On the Right Track

Depending on who you ask, the CLICK TRACK was invented in the 1930’s by the “Father of Film Music” Max Steiner, or Carl Stalling or Scott Bradley to accompany their memorable animation scores. However, it is usually credited to Steiner. As George Burt explains in his book, The Art of Film Music, in the early days of film, “a click track was prepared by punching holes along the edge of a film. These holes produced a clicking sound that the conductor could hear through his headphone. The clicks represented beats…

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We Have Created Enchantment

The Music of A Streetcar Named Desire Published in Film Score Monthly Online May 2006   To step aboard A Streetcar Named Desire is to take an emotional and musical journey. Tennessee Williams’ poetic dialogue is music to the ears. And he set his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama in the New Orleans French Quarter, the sounds of which inspired 35 musical stage directions, including 19 cues of source music. Elia Kazan’s landmark 1951 film and its groundbreaking score by Alex North remain the standards by which all other Streetcar productions and…

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You Have Cheated Me

“You Have Cheated Me”: Aaron Copland’s Compromised Score to The Heiress Published in Film Score Monthly May/June 2005   Aaron Copland arrived in Hollywood in 1938, and in little more than a decade he’d had enough. With his scores to Of Mice and Men (1939) and Our Town (1940), he created a new musical language in film. But when his score to The Heiress (1949) was chopped to bits, poorly dubbed, and rescored without his approval, Copland left for good, with his pride, popularity, and reputation intact. During the late…

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Following In Waxman’s Foot-steppes

The highlight of Franz Waxman’s Oscar-nominated score for TARAS BULBA (1962) is the thrilling “The Ride to Dubno.” As Yul Brynner and his fellow Cossacks ride onto the steppes to meet an unsuspecting Polish army at Dubno, Waxman’s music begins quietly and grows in force and brio as more and more men join the caravan. Horse hooves thunder and Waxman’s brilliant cue gallops ride alongside them. Like Ravel’s Bolero, the tension builds and builds. A cue of epic proportions! Next comes an unbelievable transcription for two pianos featuring pianists Per Tengstrand…

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Psycho For Sale

No, it’s not me. The Associated Press has reported that a 20-page autographed manuscript of Bernard Herrmann’s classic 1960 score to Psycho is to be auctioned off through Bonhams in London. The manuscript is from the film’s famous shower scene. Also up for auction are Herrmann’s Oscar nomination certificates for Taxi Driver and Obsession. The items were sanctioned for sale by Herrmann’s third wife, Norma, and the manuscript is expected to sell for up to $56,000. This is a film score fan’s wet dream…at least one with disposable income.

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CD Review: Death of a Salesman / Rashomon

Back in his days with Bay Cities and Fynsworth Alley, Bruce Kimmel produced albums that no one else would touch, many of which probably didn’t sell worth a damn. Two of my favorites include the complete spoken word album of Michael Frayn’s superb Tony Award-winning play Copenhagen and the notorious 1982 musical flop, A Doll’s Life, with a glorious score by Larry Grossman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Lately, Kimmel has once again made his mark over at his new label, Kritzerland. Whether releasing film scores long desired on CD…

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Golden Age Film Music: Colorful, Ornate and Gaudy?

Mark Swed’s Los Angeles Times review of the opening concert of the Pacific Symphony’s American Composers Festival made for some angry comments left by film score fans. However, I found his opening remarks particularly vivid: Hollywood’s “Golden Age” was, of course, black and white.  What gave the pre-World War II talkies their “color” was their ornate, even gaudy, music. My first exposure of Golden Age film music came from the RCA compilations recorded by Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1970s. Here was music with sweep and…

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Film Music: To Be or Not To Be

Like children, should film music be “seen and not heard”? Many people denigrate film music, saying it takes them out of the experience of watching the film. And yet, these same folks will go on to praise the cinematography, art direction, costumes and sound, which they wouldn’t have noticed had they not been taken out of the film for any length of time. The fact that we’re watching a story being played out on a 30-foot-high screen means we are suspending belief to a certain extent and allowing ourselves to…

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