Sunday, August 19, 2001

Old notes dredged up

* This will be just to keep my reviewing hand in.

I'm listening to shill's webcast. It'll be a little like dexterity drills.

Main Title [2:27] Jerry Goldsmith, The Blue Max

A broad statement of the main theme is introduced by "dawn music." This is developed fully into ever more soaring arrangements until a big finish that fades away with a gong's ring.

An Indissoluble League [2:16] Christopher Gordon, Moby Dick

This is a determined little march. After the exposition, a brass choir and a string grouping exchange opinions about what just went before. They are abruptly shushed by murmuring low strings and horns that lead back, so resolutely lead back, to a brief statement of the march.

Lillian's Heart Attack [3:17] James Horner, Brainstorm

A cymbal slash leads to a simple elegiac outpouring from a solo cello. This is violently punctuated by orchestral forces, apparently impatient with the long-formed cello melody. The strings become ever more agitated under incessant harrowing from the brass section. The big finish will be familiar to those who have seen the end of the Genesis Project. A birdlike figure and woman's chorus finishes the cue.

In Darkness [2:16] Christoper Young, Copycat

An impassioned theme is handed over to a piano playing a simple tune to the accompaniment of the orchestra in a sort of throbbing setting. Most song-like. There is an attractive set of counter-melodies that are passed around in the background. The overall feel is one of bittersweet nostalgia with a substantial dose of angst.

Main Theme [3:41] John Ottman, The Usual Suspects

A brilliant theme in the piano with a clever cello counter-melody weave around a mysterious accompaniment. This music is beautifully assembled. It also manages to evoke the character of the film perfectly. There is a brief moment of Elfman-like Batmanishness, but it is immediately subsumed back into the entirely exotic and dangerous character of the theme.

Main Title [2:34] Ernest Gold, Ship of Fools

A sad tune, chock full of regret is answered by a full-bodied, and slightly conventional presentation of the theme. It is lovely for all of that, but a bit schmaltzy. The ship's bell during a ball-room dancing-like sequence may be a little bit much.

Main Title [3:30] Bruce Smeaton, Iceman

The dreaded shakahachi makes an appearance here, although it is nicely paired with a conventional flute. The tune is entirely pleasant but belongs to that family of tunes that are just a tad overwrought. Perfectly nice of its class, but not really especially distinguishable. Could be dropped into any number of films without alteration.

Rafael's Theme [4:09] Jerry Goldsmith, Under Fire

My old college roommate thought this album was too repetitive. I thoroughly disagreed at the time, but I can see what he meant. Under Fire is an especially rich dish and is perhaps enjoyed in small bites. This track is in a contemplative mood to start out with, but opens up near the end into an irresistibly cheery tune. The effect is rather like seeing a sad person in a dismal hotel room in a strange country put on their jacket and walk out into a sunlit street, and suddenly smiling. A guitar solo introduces a very satisfactory set of variations and counter-melodies.

Main Titles - Sandra's Theme [2:43] John Ottman, Goodbye Lover

A quirky little late-night fox-trot. Arranged not very transparently for piano, saxophone and orchestra.

Main Title [3:25] Jerry Goldsmith, The Final Conflict

One of the all-time great tracks from Jerry Goldsmith. The theme for Damien manages to evoke not only the horror that is Damien but also the grandeur of his overwhelming charisma (it is Sam Neill after all). Completely operatic in nature, this is melodrama in its highest form. I have always found the tuba line to be especially wry. There is also a fine music for the Good Guy (who manages to stay offstage for most of the movie) that nicely dovetails with music for the starship Enterprise from a different movie.

King Rat [3:04] John Barry, King Rat

A fine entry into the sub-genre of WW II movie marches. The melody is especially memorable and cleverly arranged. This march is not especially edifying, but has a cautionary coloring instead.

Priere [3:41] Philippe Sarde, La fille de d'Artagnan

It's French. It's played on the gamba. It evokes DuFay. There are also snareless field drums. It's introspective. Some might hear Handel's sarabande (most famous from Barry Lyndon) but it's merely a musical family resemblance.

Ilia's Theme [3:01] Jerry Goldsmith, Star Trek: The Motion Picture

A beautiful love theme. This music manages to wrap up the whole span of a romantic relationship - first meeting - marriage - kids - old age together - in just a few bars. (The movie itself was entirely free of any romantic spark in the least. The incongruity is a bit awkward.) Utterly charming.

La Ligne d'Ombre [3:06] Wojciech Kilar, La Ligne d'Ombre

A love song in the Parisian style. For a short stretch, it aspires to emulate a lightweight Rachmaninoff.

Sunset Boulevard [7:44] Franz Waxman, Sunset Boulevard

This music has he unenviably dicey task of supporting one of the greatest movies ever made. It has to be smart but not distant, unapologetically ironic without being a parody. Franz Waxman proved to be up the challenge and created a music-scape of the movie's universe. Norma's theme is perfectly matched to the performance and I cannot imagine any improvement. Quite a way into the suite, the celesta makes a gesture that is the musical equivalent to the sign language for "crazy." This is followed by an entirely mad tarantella. A must-hear score.

Main Title [3:37] Leonard Rosenman, Beneath the Planet of the Apes

This is what most people call modern, avant-garde, or twentieth century music. It is decidedly non-melodic, but completely fascinating. An ever-shifting palette of sounds obtrude upon one another. There are sudden outbursts of terrifying effects. The tempo is that of a flat-bottomed bayou boat poling through a sphagnum-draped forest of cypress.

[:] Bernard Herrmann ,The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Bernard Herrmann owns bittersweet, and this is the supreme example of his mastery of this particular musical effect. The rise and fall of the melody and the insistent arrangement cannot fail to propel the listener along, and at the same time plumb unashamedly the more bathetic emotions.

Prelude [2:19] Bernard Herrmann, Prince of Players

A courtly effect is achieved through a nice arrangement of the brass families. A very memorable promenade of a tune.

Main Title [3:09] Maurice Jarre, Crossed Swords

A happy little tune is whistled (via the ondes martenot?) solo and then energetically passed around the orchestra. Unmistakably Jarrean.

Main Title (The Godfather Waltz) [3:07] Nino Rota, The Godfather

The famous music from the famous movie. A solo trumpet pronounces the theme straight and on the repeat is coupled with entirely dire and ominous rumblings from the orchestra. I sometimes confuse this with John Morris' tune for the monster from Young Frankenstein, a result of a small brain lesion, no doubt.

The Pleasantville Theme [1:08] Randy Newman, Pleasantville

Randy makes mock of homey themes from 'fifties TV such as Ozzie and Harriet and Life with Father. Shooting fish in a barrel, but done without error.

Awful Waste of Space [1:42] Alan Silvestri, Contact

Pretty tonalities in the form of celesta arpeggios and flute provide a background for a long-legged tune from horn and strings. Not terribly distinguishable from a lot of other film music. Not too deep into in the self-important realm, though.

The Dance [1:17] Rachel Portman, Emma

Performed on instruments with a nice, authentic sound. A sort of slow reel, I think.

Fargo, North Dakota [2:48] Carter Burwell, Fargo

Like John Ottman's The Usual Suspects, this music realizes its milieu with extreme precision. The unique orchestration utilizing the bowed psaltery unerringly illuminates the baleful imagery.

Witchfinder General [6:23] Paul Ferris, Witchfinder General

Some tense music, using tremolo strings and muted brass to good coloristic effect. Pizzicato strings and guitar are featured in an English ballad-like stretch. Fans of Vaughan-Williams should find a lot to like here. "...and they called her Barbara Allen."

Main Title and Calvera [3:55] Elmer Bernstein, Magnificent Seven

This tune has completely overflowed its banks and has become the signature tune for the entire genre of Westerns. A sweeping, overwhelming melody is coupled with an unstoppable arrangement of orchestral forces to produce this universally recognized music. Calvera is the evil twin of the Main Title: equally insistent, it is ruthless and hard.

Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom [3:22] John Williams, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

John Williams provided a colorful, even clever and evocative score for the weak second act of the Indian Jones movies. This is a rapid-fire collage of musical moments that is perfectly thrilling. Short-Round's motif always makes me cringe, but that's not the fault of the music. Check out the celesta pounding in the suspended-over-a-cliff section.

Used People [2:36] Rachel Portman, Used People

A lovely tune arranged for trombone. The best faux noir one can hope for. It slips over to smoky lounge territory but is really nice for all of that.

Looking At You [4:28] Mark Mancina, Return To Paradise

Somber sawings from the strings.

Sphere [4:06] Elliot Goldenthal, Sphere

Elliot Goldenthal can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. This particular score has never managed to impinge on my memory, though. While I listen to it, I think it's fascinating, but later I simply cannot recall a single thing about it. It is, perhaps, a bit ... turgid.

Prelude [1:35] Victor Young, The Uninvited

A big, old-fashioned movie music. A bit over-ripe for my taste.

Overture [3:00] Roy Budd, Wild Geese

Another entry into the full-bodied, guts 'n glory, WW II music. Not the most successful of its type, it has a very definite charm. I'm always distracted by the parts that sound like F Troop.

End Of Days Main Title [2:56] John Debney, End Of Days

Wordless women's choir usually means something creepy is at hand. And given the presence of Gabriel Byrne in the cast, that would seem a dead certainty. This cut is a mish-mash of mystical gee-gaws and effects but doesn't have much distinctive going on. One is reminded, rather forcefully, of better music for movies featuring Satan or his immediate family.

Lullaby Of Duckland [2:30] John Barry, Howard The Duck

Well, knock me over with a feather: I had no notion that John Barry had scored this turkey. Some quiet jazz backed by Barry's distinctive string writing.

Prelude-Riot in Baskul-Mob Scene [5:44] Dimitri Tiomkin, Lost Horizon

I can't really objectively hear this music. Lost Horizon is my favorite movie and I can't possibly disassociate its music even long enough to write a paragraph about it. I can't even tell if it's good or bad. It mickey mouses a bit, it's really colorful in a Rimsky-Korsakov vein, the love theme is heart-achingly beautiful; no, I can't really comment on this score.

Chinon - Eleanor's Arrival [3:29] John Barry, The Lion in Winter

Exquisite and exotic yet it's a barge on the Thames! This is a score that always gives me pause. The choral writing for some of the climactic scenes (not heard here) utterly remind me of Jerry Goldsmith's Omen music which I consider seminal. The cinematic effects are utterly divergent yet the cues seem similar. Is it my brain at fault: am I merely imagining that they are alike?

Ride to Dubno [4:53] Franz Waxman, Taras Bulba

A great score for a fun movie. Tony Curtis (hilariously mis-cast as Yul Brynner's brother) is just one amusing aspect. But the score is a thrill-a-minute roller coaster ride. I'm pretty sure this ended up on sevral classical orchestra's pops programs in the sixties. Impossible to not like. Classical music reference might be Khatchaturian's Sabre Dance. I like this better.

Main Title [2:50] Marco Beltrami, Mimic

Another case of the music being better than the movie. It's not an especially bad movie, you see. The music, particularly the other-worldly wordless woman's voice, adds a self-aware aspect that the movie otherwise lacks. Considered by itself, the score would seem to be a mere hodge-podge of cliches, but the juxtaposition of elements creats a nice effect. It feels authentic.

Return to Oz [4:29] David Shire, Film Music

A grand old-fashioned score for a psychologically complex children's movie. Woefully under-appreciated, David Shire should be counted among the greats of film composers.

Retreat [2:04] John Addison, A Bridge Too Far

The fact that John Addison was present at the events depicted in this movie has always fascinated me. What a strange world we live in to consider it remarkable that a composer can be called to be a soldier and then write music to accompany a film about, in a way, his soldiering.

Friend- [1:59] Carter Burwell, Gods and Monsters

A quiet piece with a song-like character.

Pelle Erobreren [2:40] Stefan Nilsson, Pelle the Conqueror

A simple piece for piano in an autumnal mood. Could have been written any time between here and Brahms.

Jealousy and Medicine [2:55] Wojciech Kilar, Jealousy and Medicine

Opening is a solo piano but moves very quickly into a marchlike piece that I would have guessed was written by John Barry trying to do Nino Rota. Kilar does have quite a few moves of his own, though. There's a little chromatic thing he does with the high strings, for example.

Harry and the Hendersons [3:07] Bruce Broughton, Harry and the Hendersons

Faux Beethoven overture. Pretty typical 'eighties comedy fare. Unassuming. Not unpleasant. Wouldn't jump down a rocky embankment to keep it from drowning, though. Incongruous ending.

Main Title [4:43] Danny Elfman, A Simple Plan

Using very original instrumental effects, Elfman established the mood of this movie right from the start. The overall impression is the same as the movie: Treasure of the Sierra Fargo. I know I've heard that distorted piano sonority before, but I can't place it.

Main Title [4:21] John Scott, The Final Countdown

John Scott has always struck me as Alfred Newman-lite. There is nothing technically or even esthetically unsatisfactory about his music that I can put my finger on, but it just doesn't work for me. My position is indefensible, but there it is. OK, there is the weird near-quote in this piece that I find distracting. It's as if one of the Russian Five slipped a page into the score.

Maketea [2:12] Randy Edelman, Six Days, Seven Nights

A happy little ur-tropicale travelling music. Under Fire it ain't. It's not even Medicine Man. And I'm a fan of Randy Edelman. Disclaimer: never saw the movie.

Mother Greets The Multitudes [1:25] W.G. Snuffy Walden

What is it with Hollywood and the harmonica?! Jesus, if I never hear that particular fixed-reeed again, I will be a happy soul. Aside from that egregious lapse, this is a pretty conventional bit.

The End Titles [2:58] Angela Morley, Watership Down

Best music for an animated movie about rabbits EVER. A thoughtful, robust score that will probably continue to be as under-appreciated as the movie itself. Perhaps somewhat hampered by its aggressively old-fashioned approach. Don't get me started on the saxophone part, though.

All the President's Men [3:56] David Shire, Film Music

Incredibly original tack to take. An ironic pavane for brass choir and electric bass. It's mesmerising and ingenious.

Main Title [3:24] Jerry Goldsmith, The Cassandra Crossing

All the sordid, half-witted crap that the 'seventies represented is somehow distilled into one intense drop of weirdness that is the Cassandra Crossing. Goldsmith manages, as always, to turn out a silk purse and deliver this wry bon-bon. Taking this without irony will lead to polyester. The latter part does feature his intense transparent orchestrations.

End Title (You Are Karen) [3:58] John Barry, Out Of Africa

This movie pisses me off, and the score does nothin to alleviate that. There is nothing actually wrong with this music except that it is dull. I should be able to say that is heartfelt and earnest, and deeply, deeply true. It is instead, deeply, deeply soporific.

Mercury Rising [3:02] John Barry, Mercury Rising

I saw this movie, but I can't remember a damn thing about it. Bruce Willis was in it, right? This cue plays like James Bond in aspic.

Solaris - Return... [4:48] Edward Artemyev, Solaris

I like Soviet organ noodling as much as the next guy. It worked, as they say, in the movie. This may be what love themes by Morricone sound like when your head is underwater.

The Galley (Rowing Of The Galley [3:12] Miklos Rozsa, Ben Hur

One of the most important pieces of film music written. I may be biased: As a child this was my favorite scene from my favorite movie. (Ben Hur was as much an event of a broadcast in our household as the Wizard of Oz.) I owe any interest I have in classical studies to this music.

The Light [2:06] Jerry Goldsmith, Poltergeist

A great score. Goldsmith at the absolute peak of his powers. One strength that comes out in this cue is the interesting writing done for the inside strings.

Suite [10:32] Dimitri Tiomkin, The Thing From Another World

Tiomkin's sensibilities seem to have come from the previous eon, but that didn't prevent him from writing exciting music. The busy piano writing conjurs up Bernard Herrmann, but the bombast is all Tiomkin. It's not music easily taken seriously, but it's great fun. And of course, this is the foremost example of the theremin in science fiction movies.

Theme from 'Battlestar Galactica [1:02] Stu Phillips, Battlestar Galactica

What's not to love? My high scool girlfriend and I sat in the same chair while watching this ridiculous show.

The Fly II [1:52] Christopher Young, The Fly II

Properly awe-inspiring, this cut reminds me just a smidge too much of the finale of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Opium Prince [2:33] Angelo Badalamenti, City of Lost Children

Given the culture of fear in this country about anything even remotely drug-related, I'm astounded this score wasn't impounded at the borders. Anyway, the whole thing is completely fascinating. There's a cool echo of Tchaikovsky in there somewhere.

Dick Tracy [3:37] Danny Elfman, Dick Tracy

This music is stuck between Batman and a hard place. I get the impression that Elfman was reaching for something a tad less earnest than Batman and still be true to the the comic-book aspect. The effect is just watered down, confused Gothamiana. And the whole ersatz Gershwin is just wrong-headed.

Main Title [3:47] Alan Silvestri, Predator

As a sort-of remake of The Thing (Hey, we don't know that the Thing wasn't here for a sport hunt!), this is a suitably sort-of Tiomkin-esque score. No theremin, though.

Elephant Man Theme [3:47] John Morris, Elephant Man

While utterly appropriate in the movie, this cue by itself is just completely over the top. I mean, we get it, already! A moratorium on ironic circus music shold be imposed by some international body. While thy're at it, they should do something about the harmonica.

Lassie - Main Title [1:55] Basil Poledouris, Lassie

If Poledouris can't make hay out of this then it just can't be done. Every bit as conventional as one might expect.

Ffolkes [1:56] Michael J Lewis, Ffolkes

Paging John Addison! Paging John Addison! Yet another take on the WW II march (except that this isn't about WW II exactly.) Otherwise, perfectly fine British entertainment.

Willa's Theme [2:13] Jerry Goldsmith, Fierce Creatures

Good-natured, slightly winsome fluff. The flute part that pops in and out reminds me of some of the music that Goldsmith wrote for The Twilight Zone (not the movie).

The Hindenburg [2:55] David Shire, Film Music

Best music for a Zeppelin movie ever! There's something of the BBC mini-series about this, but that's a mere quibble. Fine, solid music this.

The Last Giant Piece [1:03] Michael Kamen, The Iron Giant

As Jeff Bond said, the best movie that you won't see. This score worked, but didn't leap out and grab me by the lapels the way that the visuals did. That said, I'd give my eye-teeth to be able to put notes together the way that Michael Kamen can.

The Lovers [1:46] Laurence Rosenthal, Clash of the Titans

This theme was raided by that animated version of the Ten Commandments least a couple of measures.

Main Titles [2:27] Danny Elfman, Black Beauty

Danny Elfman didn't usher in the Celtic music craze all by himself, but he does approach it in an admirably sober way.

The Dance of the Witches [4:45] John Williams, The Witches of Eastwick

An OK movie with a really good score. This scene is typical. The music is exciting and scary and there is jack-all going on in the visuals.

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