Sunday, May 31, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"A notorious example of post-porn mainstream cinema is Pretty Baby, which scandalously stars an occasionally nude 12-year-old Brooke Shields as a virginal sex object. The soundtrack presents Jerry Wexler's adaptations of ragtime piano tunes by Scott Joplin and Jerry Roll Morton that serve as source cues in the film's principle location, a seedy New Orleans Storyville brothel at the turn of the 20th century. The music is perfect for the film, but doesn't make for an especially compelling soundtrack listening experience."

– from Chapter 3: Sexploitation Serenade of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"For sexy '60s camp, nothing beats Valley of the Dolls. Based on the best-selling novel by Jacqueline Susann, Valley is the sordid story of a trio of ambitious young women wrestling with the trappings of fame and fortune in New York while popping a steady stream of 'dolls' (uppers and downers). Much of John Williams' instrumental cues epitomize the swanky easy listening of the period. On 'Chance Meeting,' cascading harps and swirling strings accompany gently strummed acoustic guitar and bossa nova rhythms. And the era's attitude toward sex without marriage is perfectly summarized in the lyrics to 'Come Live with Me.'"

– from Chapter 3: Sexploitation Serenade of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Friday, May 29, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"On one of the few occasions when an Italian composer scored a British spy film, the soundtrack proved to the hard-edged and dark compared to the music featured in all-Italian productions. Piero Piccioni's intense music for Alistair Maclean's Puppet on a Chain (1971) suited its subject matter (drug trafficking) and its gritty era. The track list reads like an Amsterdam police report: 'Drug Dealers,' 'Psychedelic Mood,' 'Narcotics Bureau,' 'Drugs Hypnosis' and 'Night Club' – all of which live up to their seedy promise."

– from Chapter 2: Spy Symphonies of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"Kill! – about an Interpol agent on the take from international drug rings – has a (pardon the pun) killer score by Berto Pisano and Jaques Chaumont. The theme sticks in one's mind like an ice pick. Its stabbing rhythm, pounding congas, death ray electric guitar and stroboscopic orchestration are brilliantly executed. The score is rife with mysterious melodies, superb abstract orchestral cues, psycho beat, sitar exotica and a sexy whispered vocal performance by actress Jean Seberg. Kill! is a critical Italian soundtrack."

– from Chapter 2: Spy Symphonies of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"Hollywood legend Bernard Herrmann's final score accompanies the gritty Taxi Driver, about a cabbie turned vigilante. The jazz-tinged orchestral score harkens back to the early years of crime jazz film and television scores, but with a darker sensibility rarely heard in the soundtracks of the '50s. The track 'Diary of a Taxi Driver,' featuring Bickle's monologue about the 'scum' on the streets, is a mini-masterpiece of brooding menace, with pulsating snare and cymbal echoing the cabbie's restlessness like a ticking time bomb."

– from Chapter 1: Crime Jazz and Felonious Funk of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"The Mack, one of the legendary blaxploitation productions due to its lethal behind-the-scenes politics and its fact-as-fiction footage of the notorious Player's Ball, features one of Willie Hutch's bold blaxploitation scores. Hutch got the job when the filmmakers offered a cameo appearance to the Hutch-produced singing group Sisters of Love. The score features some of Hutch's best songs, including the affirmative soul number "Brothers Gonna Work It Out," the stirring ballad "I Choose You" and the hard-driving theme. For The Mack's home video release in 1983, the studio foolishly replaced Hutch's score with an R'n'B-lite soundtrack by Alan Silvestri that pales in comparison."

– from Chapter 1: Crime Jazz and Felonious Funk of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Monday, May 25, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"Guaranteed to thrill is the composite score for the classic It Came from Outer Space. Irving Gertz, Herman Stein and Henry Mancini contributed to this sometimes sentimental, often times spooky theremin-enhanced soundtrack. Shrill strings, agitated brass and woodwinds, harp glissandi and otherworldly vibrato sounds on the organ and theremin make this one of the most effective sci-fi scores of the era."

– from Chapter 5: Sci-Fidelity and the Superhero Spectrum of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"One of Bernard Herrmann's finest sci-fi scores is Fahrenheit 451. The project came along at a difficult time in the composer's private life, as he'd just gone through a painful divorce. Then Alfred Hitchcock fired Herrmann from Torn Curtain, their seventh big-screen collaboration, for failing to deliver a pop-oriented score. Ironically, it was Hitchcock disciple Francois Truffaut who hired the composer to score his adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a cautionary tale of a dystopian future where books are forbidden and burned by firemen... When Herrmann asked Truffaut why he'd been selected when the director had access to younger, more avant-garde composers, the director said that those composers would supply him with music of the 20th century, and that Herrmann would compose music for the 21st century."

– from Chapter 5: Sci-Fidelity and the Superhero Spectrum of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"The Satan Bug is an earthbound germ warfare thriller with a score by Jerry Goldsmith, who clearly drew inspiration from the title for his diabolically angular theme music featuring spidery staccato percussion. The Satan Bug sounds a bit like a rehearsal for Planet of the Apes, which is one of Goldsmith's best sci-fi scores. Bug shares with Apes a penchant for exotic melodic motifs, which are – yet again – reminiscent of the ultimate sci-fi soundtrack classical reference: Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring.'"

– from Chapter 5: Sci-Fidelity and the Superhero Spectrum of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Friday, May 22, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"The most famous – or rather infamous – film to arise out fo the post-Dollars western revival was the ultra-violent The Wild Bunch. Director Sam Peckinpah once acknowledged that his film might never have been made had it not been for spaghetti westerns. Although the film frequently takes place south of the border – a familiar conceit of countless Spanish-location Italian westerns – Jerry Fielding's score does not mimic the style of the Italians. Fielding's score marks a break with the past and attempts to create a fresh interpretation of the genre. It has a grander sound than most spaghetti westerns – fuller orchestration, with less emphasis on individual sounds. On the whole, the score eschews old-school over-the-top emotion and big-sky grandeur in favor of subtlety."

– from Chapter 4: Staccato Six-Guns of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"Star Trek (The Original TV Series) owes part of its enduring success to the rich orchestral music that accompanies each far-flung episode. As Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry recollected, the composers for the show were asked to emphasize the emotional components of the drama, not the science and gadgetry. As a result of Roddenberry's directive, the scores are primarily orchestral, with little to no electronic effects."

– from Chapter 5: Sci-Fidelity and the Superhero Spectrum of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"Hammer's Horror of Dracula was an even bigger hit than Hammer's Frankenstein and spawned several sequels. Composer James Bernard again used the film's title (actually just "Drac-u-la") to compose the theme. The orchestral sound is typical of Hammer. Strings swirl menacingly as brass blares with full-blooded passion. Woodwinds flutter like bat wings in the night, and thundering percussion punctuates the grim processional that promises inevitable doom. In other words, break out the crucifix and holy water -- Count Dracula is on the prowl! Bernard's "Dracula" theme remains one of the most identifiable horror themes ever."

– from Chapter 6: A Fearful Earful of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"While some mainstream films relied on studio regulars like Mancini, Bernstein and Jones, others turned to popular songwriters. One of the most famous examples is the soundtrack for the award-winning blockbuster The Graduate. With songs by Paul Simon (and performed by Simon & Garfunkel), and additional music by jazz pianist Dave Grusin, the film struck a big chord with audiences and record buyers. The soundtrack enjoyed immense popularity, hitting number one on Billboard. It was the first modern soundtrack to repackage previously released pop songs that the filmmaker appropriated to fit certain scenes in the movie. This is a common practice today, and a regrettable one at that, as it tends to coerce music fans into purchasing music they may already own in a context that has nothing to do with the musical artist's original vision... While director Mike Nichols' use of Simon's songs is spot on, the practice of pop song appropriation has become little more than a marketing strategy for albums that feature 'music from and inspired by' the latest formulaic flick in lieu of an actual soundtrack release that features the original score."

– from Chapter 7: Rockin' Revolution of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"Dario Argento's Suspiria remains Goblin's most focused and effective horror soundtrack, fittingly for the director's most innovative film. The hypnotic and sinister theme uses celesta and bell sounds, along with synth, organ, guitar, bass, drums and percussion, to create a spellbinding whirlwind of demonic rock. Further enveloping the listener in a hellish atmosphere throughout the score are the wheezing, wailing, screaming, groaning voices of the band members, sounding like evil spirits echoing up from the pits of hell."

– from Chapter 6: A Fearful Earful of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"The most influential element in Jerry Goldsmith's score for The Omen is the use of chorus. These days no self-respecting movie studio puts out a horror movie trailer without music featuring a 'demonic' choir (usually Carl Orff's 'O Fortuna'). The Omen arguably established that tradition with 'Ave Satani.' Somehow, nothing sounds as sinister as a brooding male and female choir chanting in Latin over a dark, minor key dirge.... Interestingly, the composer noted that his initial ideas for the score stemmed from 'hearing voices.'"

– from Chapter 6: A Fearful Earful of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"John Williams three-note motif for Jaws is so effective and memorable that one need only hear it briefly hummed to identify it. The theme has transcended its connection with the movie, having come to represent imminent danger of any kind. It is rare film music that carries that kind of cultural collateral."

– from Chapter 6: A Fearful Earful of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Friday, May 15, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"More than any other score of the Silver Age of cinema, Star Wars revived the epic style of the Golden Age with large orchestras, grand themes and sweeping imagination. John Williams – who had worked through the '60s under the name of Johnny, penning pop and jazz-influenced scores in the Mancini vein – began to dabble in epic scoring with Irwin Allen's disaster flicks, and he really came on strong with Jaws. In the 18-month period spanning 1977 and 1978, however, Williams made his mark with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars and Superman. The Star Wars score (like the movie itself) is a throwback to a more innocent age of sci-fi cinema –to space operas of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. The Star Wars score sounds as if the paranoia of alien abduction horrors ('50s/'60s) and post-apocalyptic dystopian nightmares ('60s/'70s) never even happened."

– from Chapter 5: Sci-Fidelity and the Superhero Spectrum of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"Omitting strings from the orchestration entirely, the ever-experimental [Bernard Herrmann] employs [on Journey to the Center of the Earth] thundering pipe organ, mesmerizing harp, blaring brass, crashing percussion and a rare wind instrument known as the serpent that collectively evoke the cavernous journey into the bowels of the Earth."

– from Chapter 5: Sci-Fidelity and the Superhero Spectrum of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"[Elmer] Bernstein scored Sweet Smell of Success, a cynical drama set on New York City’s Madison Avenue, where reputations are built up and torn down over cocktails. While Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis exchange Machiavellian manipulations, Bernstein’s score and additional jazz tracks by Chico Hamilton pour on sophisticated scorn."

– from Chapter 1: Crime Jazz and Felonious Funk of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"While many crime scores barely qualify as genuine jazz, there are a handful from the era that come closer than most. One of the best belongs to I Want to Live! (’58), a true story about a murderess on death row. Johnny Mandel’s sexy smoky score is a classic. The 26-piece All-Star Jazz Orchestra burn through the main theme, “Poker Game,” “Stakeout” and “Gas Chamber Unveiling” and other hot-blooded and emotionally wrenching tracks. Also featured are half a dozen cuts played by Gerry Mulligan’s Combo."

– from Chapter 1: Crime Jazz and Felonious Funk of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Monday, May 11, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"A sure sign that jazz had found a home in Hollywood came in ’56 when Elmer Bernstein earned an Academy Award® nomination for The Man with the Golden Arm. The film’s gritty subject matter — heroin addiction — may have opened many eyes to the dangers hounding modern man, but the score opened audience ears to the high drama of hard-driving horn blasts, sultry woodwinds, rumbling bass and crashing percussion. No crime theme seems to swing harder than “Frankie Machine.” The brass screams against a backdrop of jackhammer percussion. On “The Fix,” the same theme takes on a nightmarish urgency. On “Desperation,” rumbling discordant piano and locomotive drums capture the single-minded obsession of the junkie. Golden Arm is simply one of the genre’s most iconic scores."

– from Chapter 1: Crime Jazz and Felonious Funk of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"Odd sonorities always have been innate to Morricone’s magic. Listen to the distorted keyboard notes at the beginning of “Scherzi a Parte.” Alone they would become tiresome after a few bars, but used sparingly against more traditional instrumentation the squonking cartoonish noise is a marvelous example of how well electronic sounds can mesh with acoustic sounds. The most amazing track on Duck You Sucker (aka A Fistful of Dynamite or originally Giu La Testa) is the nine-minute “Invenzione per John” (or “Inventions of John”), which deserves to be dubbed “Reinventions of Ennio.” Morricone reprises his theme but extends it through free form abstraction by overlapping melodic ideas where every element seems out of sink with the other. Morricone deconstructs his musical thoughts and along the way discovers countless variations on his theme. It’s the most hypnotic nine minutes you’re likely to find on an Italian western score. It’s nothing short of brilliant."

– from Chapter 4: Staccato Six-Guns of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Friday, May 8, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

“It would be a stretch to categorize a lot of the music heard in 200 Motels as rock. Zappa’s astonishing gift for complex orchestral arrangements makes even the most progressive rock bands sound pedestrian.”

– from Chapter 7: Rockin’ Revolution of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Book Excerpt of the Day

Teenage Rebellion boasts a handful of unintentionally funny spoken word tracks with titles like ‘Pot Party’, ‘The Call Girl’ and ‘The Gay Teenager.’ Narrator Burt Topper walks a fine line between objectivity and moral objection as psychedelia and beatnik vibes provide musical counterpoint; it’s funny how the hallucinogenic crime jazz that accompanies Topper’s indictment of drug culture only serves to make that culture more attractive.”

– from Chapter 7: Rockin’ Revolution of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

“After watching a five-hour rough cut of [The Thomas Crown Affair], Michel Legrand took a six-week vacation during which he wrote 90 minutes of music that the film – in turn – was edited around (very unconventional to say the least). If Legrand’s experiment had failed he would have been obligated to write a second score for free.”

– from Chapter 1: Crime Jazz & Felonious Funk of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Book Excerpt of the Day

"Piero Umiliani delivered a thoroughly groovy score for Mario Bava’s Five Dolls for an August Moon, which presents a series of grisly murders in a story line similar to Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. Never before has a group of people been knocked off one by one to such an absurdly breezy, fun-loving musical backdrop. …a mood so light it is tempting to think that Umiliani never even saw the film when he delivered the music."

– from Chapter 6: A Fearful Earful of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

“[On The Taking of Pelham, One Two Three] David Shire set out to create a sound that would be ‘New York jazz-oriented, hard-edged’ but with a ‘wise-cracking subtext to it’… The music is diabolically calculated and pulsating, yet swings like a big band from hell.”

– from Chapter 1: Crime Jazz & Felonious Funk of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

“More than any other pre-blaxploitation film, Cotton Comes to Harlem… set the template for blaxploitation movies to come. The original LP cover features a proto hip-hop painting by Robert McGinnis that includes a gold Rolls Royce, bikini-clad babes and the movie heroes brandishing huge handguns. Ironically, the artist is white, and so is the funky score’s composer.”

– from Chapter 1: Crime Jazz & Felonious Funk of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Book Excerpt of the Day

"Suspense enters the picture [The Bird with the Crystal Plumage] when a malevolently groaning male voice pursues the frightened panting of a female voice over avant-garde jazz, with angular keyboard lines being taunted by frantic drums and spastic, sickly brass. While abrasive atonality is a perfect accompaniment for onscreen murder and mayhem, most record collectors will agree that it makes for a difficult and sometimes disconcerting listening experience. Fans of Morricone’s relentlessly experimental spirit, however, will appreciate the extremes on display."

– from Chapter 6: A Fearful Earful of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

“For Lolita, Nelson Riddle delivers a ‘pitch’-perfect score that also comments wryly on the era’s clich├ęs. Riddle proved to be an appropriate choice, given his pedigree of having made several mood music albums for postwar seduction… The most recognizable number is undoubtedly ‘Lolita Ya-Ya’. The tune, with its nubile bounce and saccharine strings, embodies the film’s virginal nymphet as the ultimate candy-coated trophy in a male-dominated postwar culture of glorified youth and sexual awakening.”

– from Chapter 3: Sexploitation Serenade of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Book Excerpt of the Day

[Following the monster success of The Who’s Tommy], Pete Townsend set out to create another rock opera, Lifehouse, about a dystopian society that is eventually redeemed by music. The plan entailed an album, live performances and a movie… After about six months in development hell, Townsend shelved the project and used several of its songs to make the group’s next album, Who’s Next, which is now considered one of their best.”

– from Chapter 7: Rockin’ Revolution of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

“Paul Misraki provided the jazzy pop score for And God Created Woman. He makes effective use of Latin rhythms, particularly in the scene where Brigitte Bardot gyrates to a fiery conga beat in a club owned by one of her suitors. As the drums beat to a crescendo, Bardot’s jealous young lover shoots the club owner in a fit of misguided passion.”

– from Chapter 3: Sexploitation Serenade of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979


Book Excerpt of the Day

[The Blackboard Jungle and Rock Around the Clock both feature] Bill Haley & Comets’ most famous hit, though ironically, The Blackboard Jungle used it first. Legend has it that the movie’s producer selected the song from a stack of records owned by the young son of lead actor Glenn Ford. The song was one of the first successful attempts to transform black rhythm ‘n’ blues into something marketable to young white record buyers.

– from Chapter 7: Rockin’ Revolution of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

Deep Throat’s soundtrack is not what one expects from a porno. Instead of wall-to-wall porno funk, one gets some surprisingly memorable melodies, an occasional passage that conveys a genuine cinematic mood, competent musicianship by anonymous musicians, awful singing and silly dialogue. What passes for a theme – with its cheerful hurdy-gurdy melody – sounds like it should accompany a family-friendly montage of amusement park attractions… LPs of the original soundtrack were given away at the theaters that dared show the movie.”

– from Chapter 3: Sexploitation Serenade of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979


Book Excerpt of the Day

“At the center of [the Hell’s Angels movie fad of the ‘60s) was Mike Curb – a songwriter, record producer and ultimately ironic figure in the biker and counterculture movie genres. A first-flush Baby Boomer (born in 1945), Curb went from college dropout to record label owner and cultural conservative, snagging the top job at MGM Records, where he proceeded to clean house. He cut druggie groups such as the Velvet Underground in favor of family fare such as the Osmonds. Eventually, Curb got into politics, becoming a major player among California’s Republican elite… What’s fascinating about Curb is his seemingly contradictory role as a creative sparkplug in California’s counterculture movement of the late ‘60s.”

– from Chapter 7: Rockin’ Revolution of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Friday, May 1, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

"Sweden, Heaven and Hell documents the Scandinavian country’s lesbian nightclubs, biker scene, incidents of drug abuse and alcoholism, wife swapping and porn shops. Piero Umiliani’s score elevates the subject matter from sordid to sublime… most notably on the hit ‘Mah Na’ Mah Na’, which features a nonsense lyric and maddeningly catchy melody that became popular in the U.S. thanks to its unexpected use on Sesame Street.”

– from Chapter 3: Sexploitation Serenade of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

Book Excerpt of the Day

“[On Dirty Harry] Lalo Schifrin’s penchant for Latin percussion and throbbing bass lines provide a restless bed upon which tense orchestration writhes. Distorted guitar, angry brass and angular string sections riddle the eardrums like sonic shrapnel.”

– from Chapter 1: Crime Jazz & Felonious Funk of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979