My Funny Detective is a score composer and guitarist Giancarlo Vulcano wrote for a screenplay given to him by his friend Paul Meadows back in 2005. At the time Meadows was “lonely and alcoholic, bitter and cynical” and had decided to channel his feelings into writing a screenplay about the lonely private eye. Vulcano’s score is his own take on classic jazzy film noir scoring and is written for a small ensemble of musicians consisting of electric and bass guitar, drums and two trombones. Vulcano’s has composed a piece that is quite striking and distinctive, especially in how he uses the trombones (muted and unmuted). They are particularly expressive, almost becoming the characters of the unmade film and giving a voice to the words on the printed page of the script.
Vulcano’s use of trombones in the score is particularly well shown off in the second track, “On The Case”, where once the trombones have become established (in unison) they then split and begin to have a musical dialogue with one another – perhaps discussing the case? Alongside the brass guitars and drums lay out a beat that positively propels the music forward (our private eye is, after all, on a case and everything is going well). This combination appears again later in “Killing Time” and seems to be associated with when the gumshoe is on the job. The trombones of the score appear to be the “inner voice” for the detective and is a main focus throughout. In tracks such as “Theme For A Hangover”, “Heartache In The Dark” and “Reflections In A Public Bathroom Mirror” Vulcano has the trombones playing varied glissandi. This sliding musical device sounds like slurring and is suggestive that our detective is having one or two drinks. In “Heartache In The Dark”, everything seems to be going well (we hear mournfully expressive but “sober” trombones) but soon the cue descends into a musical scene that would not look out of place in any speakeasy dive.
A recurring melody/motif on electric guitar is another prominent aspect of My Funny Detective. Already mentioned as a key element in the tracks that are associated with the detective doing his job appears to be a main voice for the private eye, perhaps the better side of the man. Heard first at the beginning of the album (“The Spectator”), this weary and lonely guitar gets a full hearing in the final cue “Amos’s Theme”. Interestingly, the same motif is heard in muted trombones briefly in “Mystery, The Game”.
Although comparisons are pretty useless unless people are familiar with the comparator score, Vulcano’s use of the trombones in My Funny Detective reminds me of some of Carey Blyton’s stark and sombre scores composed for mid-1970s Doctor Who episodes such as Doctor Who and The Revenge of The Cybermen. In these scores Blyton uses small ensembles with prominent sombre brass.
The album itself plays as a series of musical ideas and benefits from not being restricted by any on-screen action. Vulcano is able to develop his musical ideas and tracks such as “Heartache In The Dark” and particularly “Reflections In A Public Bathroom Mirror” grow and develop into mini-stories themselves. One “blot” with the score though is that Vulcano’s trombone writing is so expressive and so reminiscent of human vocalisations that I can’t help but think of Charlie Brown and Linus’ wah-wahing school teacher from the Peanuts TV specials. Otherwise, My Funny Detective is a score to recommend that grows with every listen. It’s not what I would call classic film noir scoring but it has the elements to it that makes it a not-to-distant relative. Perhaps if the film had been made the score may have been expanded for a more conventional sounding soundtrack. As it is, it’s an unusual and rewarding listen that is being heard both in live performance and is available as a download or on CD.
Audio samples can be found HERE and then click on arrow next to running time for samples of entire album or individual tracks.
- The Spectator (0:29)
- On The Case (4:19)
- Theme For A Hangover (0:31)
- Greener Pastures (1:07)
- Killing Time (1:14)
- Driving Lesson (Car Chase) (1:26)
- Heartache In The Dark (5:34)
- Mystery, The Game (1:48)
- The Break-In (3:50)
- Cow Jumped Over The Moon (2:32)
- Reflections In A Public Bathroom Mirror (6:28)
- Amos’s Theme (3:35)
Running Time: 32:59
Distant Second Records (2010)