John Barry’s Goldfinger In Focus – Barry Russell

Original Book Review by Alan Rogers

“John Barry’s Goldfinger In Focus” is a slight book (a mere 40 pages in length) and is one of a number of study guides for students studying for a Music Technology qualification (other guides include “Danny Elfman: Batman In Focus” and “The Who: Who’s Next In Focus”). Although written with music students in mind, this book is written in such a way that it will be of interest to the general reader who wishes to learn about the general relationship between music and image in film. Written by Barry Russell, the author’s extensive experience as a teacher, lecturer and director of many education and community projects with several orchestras has resulted in a reference book that is a wealth of information on John Barry’s score to the classic 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger.

The bulk of the book is made up of a chapter devoted to an analysis of the 15 cues found on the most recent CD release. For each of these cues in turn, a brief description of the music (e.g., specific motifs used as well as a description of the instruments used) is listed alongside specific bar numbers in tabular form, giving a detailed – but concise – summary of each track. As an example, at the beginning of the cue “Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus”, bars 1-4 “…begins with a jolly 12/8 feel, and a carousel-like riff in violins and flutes with a variation of Gold 2 [a specific motif touched on below] on horns. The harmony moves from F major to D-flat major 7”. Three of these cues – “Alpine Drive”, “Auric’s Factory” and “Dawn Raid On Fort Knox” – are expanded into “case studies” which offer a more detailed look at how the music is used within specific scenes (and includes additional information including specific timings, as well as a short summary of what is happening on-screen at specific points). I personally love pouring over this sort of detail for cues and, although I do not really understand much of the theory, the level of detail is set so that I can still get a lot of information from the analyses. 

Prior to the cue analysis chapter, Russell spends time discussing broader aspects of the score. He discusses Barry’s choice of instruments and how they are orchestrated, there’s also a brief mention of Barry’s musical influences (that highlights the eclectic mix of pop, big band jazz and symphonic ideas heard in Goldfinger) and there is a discussion of the various leitmotifs (and their variations) for Goldfinger, James Bond and additional musical ideas (e.g., a 4-note idea used to represent Goldfinger’s organisation). For example, in the case of Goldfinger, and using musical notation examples, Russell clearly highlights three motif associated with Goldfinger (including what is referred to as “Gold 2”; a three-note idea of a rising fifth followed by a falling second and which is heard at the start of the iconic song when Shirley Bassey first sings the villain’s name). This chapter, together with the cue analysis chapter, arms the reader/listener with the information needed to get a better understanding of Barry’s score and how it is used in the film.

The book concludes with a brief summary of John Barry’s other James Bond scores as well as a couple of paragraphs on music for other spy films (e.g., John Powell’s Jason Bourne films, Mission: Impossible II, the Austin Powers series of films, as well as TV series’ such as The Avengers and Danger Man). However, these latter discussions are so brief that they really serve no purpose. Their inclusion, together with the baffling inclusion of a discussion on product placement in the Bond films, feels like an attempt to pad out the book with a few more pages. An glossary appendix adds a few more pages, filling the contents out to the (apparently) required 40 pages. These final sections aside, Barry Russell’s analysis of John Barry’s motifs and cues for Goldfinger is a useful reference for anyone with an interest in how Barry’s music is used in the film. I frequently find myself pulling this book off the bookshelf when I fancy listening to Barry’s classic music.

Rating: ***½

40 pages, ISBN 1-90617-810-0

Published by Rhinegold Publishing, London, UK (2007)

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