50 Favorite Film Scores, Part 1: #50–41

In the countdown to my 50th birthday on the 19th, in addition to foolishly choosing nine of my favorite film composers, I decided to tackle an even more daunting task—choose 50 of my favorite scores. Little did I know when I began this listening project back in June that it would prove to be so difficult, so enjoyable and so emotional. First, some ground rules for myself. I made a master list of every possible score that could conceivably be considered for the final list. That totaled over 175 scores….

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9 Favorite Film Composers

As I approach my 50th birthday on the 19th, I’ve naturally been taking stock of my life so far and looking back at the good, bad and the ugly over my first half century. Arguably the most consistent element among the ups and downs is my love of film music. So, in a purely selfish move to celebrate my birthday month, many of this month’s blog posts will feature elements of wonderful film music memories from my first 50 years. This month’s “9 on the 9th” is a particularly dangerous,…

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CD Review: Notre Dame de Paris – The Music of Maurice Jarre

As more and more film music concerts are being performed, there will be opportunities to showcase the concert music of film composers and the need for concert arrangements of film music that goes beyond the expected war horses. An engaging new compilation 2-CD set on the Tadlow label, Notre Dame de Paris—The Music of Maurice Jarre, features suites from two of Jarre’s concert works as well as world premieres of further symphonic suites culled from his film music and assorted selections from Jarre’s lesser known film scores. The album begins with…

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CD Review: Ruby Sparks

Out of the ashes of superheroes and the mid-summer slump rises a gem of a film. RUBY SPARKS stars Paul Dano as a lonely bestselling wunderkind facing writer’s block. When he meets the girl of his dreams (Zoe Kazan), he realizes she is actually his fictional creation come to life. Real-life couple Dano and Kazan bring their characters to vibrant life and Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE) direct with a quirky, light hand that gives Kazan’s smart, witty script (a surefire Oscar contender) further buoyancy. Nick Urata underscores this magical…

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CD Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Batman sure has changed since the candy-colored days of Bif! Bam! Pow! Gone are the comic book origins and the jazzy swing of Neal Hefti and Nelson Riddle. Gone also are the whimsy and the equally distinctive musical contributions of Danny Elfman and Elliot Goldenthal for their pairs of Batman films. Christopher Nolan’s Batman has always been adrift in a more dangerously realistic, post 9/11 vision of Gotham and his trilogy has explored far deeper issues than even the darkest of the earlier Caped Crusader incarnations could hint at. And with…

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CD Review: City Lights

In 1931, four years after THE JAZZ SINGER ushered in the sound era, Charlie Chaplin openly thumbed his nose at Hollywood’s new trend and released another silent picture—CITY LIGHTS. Against all odds, the tale of the Little Tramp who falls in love with a blind girl (Virginia Cherrill) was Chaplin’s biggest hit to date, further proof of his worldwide popularity. Chaplin had unprecedented control over his films—writing, acting, directing and producing them. Now with the advent of sound, he took on a new role—composer. The recording capabilities of the period were…

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This Is Your Brain on Film Music…

I don’t know if it’s the approach of my 50th birthday (this won’t be the last you’ll hear about that, trust me), but I’ve been obsessed with the concept of aging lately—where I am in life, where I’m going, where I’ve been, and how I’ve changed. Part of that change is a preoccupation with how many brain cells I have left. I keep my brain fairly active reading and in a quest for learning new things, but you won’t find me doing crossword puzzles or conquering a new language (at…

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CD Review: The Greatest Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin

Outside of John Williams and film music festivals, it’s not often that film music concerts are devoted to one composer, especially one from the Golden Age. But few composers lend themselves to such extensive stage time like Dimitri Tiomkin. Memorable melodies and orchestrations that were written for a full orchestral complement, Tiomkin’s music is certainly deserving of an evening. In October 2011, the London Symphony Orchestra celebrated the music of the multi-Oscar-winner and a recording of that performance, The Greatest Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin, has just been released on the orchestra’s…

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Confessions of a Liner Notes Writer, Part 2

Forgive me, Father. It’s been two years since my last confession. I have no regrets or sins of the flesh to report (at least not in public). Instead, I’d like to discuss one of the benefits of digging deep into a piece of film music. As I mentioned in my last confession, writing liner notes is hard work. To do them properly, it usually requires lots of research offline, listening to the music and watching the film over and over with an eye and ear toward analysis and discussion until you’re…

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9 Favorite Film Scores of Bronislau Kaper

One of the great things about the Film Score Monthly label has been its championing of lesser-known composers like Oscar-winner Bronislau Kaper. Prior to FSM, Kaper’s output on CD was basically nonexistent. Since the release of the soundtrack of THE PRODIGAL in 2002, FSM has released approximately 25 Kaper scores, most of which have never been heard outside of their respective films. While I’m sure Lukas Kendall’s lucrative deal with the studio (which also provided him and us with all those great Miklós Rózsa releases) had something to do with this, I…

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