What is the difference between the style of classical Hollywood film music of the studio era with that of now?
The way they used to write music was post romantic, like Wagner and that sort of thing, all a cliché. Miklos Rosza who won an Oscar for the score for Ben Hur is a good example. There's a story that Peter Ustinov told me actually. When Rosza accepted his award and was supposed to thank his granddad, niece, wife, producer whatever, he said, 'I'd like to give special thanks to J.S.Bach, Schumann, and Beethoven! Anyway, the difference is what you want to know. Traditional music is still based on classical music but now its all about Stravinsky and The Rites of Spring.
So is that the cliché now?
Its a language. If its a good composer and it suits the mood and the image then its brilliant but it can be really corny, it depends on the skill of the composer. Also, if the director has made a bad film it can't be saved by the score.
What's your opinion of digitally adapted pieces of classical music, like the score of A Clockwork Orange?
Well he's a woman now.What! Walter Carlos is now a woman?Wendy Carlos now! Yes, there is a big debate about adaptation, personally I like it very much. Some say its better to use original music because underscore should really be in the background but its only one element of the language of the film. Its like lighting, some say you should just light your actress rather than make it so noticeably good that it breaks the viewers concentration concerning the story. They say that the problem with Walter, or Wendy, Carlos is that the music is like a giant video clip, you listen to the music itself as much as viewing the image. At the same time, that was Kubrick's style, he always played with that and was very successful with it, I think it was a success. There was this guy called Alex North who wrote the music for 2001, Kubrick replaced his score with classical pieces because they were so successful in the press screenings before the score was complete. Its a big thorn in the side of composers. There is now a new plague in film music which is songs. Its fine, in my opinion when its source music, but with, say, Armageddon the Aerosmith track was far too slow for the speed of the edit. Often the song, in the middle of the film, has absolutely nothing to do with the story, its like an advert. Soundtracks are big business, especially in America, and it rarely works. Say the director likes that Massive Attack track and wants to use it, that usually comes from fond memories but the audience's memories concerning that track will never be the same and it will never be a new experience for them, its distracting.
What sort of time constraints are imposed on film composers?
Yes its generally a last minute thing. I know a woman who was commissioned by the BBC for 10 half hour episodes, she ws given 3 days to write the first episode score, she ended up getting about £9000 for all 10.
Are you interested in TV music?
Yes but not only that, video game music is just as interesting. Tomb Raider for example. They can be very clever with what they do and its a very big business, another one is Nomad Soul which David Bowie composed the music for, its a good sort of Sci-Fi action adventure. The ambience is very effective, rather like the Vangelis score for Bladerunner but the music only works on one level but it interacts in one part of the game with Bowie singing in a bar as the character walks in. In Tomb Raider though, the music relates to the character psychologically and uses the music as one would in film music, he includes interesting jackpot motifs when you collect an item and really works to manipulate or encourage the player with fast strings for action and melodies for calm, just like film. Its an important area for film composers because the techniques are very similar and a composer can make a pretty good living from it, in Japan video game music CD's are released onto the market. That area will definitely be included on the web site but I have also been thinking about a film music review section but I think that the site and the business need finance to move it further.
LCC's URL - www.lccfilmmusic.com