MY FUNNY DETECTIVE – Giancarlo Vulcano


Original Review by Alan Rogers

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.

Rating: ***½

  1. The Spectator (0:29)
  2. On The Case (4:19)
  3. Theme For A Hangover (0:31)
  4. Greener Pastures (1:07)
  5. Killing Time (1:14)
  6. Driving Lesson (Car Chase) (1:26)
  7. Heartache In The Dark (5:34)
  8. Mystery, The Game (1:48)
  9. The Break-In (3:50)
  10. Cow Jumped Over The Moon (2:32)
  11. Reflections In A Public Bathroom Mirror (6:28)
  12. Amos’s Theme (3:35)

Running Time: 32:59

Distant Second Records (2010)

Advertisements

Comments

  1. Alan, do you know if there are any clips available anywhere to sample?

  2. So I’ve listened to all the clips on Amazon, and honestly: I’m not too keen on it.
    It’s a freeform type of jazz that, even though still melodic, simply doesn’t resonate with me very much.
    But here’s the interesting bit: in my search for clips I happened upon their MySpace page..and the songs on there are *excellent*!
    http://www.myspace.com/myfunnydetective/music#!/myfunnydetective/music/songs?filter=popular
    Maybe a bit more old fashioned style-wise, but had these been on the CD, I’d have purchased it in a heartbeat!
    So while this particular album, interesting and fun it may be as a concept, is a no-buy for me, I 8will* be keeping my eyes open to see if I can find any other of their works on CD!

    • Thanks for the comments Martijn. Much appreciated.

      I read your comments about the MySpace music. I had a look through the album’s tracks and, although the tracks on the MySpace page are different versions the music is essentially the same as that heard on the album:

      1 – “I Should Get Going” = “Greener Pastures” (Track 4)
      2 – “The Agent” = “On The Case” (Track 2)
      3 – “Do I Look Like Barbeque To You” = “Driving Lesson (Car Chase)” (Track 6)
      4 – “Busride” = “Heartache In The Dark” (Track 7)

      They are not the same but similar. The MySpace tracks sound more polished. Perhaps because they have played the soundtrack as a live set on a number of occasions.

      • Yes, I noticed the similarities…but it seemed to me they were different executions of the same basic idea.
        That approach of course makes sense though, in jazz.
        However I *firmly* prefer the MySpace versions: they seem more “disciplined” and “directional”*), if that makes sense (you should know that I am not a fan of free form jazz at all, so intense improvisation has never been my favourite.).
        This makes the MySpace tracks a lot more enjoyable to me.

        *) It’s pretty clear I’m not well versed in proper jazz terminology, so I try and use descriptions that seem in line with what I feel. I realise this may seem rather silly to a proper musician or musicologist.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: