All posts under Alex North

When In Rome…


…I do as the Romans do. I recently got back from a trip to Switzerland where I hopefully wrapped up the research for my book on the music of Charlie Chaplin. After a week of furiously plowing through scores and correspondence at the Chaplin Archives in Montreux, I decided to take ten days of much needed R&R in Italy, all of which was underscored by a proper playlist of appropriately chosen film music. Though famous musical Venetians like Vivaldi and Monteverdi helped me navigate their slender, tourist-clogged streets, some film composers also accompanied…

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9 Most Influential Film Composers

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Every film composer brings his or her talent to a project. They carve out a career path for themselves in which they (hopefully) can make a living through the art and craft of creating music. But some film composers change the face of the art form. In the course of doing their jobs, they leave a lasting impression on the industry that reaches far beyond a fan’s favorite score or film. The list below contains an alphabetized list of what I consider to be the most influential film composers. These…

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50 Favorite Film Scores, Part 4: #20–11


If you want to refresh your memory of earlier entries in the list, check out the past few posts—Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. We’re coming into the home stretch but not just yet. Herewith are the next batch of some of my favorite scores… 20. THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947) Bernard Herrmann goes romantic. The fantastical story of a young widow in love with a dead sea captain features arguably Herrmann’s most ravishing work (and Herrmann’s personal favorite). The score beautifully captures the crashing waves and swirling…

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9 Favorite Film Composers

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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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9 Favorite Western Film Scores

Silverado 1

I’m not a fan of Westerns particularly. The mythological images created by Hollywood seldom bear any resemblance to reality and their political leanings are often less than honorable. But those wide, open spaces and America’s dramatic past (even filtered through Hollywood’s gauze) arguably have inspired more great film scores than any other cinematic sub-genre. As always, with so many great scores to choose from, narrowing down a list to nine is a typically foolish task. Some composers specialized in Westerns, so to make this list more equally balanced, I only allowed…

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9 Film Scores That Deserved a Pulitzer


The Pulitzer Prizes, handed out every April, are arguably the most prestigious prizes for journalism, arts and letters, and music in the U.S. Their monetary value is nominal; what matters is the prestige. In this month’s newsletter, I discussed the 2004 changes that came about in the Pulitzer rules allowing film music into consideration for the Music prize. Only one film score has ever won a Pulitzer—Virgil Thomson’s score to the 1948 documentary LOUISIANA STORY. So I thought it might be fun in this month’s “9 on the 9th” post…

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9 Favorite Science Fiction Film Scores, Vol. 1 – Space

Star Wars movie image Han, Chewie Luke

Like many boys who liked to read, my genre of choice during my teenage years was science fiction. And since one of my earliest memories of the outside world was the moon walk, it will come as no surprise that I was enthralled by tales of life in space, stories that were heavy on the scientific end of things. Planets were just there as jumping off points to get you back into space. The more time that was spent aboard ship in the inky dark, the better. And to this…

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CD Review: Spartacus


Ever since the beginning of message boards, there have been film music threads about SPARTACUS. With every new announcement of upcoming CDs, someone would invariably (and idiotically) say, “I bet it’s SPARTACUS!” The holy grail of a complete SPARTACUS remained maddeningly elusive for years. But with Alex North’s 100th birthday celebration this year and the 50th anniversary of the film, the stars aligned and our prayers have been answered. Forget BACK TO THE FUTURE, an expanded STAR TREK II or any of the other recent holy grail releases. Like the slave uprising…

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The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Film is the ideal medium to showcase the visual arts. The lives and work of Frida Kallo (FRIDA), Van Gogh (LUST FOR LIFE) and Jackson Pollock (POLLOCK) have all had varying success in film. While not every painter’s life is necessarily worth exploring, there is something indefinable and inspirational about the visual creation of a work of art that makes their stories compelling. THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY (1965) tackles one of the giants—Michelangelo. Based on Irving Stone’s bestseller, the film paints the tensions, trials, and tribulations between Michelangelo (Charlton…

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I Am Spartacus!


All good things come to those who wait. Fifty years after the release of Stanley Kubrik’s epic film, we finally have the ultimate release of Alex North‘s monumental score for SPARTACUS! Varese Sarabande is releasing an astonishing box set–six CDs featuring all the remaining stereo tracks, the original soundtrack LP rearranged in film order, the entire score in mono, demos, alternate and unused cues, and two CDs of contemporary film composers interpreting the score’s beautiful love theme. I’m looking forward to hearing what composers like Dave Grusin, Alexandre Desplat and John…

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