:
Pinocchio, Dumbo, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Up.

Of course Best Original Song winners have come from animated movies.  They include: Pinocchio, Song of the South, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Prince of Egypt, Tarzan, Monsters, Inc., Toy Story 3.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quick Review: Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Music composed by Hans “Long John” Zimmer
Additional music by: Rodrigo y Gabriela, Eric Whitacre, Geoff Zanelli, Tom Gire, John Sponsler, Matt Margeson, Guillaume Roussel
Additional arrangements by: Jacob Shea, Thomas Bergerson, Nick Phoenix
Orchestrated by: Bruce Fowler, Elizabeth Finch, Walt Fowler, Rick Gioninazzo, Kevin Kaska, Suzette Moriarty, Ed Neumeister
Album time: Score 43 minutes, Remixes 32 minutes
Available on Walt Disney Records

And here we go again.  That was the feeling listening to and watching the most recent Pirates installment.  The film feels different; perhaps it’s the switching of directors or the focus on the adventures of Jack Sparrow.  We do maintain a bit of continuity in that Hans Zimmer and company have returned for the music. 
The score, on the other hand, adds some new people to the long list of people.  We have classical composer Eric Whitacre, known for his choral works joined in on the mermaid theme with choir.  The bigger names (and also front cover status) is Rodrigo y Gabriela, a Mexican guitar duo.  Their work is featured all over the album, giving the score a Spanish flair.  I actually like this touch to the score.  Hans Zimmer’s other recent score, Rango, has a similar flair.  The thematic material hasn’t really evolved since the beginning, which is fine for a sequel nowadays, but I expected a bit more of a change than instrumentation changes.
The score (and film) in general leave a taste of retread rather than variations on a theme.  For some reason, I feel like going track by track if there’s anything interesting to say. 

The album starts with a pretty familiar sounding Jack Sparrow theme for his escape and general craziness in Guilty of Being Innocent of Being Jack Sparrow.
  The theme appears more in the film than on album, but not my much.  Angelica is the best track on the album, with Rodrigo y Gabriela (RyG) taking the lead on a pirate-y tango.  This is also the first track released as a pseudo-single and spread over the internet.  Mutiny is slightly different version of a Curse of the Black Pearl.  The longest track (and most used in the score) is Mermaids.  The women’s voices fit nicely with the mermaid motif, which sounds beautiful and yet ominous.  It has some moments that sound like some of Zimmer’s work on the Da Vinci Code.  The cue turns to an action cue with a churning string ostinato and the wordless choir joining in.  More guitars and Pirates music ensues.  South Of Heaven's Chanting Mermaids certainly sounds like nothing else on the album, perhaps more RyG influence than Zimmer.  Blackbeard didn’t have a distinct personality compared to past foe Davy Jones.  His theme (and aptly named track) doesn’t either.  There are some interesting instruments like electric guitar, but mostly nothing spectacular.  The track has some in-your-face moments, but overall lacking in the memorable villain theme.  I do have to mention the famous Dies Irae used as the Spanish explorer’s motif.  I get the Catholic connection, but other than that, it seems a bit silly.  A bit more mermaid motif, a bit more guitar solos.  The End Credits are enjoyable with the guitar/Pirates theme. 

Now for the fun part.  This is where my “yarr” turned to a “yawn”.
I don’t know whose ideas the remixes were.  We’ve seen them on other Pirates soundtracks (Dead Mans Chest) and the Treasures Box Set.  I’m not entirely sure their intended audience, as a remix for the main theme would be fine, but we get 7 full tracks of remixes.
  Did Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy soundtrack make the studio want more club music?  Not to mention the remixes sound nothing like their original material, but that’s not my fault.  For me, they’re basically un-listenable.  And as a score fan, I was sorely disappointed by the sheer number of unnecessary remixes on the album.  Oh well.   

MUSIC TO HEAR:
Angelica
Mermaids
End Credits

Click here for a behind the scenes video of Zimmer and Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Maurice Jarre: The Classic

Maurice Jarre was born in Lyon, France in 1924.  Unlike many other film composers, Jarre didn’t start music early.  He eventually entered the Paris Conservatoire to study percussion and composition.  There he studied with composer Arthur Honneger.  After service in World War II, Jarre worked for the Renaud-Barrault Theater Company as music director and arranger.  Upon leaving Jean Louis Barrault’s theater, Jarre became the music director for Théâtre National Populaire.  He composed incidental music for the shows and through them composed music for his first short film Hotel des Invalides (1952) on the request of director George Franju.  He continued composing for short films throughout the 1950s and by 1958 worked on feature-length films.  Also in 1958 the Théâtre National Populaire performed on Broadway with Jarre as incidental music composer and music director.  

1962 started a whole new chapter for Jarre.  Producer Darryl F. Zanuck hired Jarre for two films, The Big Gamble and The Longest Day.  He also composed the music for the French film Sundays and Cybele.  But it was the epic David Lean film Lawrence of Arabia that brought Jarre to worldwide attention.  Its use of ethnic instruments, intriguing rhythms and a memorable theme led the score to be a favorite over the years.  It of course started the collaboration with David Lean.  For the score, Jarre won his first Academy Award, also making third on the AFI list of top film scores.  Following Lawrence of Arabia, Jarre collaborated again with David Lean on Doctor Zhivago (1965).  The epic score, featuring the well-known Lara’s Theme, gave Jarre his second Academy Award.  The theme, renamed Somewhere My Love, topped the charts and went gold.  There aren’t many instrumental movie scores that have even gotten close. In the late 60’s he worked on Is Paris Burning? (1966), The Night of the Generals (1967) and one of Alfred Hitchcock’s last films Topaz (1969).  He reunited with Lean for Ryan’s Daughter, which ended up with bad reviews and a failure at the box office.  

In the 1970s, Jarre began working with other directors, including John Huston: The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), The Mackintosh Man (1973), and The Man Who Would Be King (1975).  He composed the score for Elia Kazan’s last film The Last Tycoon (1976).
The 1980s began a new phase for Jarre, starting new collaborations with directors, returning to old ones, but mainly his diversion from orchestral scores and moving to electronic scores.  One of his first hits in this time was the hugely successful television miniseries Shogun for NBC.  He began scoring films for director Peter Weir, which collaborated on 5 films starting with The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).  In 1984, he also began working with Jerry Zucker (who had previously used Elmer Bernstein for Airplane!) for Top Secret!  That same year, Jarre and Lean collaborated for the last time on A Passage to India (1984), which earned Jarre his third Academy Award.  For one of the most famous composer/director collaborations (22 years), they only actually worked on 4 films – 3 of which received the Oscar for score.  

The late 80s continued to be a successful time for Jarre, with hits like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) and the Oscar nominated electronic score Witness (1985).  Other films include The Mosquito Coast (1986), Fatal Attraction (1987); Oscar nominated Gorillas in the Mist (1988), Dead Poets Society (1989) for Peter Weir.  He returned with Jerry Zucker for the drama Ghost (1990) for which Jarre received his last Oscar nomination.

Jarre slowed down starting in the 1990s, but still composed.  Throughout his Hollywood career, he composed some concert works and conducted his scores in concert.  His last score was for 2000’s I Dreamed of Africa.  Jarre died in 2009 of cancer at age 84.

Maurice Jarre’s influence on film scores is evident in the long lasting appeal of his scores.  Steven Spielberg said in an interview with Laurent Bouzereau, “I went out and bought the Maurice Jarre soundtrack and for the next couple of months played the score over and over again.”  Jarre’s use of electronic instruments in his scores helped pave the way for future scores, having a mix of orchestra, synthesizers and electric instruments such as the Ondes Martenot.  His scores for David Lean remain his most popular and his scores contain some of the most recognizable film themes.    

 
MUSIC TO HEAR
Lawrence of Arabia - Overture (click here to listen)
Doctor Zhivago Suite - Maurice Jarre conducting (click here to listen)
Witness – Main Theme (click here to listen)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Interview with Orchestrator Dave Metzger


I had an opportunity to have film orchestrator and composer Dave Metzger answer some questions about orchestrating and his career in Hollywood today. 
Dave Metzger has orchestrated for composers such as Mark Mancina, Alan Silvestri and John Powell.  He has composed music for Brother Bear 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and was Tony nominated for his orchestrations to the Broadway version of Lion King.      

Q: First off, how did you get into the film business?
Dave Metzger: I started composing and arranging music at age 12, became enamored with film music at age 16 after seeing the first Star Wars movie, and then moved to LA for college.  At college (Cal State University Long Beach) I began making contacts with fellow students, who recommended me if they heard of someone that needed writing work done.  A week before moving [to Oregon] I got a call from a friend who led a casual/society band that I used to play in. He had just been hired to be the music supervisor for The Tonight Show, for which Jay Leno had just been named as the host, and he needed to line up composers and arrangers to write for the band. So, for the first 5 years I lived in Oregon (from 1992-1997) I wrote about 250 pieces for The Tonight Show.
In 1997 I got a call from an old friend asking if I would be interested in orchestrating on a film for Mark Mancina - Speed 2.  During the same time period Mark had been hired by Disney to produce the music for the Broadway production of “The Lion King”, Mark asked me if I would be interested, I said yes, and after 9 months of intense work together we emerged with an extremely tight relationship. From that point on I have orchestrated every note of every movie that Mark has done, as well as contributing a significant amount of additional music composition on all of his projects.
Mark Graham, a longtime friend and colleague of mine who runs a copying service in LA, started to recommend me to composers and other orchestrators, which led directly to my work for Alan Silvestri and John Powell, as well as others. I am also extremely fortunate to have developed a friendship with John [Ashton] Thomas, who is a wonderfully talented orchestrator and composer, with whom I’ve worked on many projects over the past 4 years.
Q. What composers (of past or present) have influenced you or are there any composers that interest you as a listener?
DM: For me the biggest influences were John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Alan Silvestri, Stravinsky, Ravel, Debussy, and diverting from orchestral music, The Beatles, and the Buddy Rich/Count Basie/Maynard Ferguson/Thad Jones-Mel Lewis/Woody Herman big bands when I was a kid.
Q. A two part question: You worked on Lion King for Broadway, did you get attached to that from Mark and what was the challenge in moving film orchestrations to a Broadway pit orchestra which obviously has different requirements?


DM: As stated above, I did get attached to Lion King through Mark. It was a tremendous challenge, as I had never written for such a bizarre combination of instruments before! One of the advantages for writing for a big budget film score is that you have so many amazing musicians (between 70 and 110) and that they will make pretty much anything sound great.
In The Lion King we only had 24 musicians to work with, and 5 of them were percussionists, so every note really had to count. I had no idea if any of the orchestrations/arrangements were going to work at all until the sitzprobe, which is the first time that the musicians and singers rehearse together. Getting through that night was a huge relief!
I want to point out that I worked with Bob Elhai orchestrating The Lion King – we were co-orchestrators on the project and very much collaborators on the show. Bob is an extremely brilliant guy, and I’m sad to say that we haven’t had a chance to work together since then – hopefully there will be another opportunity in the future.

Q: What is it like switching from composer to composer? Along those same lines, how much information either in sketches or demos do you usually get from Alan Silvestri or John Powell?
DM: As far as what it’s like switching from composer to composer, the hardest part is when you work for someone for the first time because you aren’t sure how they like to see things notated, you don’t know how they prefer to have the strings divided, do they like extra “barking” in the low brass, etc. Once you get a feel for their style it gets much easier, and then it’s not too difficult to jump back and forth.
These days most everyone provides MIDI files/mock ups. Depending on the composer, some like you to fill in and expand upon what they’ve done while others want everything exactly as they have it in the file. Alan is one of the few remaining guys who still does hand sketches. His sketches are very complete, but there is room for creative input on the orchestration front as long as you don’t go too crazy.
The biggest challenge when dealing with MIDI files is to sort everything out. It’s not uncommon to get files with 100 or more tracks, including 30 or 40 for strings alone. It’s also not uncommon to have string ideas overlapping (long melodies PLUS pizz PLUS a layer of staccato rhythms), so a big challenge is how to include all of the elements without divisi-ing down to only having one player on every part!
Q: On practically all films now, the orchestrations are a team effort – how do cues get divided? Is there an effort to make the film scores sound cohesive, even though all orchestrators have their own techniques?
DM: Good question. The way it works is that one person is the supervising orchestrator, who then divvy ups the cues. That person (the supervisor) has usually established a long and trusted relationship with the composer. My experience is that the supervisor usually has his/her trusted list of orchestrators, with the top one or two getting the bulk of the assignments from the beginning of the project, and then with additional people brought in to pick up a cue or two as the recording dates become imminent. As far as making the scores sound cohesive, yes there is an effort made. It’s always great to make up a list of how to handle certain situations (things like how much freedom there is to add, how to handle 2 harps, certain patch issues, etc), which goes a long ways towards having the orchestrations sound cohesive.
The other part of the problem is that nowadays many composers use “additional music composers”, so a big challenge when orchestrating is to try and tighten up the varying compositional styles you might find on a project. I think that’s one very important thing that an experienced orchestrator can bring to a project anymore.

Q: You did some additional music for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Given that so many new video games have symphonic scores, what was it like working on that – is it any different than film?
DM: The biggest difference to me was that you aren’t composing to a locked picture that will always be seen that way; rather, they give you a video of someone playing the level so that you get a feel for what it will look like. The cool thing was that once you got the vibe of the level you’re just writing pieces of music (usually in the 4-6 minute range), so it was actually kind of freeing.
Q: Recently, How to Train Your Dragon was nominated for an Oscar for original score. What is that like being able to work on a score like that and what do awards (like Oscars and Tonys) mean to you?
DM: I don’t really put a lot of weight into it, because often when you’re working on a film you aren’t sure how good it will end up being (although sometimes it’s pretty obvious that it won’t be a classic!). However, at the end of the day I suppose it’s always nice to get some recognition for your work.
I actually rather enjoy history, so one of my favorite things when I record at a studio like Sony in LA is to sit there and think of all the amazing classic scores recorded there over the decades – I guess hopefully some of the films I’ve had a chance to work on might one day be thought of by someone in that way as well.
Q: Do you have any favorite cues or scores you’ve worked on that you’re extremely proud of – either composed or orchestrated?
DM: I’d say the scores I’m most proud to have been involved with would include “Tarzan”, “Training Day”, “August Rush”, and “How To Train Your Dragon”, either because I thought the films turned out pretty well or because the music had a special role in the picture. I was also happy on a compositional level to have had the opportunity to score “Brother Bear 2”, which although it wasn’t a big project, allowed me to have my name on the top of the credit list for a change (as opposed to ghosting so much music over the years).

Another project that was pretty cool was having the chance to arrange “When You Wish Upon A Star” for the Walt Disney Castle Logo that is seen at the beginning of most every Disney film – it was exciting to work on something that you know would be around for quite a while.
Q: Any other upcoming compositions or orchestrations you'd like to share?
DM: It’s been a busy year so far, and I’m already booked for 3 more films in the next two months. I’ll also be traveling to a few places around the world for some music changes in “The Lion King” (hard to believe that’s still happening 14 years later), plus I have a choral piece I’ve been commissioned for that I’ll be working on through the summer – it’s still fun to write some non-industry based music now and then!

My thanks to the obviously busy Dave Metzger for the interview. Look for his recent orchestrations in Kung Fu Panda 2, X-Men First Class, and Captain America.  You can view his IMDB page here.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Franchise, Sequels, Prequels & Reboots

It can be said that Hollywood loves sequels.  And obviously the audiences do too.  Of course this is not a new thing, but I think Hollywood has made a record number for 2011.  You’ll note that Hollywood loves Roman numerals, but also loves mixing them in with regular numbers.  They also love colons.  I love how much thought goes into coming up with the subtitle for the film and retaining the series name, because in the end the average movie-goer just says “2 tickets for Pirates 4 at 7:30”.  I also love the continuity and un-continuity of certain series.  (I’m looking at you Rambo and Fast and the Furious).  I’ve put years on every film because reboots most likely take the name of the original film.  You know, not to confuse anyone or anything.

And yes, many times if different composers take over, the original theme is maintained.  Since this happens pretty regularly I don’t list them as composer.  Also, many series continue in direct-to-video fashion - but I've left them out.  And in case you're wondering, the Land Before Time is now up to XIII. 

FILM SERIES – SAME COMPOSER 
Austin Powers Trilogy – George S Clinton
Back to the Future Trilogy – Alan Silvestri
The Bourne Trilogy – John Powell
Evil Dead Trilogy – Joseph LoDuca
The Godfather Trilogy – Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola
The Hobbit Trilogy - Howard Shore
Indiana Jones 1-4 – John Williams
Lethal Weapon 1-4 - Michael Kamen
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Howard Shore
The Magnificent Seven 1-4 – Elmer Bernstein
The Man with No Name Trilogy – Ennio Morricone
The Matrix Trilogy – Don Davis
Millennium “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy – Jacob Groth
The Naked Gun Trilogy – Ira Newborn
Ocean's Trilogy – David Holmes
Police Academy 1-7 films – Robert Folk
Rush Hour Trilogy – Lalo Schifrin
Saw 1-7 – Charlie Clauser
Scream 1-4 – Marco Beltrami
Star Wars Prequel/Original Trilogy– John Williams
The Three Colors Trilogy  - Zbigniew Preisner
Transformers Trilogy – Steve Jablonsky
Toy Story Trilogy – Randy Newman


After the jump, I've included a list of trilogies, quadrilogies and series with different composers.  Check it out!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Quick Review: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre
Music composed by Dario Marianelli
Orchestrated by: Dario Marianelli and Benjamin Wallfisch
Violin solos by Jack Lieback
Conducted by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Album time: 45 minutes
Available on Sony Masterworks

 

Dario Marianelli is one solid composer.  When I saw they were remaking Jane Eyre, I was pleased to see Marianelli’s name on the list.  He does some great work and doesn't do enough films.  He came into most people's attention with the wonderful score to Pride & Prejudice in 2005, and winning the Oscar for best score in 2007 for Atonement.  Jane Eyre fits nicely with those scores mentioned and the style for all three films work nicely with Marianelli's scores.

Jane Eyre has been adapted numerous times over the years with some great scores as well, mainly Bernard Herrmann's 1944 version and John Williams' version in 1970.  Hopefully this score in time ranks among them.

This score begins with one of my favorite tracks Wandering Jane.  The tremolos in the orchestra give a sense of intrigue and sadness while a woman's voice softly sings.  Then in comes the violin solo.  The piano opens the track Awaken - possibly the most passionate track on the album. The violin soloist, Jack Lieback is featured in almost every track of the score.  It becomes the voice of the film and for the character.  The violin writing reminded me of the solos in James Newton Howard's The Village and Defiance.  The orchestra is really a small ensemble with strings, woodwinds, harp and piano.  The score is overall very light and has some great melodic moments.  The album is so short (around 45 minutes) and I wish it featured more.  The one thing I noticed is that the tracks blended together, it was hard to tell when the track switched. 

The album as a whole is a great listen, I have to commend Dario Marianelli on a beautiful score again.  


MUSIC TO HEAR:
Wandering Jane (Click here to listen)
White Skin Like the Moon
Waiting for Mr. Rochester
Awaken

Elmer Bernstein: The Variety

Of all the main film composers, Elmer Bernstein’s music is one of the most diverse.  He could do westerns, epics, dramas and comedies all extremely well.  His output is truly astounding with more than 200 films in his career.  

Elmer Bernstein was born in 1922 in New York City.  He started piano in his teens and showed immense talent.  He took lessons from Henriette Michelson, Aaron Copland, Roger Sessions and studied at the Juilliard School.  He possibly would have become a concert pianist, but instead was enlisted into the services for World War II.  He arranged songs for the United States Army Air Force Band and wrote music for the Armed Forces Radio programs.  After the war ended, Bernstein composed for a United Nations Radio show.  This led to his invitation to Hollywood by Columbia vice-president Sidney Buchman in 1950 and Bernstein’s first film score in 1951.  

During the 50s, Bernstein worked on the dance music on several projects, including the film adaptation of Oklahoma! and Peter Pan for Broadway/television.  As it was the McCarthy era, Bernstein’s political views landed him second rate movies for many years.  It wasn’t until 1955 when Bernstein got his biggest scores, one being Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.  Bernstein was planned to do the dance arrangements, but since DeMille’s go-to composer Victor Young was sick, DeMille asked Bernstein to take over the whole score.  The score is indeed as epic in scope as the film is.  Featuring horns and strings, the music is lush and melodic and triumphant.  At the same time as The Ten Commandments, Bernstein worked on his other big score – The Man with the Golden Arm.  For this tale of drug addicted jazz musician, Bernstein used a non-traditional jazz score.  He got his first Oscar nomination for it.  He used jazz again in 1957’s Sweet Smell of Success.

Bernstein had numerous films in the 1960s, each changing styles and genres.  The Magnificent Seven (1960) is perhaps the most quoted western theme.  He received another Oscar nomination for the score; the theme was used in Marlboro commercials and made the AFI top 10 scores.  To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) is an example of Bernstein’s variety as a composer.  The Oscar nominated score features another non-traditional orchestra, with the main titles being played by piano, flute and strings.  The score has some aspects of Americana, similar to music by Aaron Copland.  Other notable scores in the 60s include Hud (1963), The Great Escape (1963), The Hallelujah Trail (1965), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) and True Grit (1969).  Bernstein continued writing westerns and scoring many of the John Wayne films.  His only Oscar win came from Thoroughly Modern Millie.     

Another turn in his career came when he scored Animal House (1978).  Instead of a usual lighthearted comedy score, he became the straight man and scored it like a drama.  This is most obvious in the motivational speech scene.  This style of score in a comedy became standard, and Bernstein worked on films like Meatballs (1979), Airplane! (1980), Stripes (1981), Trading Places (1983) and Ghostbusters (1984).  

To avoid being a typecast composer, Bernstein turned to more dramas and other styles, scoring films like My Left Foot (1989).  Bernstein began collaboration with Martin Scorsese for the remake Cape Fear (1991).  Bernstein used Bernard Herrmann’s original themes and incorporated themes from Herrmann’s rejected score to Torn Curtain.  Bernstein also composed the score to Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (1993) which landed him another Oscar nomination.  He also did Bringing out the Dead for Scorsese in 1999, but his Gangs of New York score was rejected and replaced by Howard Shore.  Like many other film composers, he wrote for the concert stage.  He also ventured into composing for Broadway – with shows like How Now Dow Jones (1967) and Merlin (1983) and got Tony nominated for both.  He continued to find original sounds for his film scores even as he scored his final film Far from Heaven in 2002.  Bernstein died in 2004, a giant loss to the film community.  

During his lengthy career, Elmer Bernstein earned 14 Oscar nominations, 3 Golden Globe nominations, 2 Tony nominations, and several Grammy nominations.  He was also on the board and vice-president of the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and president of many other organizations.  Bernstein’s scores sound as fresh and innovative as when he composed them.  The variety and material in his scores is what makes him one of the best film composers.  

MUSIC TO HEAR
Ghostbusters – Main Theme (click here to listen)
The Great Escape – Main Titles (click here to listen)
To Kill a Mockingbird – Main Titles (click here to listen)
The Ten Commandments – The Exodus Scene (click here to listen)