Ten Tracks Today – A Bernard Herrmann Special #3 – 29th June 2011

01 – “The Car” – Psycho

Recorded in 1975, this is arguably my favourite track from this score and this version, the Unicorn-Kanchana release of the National Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of the composer himself, is my favourite. The low, repetitive strings with the dramatic cellos coming in when they do…I remember many a time just spending a few minutes with the 45 second cue on repeat. Watching a Hermann documentary on DVD recently I think the muting of the strings is what comes out particularly strongly on this version that catches my ear.

02 – “Overture” – The Snows of Kilimanjaro

The frenetic strings are what stick in the mind in this track, with the whole cue setting the scene for a rip-roaring movie. Unfortunately, from what I recall, the film doesn’t really live up to the exuberance of the track.

03 – “Duo” – Mysterious Island

The TFC re-recording. This lovely, reflective track has strings and progressions that remind me of similar, more low-key tracks from Vertigo. [Read more…]

Ten Tracks Today – A Bernard Herrmann Special #2 – 27th June 2011

01 – “Trailer” – The Wrong Man

Usually the track heard on compilations from this movie is the upbeat music for the Stork Club but I much prefer Herrmann’s underscore with the sparse orchestration of clarinets, horns, brass and bass. It is a bit disjointed, moving back and forth between scenes for the trailer. Apparently Herrmann wrote the music for the first and third segments of the trailer.

02 – “Track 01” – The Twilight Zone: Where Is Everybody?

Typical Herrmann. Only 45 seconds or so, but he takes a simple repeating device and moves it through various parts of the orchestra.

03 – “The Forest” – The Kentuckian

Pastoral, open, optimistic! A lovely thematic track this one that definitely is bright and sings of open spaces. One from Herrmann’s England-influenced “romantic” period? [Read more…]

Ten Tracks Today: A Bernard Herrmann Special – 23rd June 2011

01 – “Finale” – Vertigo

Track from the Conlon re-recording. From the point where Scotty takes Judy up to the scene of the crime in the bell tower. One of Herrmann’s greatest themes, the love theme, plays one final time before the organ signals the end with a grand timpani roll heralding fate’s final judgement.

02 – “Space Control” – The Day The Earth Stood Still

Track from the Varese re-recording. I like the otherworldliness of the orchestration of this track. A recent documentary highlights the use of the Klaatu’s touchless control of his spaceship’s controls with the touchless playing of the theremin.

03 – “The Battle” – Mysterious Island

Another re-recording! Herrmann again uses repeating figures but this time for a battle (though I can’t remember the specific sequence in the film). The whole track reminds me somewhat of an English hunt. [Read more…]

My Favourite Scores – 1925

  • The Battleship Potemkin
  • Dmitri Shostakovich
  • Unreleased

Sergei Eisenstein’s silent propaganda film The Battleship Potemkin has had several scores composed for it over the years. In fact, I’ve read that the director himself wanted a score written for the film every 20 years. Back in the mid-70s Russian officialdom took sequences from several of Dmitri Shostakovich’s symphony works (Symphonies No. 4, 5, 8, 10 and 11) and fashioned a score to accompany the film for it’s 50th anniversary release.

I watched the film just recently on YouTube and it featured Shostakovich’s score and I was immediately taken by the music I heard. At the same time giving an emotional basis to the visuals, as well as hitting the on-screen action moments, the music seems almost to have been written specifically for the film because whole swathes of Shostakovich’s music hits several key moments in the movie – just as expertly as any film composition written specifically for a film today (though the film itself may have been slightly edited to fit the chosen music). My enthusiasm for the music I heard is probably down to the excellence of Shostakovich’s writing of “classical music” in general but it fits the film so well. [Read more…]

Ten Tracks Today – 18th June 2011

Trying out some new headphones on the PC: a pair of Sennheiser HD 205 cans. Not sure if it is the cans themselves (most reports say they are good though are a bit muddy with classical music) or the processing of my Dell Inspiron with its SRS Premium Sound process, but they don’t sound nearly as good as my older JVC cans. But anyway…

01 – “Fulums” – Dragonball: EvolutionBrian Tyler

I enjoy the Tyler sound and the prominent percussion of this track. There are some great tracks on the album as a whole. It’s is nothing too memorable but when it is playing it is great!

02 – “I Saw Daddy Today” – Good Bye, Lenin!Yann Tiersen

A beautiful track for solo piano. I love how the melodic line and the counterpoint are good on their own and even better together. The composer manages to add a certain level of sadness to the cue without making it too obviously sad.

03 – “Theme From Cleopatra Jones (alternate vocal take)” – Cleopatra JonesJ.J. Johnson

Nice! There’s a great vibe with the repeating guitar motif. Great vocals. And I am a sucker for songs that have an element of the orchestral in them so the string passages get a thumbs up also. I find this song just as infectious as the theme from Shaft. [Read more…]

IL PRIMO INCARICO – Donatello Pisanello

Original Review by Alan Rogers

The beauty with the increasing availability of digital media outlets for soundtracks is being able to hear music that you would not normally expect to hear from films you would not normally expect to come across. Il Primo Incarico (The First Assignment) is an Italian movie from 2011 which follows Nena travelling far from home for her first job as a schoolteacher. She’s in love with someone in the village she has to leave but promises she’ll remain faithful. However, the isolated school she goes to teach at has a handsome stubbly handyman who seems to have an eye for the ladies… Director Giogria Cecere has turned to “journalist, musician, arranger and composer” Donatello Pisanello to score this Italian drama.

The short (30 minute) score revolves around 2-3 ideas that appear in a variety of versions, played by a small ensemble of players (acoustic guitar, cello and double bass). The theme for Nena is a beautiful theme that we first hear arranged for acoustic guitar and cello and we hear it in full in the second track, “Tena di Nena”. Most of the tracks found in this release sound more like concert pieces rather than underscore for a film: tracks are self-contained pieces with themes or ideas being restated unchanged or with slightly different arrangements. [Read more…]

Cue-by-cue – EXISTENZ (Howard Shore)

Howard Shore’s score to David Cronenberg’s movie eXistenZ is one of my favourite. RCA Victor’s release of the score in 1999 is typical for a non-speciality label’s release of a soundtrack. Unlike speciality labels such as Film Score Monthly and Intrada whose releases usually features an in-depth run-down of each track (including a summary of action in the film covered by the specific music of the track), there was no in-depth information on how the music fitted with the film. All the information contained in the 4-page CD booklet amounted to some music credits, thanks to various people, a tracklisting and some black-and-white film publicity shots.

With films and music that I like, I very much enjoy seeing how the music fits into a film and I remember spending far too much time in front of the TV watching (and re-watching) films such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, noting down what was happening in each track. Recently, I decided to do this for eXistenZ and so below is a cue-by-cue rundown of each track of the film with a summary of what’s happening in each track. (All timings relate to the CD times.) [Read more…]