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It is with regret that we announce the passing of the composer Wojciech Kilar. The Polish composer is known for his classical compositions and his film scores. He scored many Polish-language films before finding international fame and several awards for his first English-language film score, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" for the director Francis Ford Coppola. We went on to score a number of films for Roman Polanski including "Death and the Maiden", "The Ninth Gate" and "The Pianist" (which also featured Chopin's piano music on its soundtrack). He also scored Jane Campion's "The Portrait of a Lady", the TV Mini-series "Napoleon and Europe" for French Television and music from his "Requiem Father Kolbe" was used on the movie "The Truman Show".
If you're looking for new Christmas Music then take a look at "The Snowman and the Snowdog". To celebrate the 30th anniversary of "The Snowman" with its excellent music by Howard Blake, the same team released a sequel in 2012 called "The Snowman and the Snowdog", this time with music by Ilan Eshkeri and Andy Burrows. Although the sequel doesn't feature the song "Walking in the Air" which was later to become a big hit for boy soprano Aled Jones, it does feature a new song "Light the Night" and the incidental music is a similar mix to the original animation. The soundtrack album is available from Amazon.co.uk in the UK and Amazon.com in the US.
"The Artist", a Black and White silent movie was the surprise hit of 2011. Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, the film tells the story of an older silent movie actor who finds it hard to maintain his celebrity status following the arival of the "Talkies". The romantic comedy came with a captivating soundtrack by French composer Ludovic Bource whose score spans the slapstick of silent comedy through cinema's golden age to swing and jazz. For this event The London Symphony Orchestra with the composer himself at the piano conducted by Ernst Van Tiel, will perform the oscar-winning soundtrack live to a high-definition screening of the movie. Tickets and more details at the Royal Albert Hall website.
The composer John Tavener has died at the age of 69. The British composer (who was knighted in 2000) is best known for his religious music, though he was influenced by ideas from several different religions. These works often have an ethereal spiritual quality, and his best-known compositions include "The Whale", "Celtic Requiem", "Song for Athene" (performed at the funeral of Princess Diana), "The Veil of the Temple" and "The Protecting Veil" (for cello and strings, which has been performed by Steven Isserlis and by Yo-Yo Ma). Although seen as a religious composer he was also something of a cross-over artist, composing "Prayer of the Heart" for the singer Björk, and composing the soundtrack for Werner Herzog's documentary film "Pilgrimage". Tavener's music was also used to good effect on the soundtrack for "Children of Men" - see this video on youtube.
John Mauceri will present a special programme devoted to film music at London's Royal Festival Hall on November 8th. Called "The Genius of Film Music 1960-1980" the concert will perform music from an exciting 2 decades of film score development. Mauceri (last seen conducting Danny Elfman's concert series) will conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a number of his own arrangements and suites of music by Alex North, Nino Rota, Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, Bronislau Kaper and Jerry Goldsmith.. More information about the concert is available at the Sound and Music website.
The Electric Guitar has always been an important part of the Music of James Bond. Vic Flick was the lead guitarist in John Barry's group "The John Barry Seven" and famously played the guitar riff in Monty Norman's James Bond Theme. The instrument continued to be used frequently during Barry's tenure as the James Bond composer. "James Bond on Electric Guitar" by Lou Pecci takes this one step further, and on the album Pecci plays a number of tracks taken mostly from the first decade of James Bond Music, the Golden Age of 007. The album is available from Amazon.co.uk in the UK and Amazon.com in the US.
Having recently seen Danny Elfman in concert for the wonderful show Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton it is great to see the release of "Black Beauty". This is one of Danny Elfman's most inspirational scores and is quite different in character from his Tim Burton film music. Seen mostly from the point of view of the horse Black Beauty, the film has little dialogue and it is the music which carries the audience on the horse's eventful journey. This newly remastered, limited edition release from La-La Land Records has a lot of previously unreleased music, and it is available at Screen Archives.
Time for some musical fun! Here's a short medley of music from a handful of Tom & Jerry cartoon episodes as played at one of this year's Prom concerts. The original music for Tom & Jerry was composed by Scott Bradley, but the sheet music is no longer available so the scores have been carefully reconstructed from the audio by Peter Morris and arranged by Morris and John Wilson who conducts his John Wilson Orchestra. If this brings back happy memories, and you can find more fun examples in our humour in music article.
The BAFTA series "Conversations with Screen Composers" continues on 23rd Sept with George Fenton. Fenton is as famous for his TV scores as for his film scores, particularly his music for the BBC's wildlife series including "The Blue Planet" and "Frozen Planet" while his big screen scores include "Groundhog Day", "Dangerous Liaisons" and "Gandhi". On 25th Nov the series features composer Dario Marianelli whose recent film scores have included "Atonement", "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" and "Anna Karenina". These events are in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall with more information at the RAH site: George Fenton and Dario Marianelli.
The Berlin Philharmonic has recorded music for Deutsche Grammophon for 100 years, one of classical music's most enduring collaborations between orchestra and record label. To celebrate the event they have released this "Centenary Edition" whose 50 CDs chronicle the great Symphonic and Concerto repertoire ranging from Mozart to Shostakovich, conducted and played by many of the world's leading conductors and soloists. The box-set also includes some major choral works and opera highlights, plus some historically significant recordings. The collection is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (from 22nd October).
One of his best known compositions by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) is the "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra", a work aimed at children which introduces all the instruments of the orchestra in a wonderful musical extravaganza. To carry on that goal of teaching music to children in Britten's centenary year, a free app has been released for the iPad. Wonderfully illustrated with child-friendly graphics, the app features educational games and quizes, videos and recordings of different instruments and much more, with a complete recording of Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra". More information about the app is on the Britten 100 site and the app can be downloaded from this page on iTunes.
This live concert of Danny Elfman's Music from the films of Tim Burton will visit Scotland in October. The BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri will play music from Beetlejuice, Batman, Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. Danny Elfman will be giving a special guest performance and the music will be accompanied on screen by Tim Burton's original drawings and story boards. The event takes place at the Glasgow Hydro and more detail can be found at the Hydro's website.
"Composing With the Picture" is a great idea, showcasing the composition skills of several well-known film composers when freed from the constraints of scoring to picture. All the concert works on the album are written for solo cello and performed by cellist Richard Harwood. The album includes 3 Impromptus by Ernst Toch, the Toccata Capricciosa by Miklós Rózsa, 3 Riflessi (Reflections) by Ennio Morricone, 3 pieces by John Williams, and world premiere recordings of works by Christopher Gunning, Dario Marianelli, Alex Heffes, Fernando Velázquez and Benjamin Wallfisch. The album is available to download from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Game Music Connect is a new event taking place in London this September. It is the brain-child of games composers John Broomhall and James Hannigan, and aims to celebrate Game Music and the art and craft of Scoring for Games. The event will include live music, and among the confirmed speakers are composers Jason Graves, Jesper Kyd and Martin O’Donnell plus other industry specialists and the organisers themselves. Full details of the event with booking arrangements are on the Game Music Connect website, and here is an interview with James Hannigan published on Time+Space where he talks about composing for games and the thinking behind of Game Music Connect.
Bach's "Musical Offering" is based on a theme given to him by Frederick the Great of Prussia. Bach had already improvised a 3-part fugue for King, but said he needed more time to write out 6-part fugue. "The Music Offering" is the result with fugues in 3 and 6 parts, various canons and a Trio Sonata, all based on the theme. The canons include various methods of adapting themes, the musical equivalent of word-play (see Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach"). The Crab Canon uses the theme both upside-down and backwards as illustrated on a Moebius Band in this video.
This year is the centenary of Benjamin Britten's birth and he is on a postage stamp as part of the Royal Mail's Great Britons collection. Perhaps this was repayment for the documentary film Night Mail (video link) scored by Britten in 1936 alongside a poem by W. H. Auden. The poem is introduced by a wind machine and sand paper starting at 19:10 and you can see Britten's autograph score on the British Library website. The music is scored for flute, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, percussion, harp and string quartet, and the section with the poem starts on page 7. More composer memorabilia including manuscripts, letters, diaries and photographs can be seen at The Red House in Aldeburgh thanks to the Britten-Pears Archive.
Earlier this week it was announced that from 2014 onwards, the oscar-nominated songs and film scores will be performed in a live concert a few days before the awards ceremony itself. The 86th annual Academy Awards will take place on Sunday March 2nd 2014 with the first music concert on Thursday February 27th 2014 at the Royce Hall at the University of California, Los Angeles. The nominated film scores will be represented by a Suite of music from the film of up to 10 minutes in duration. Depending on availability it is hoped that the music will be conducted by the nominated composers themselves. See Film Music Oscars for previous winners and nominees and a short history of the music oscars.
On 18th July 2013 at BFI SouthBank in London, there will be a unique afternoon exploring the use of brass in film scores. The event will look at the range of scoring techniques used in today's movie scores, with two central masterclass talks led by orchestrator and conductor Matt Dunkley and composer and orchestrator Andrew Pearce. Examples will be taken from films including "Inception", "Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End", "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises" and "Fast & Furious 6". After the event there will be an opportunity for networking drinks. Tickets are still available and more information at the Screened Music website.
The BBC Proms concerts start soon and in the programme's 50th anniversary year, the Music of Doctor Who returns to the Proms for 2 concerts on 13th and 14th July. The concerts include some classical music by Bizet, Debussy and Bach, music from the Doctor Who series by Murray Gold, with Ben Foster conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the London Philharmonic Choir. As well as the usual thrills, special guests and monsters, the concert will feature electronic music from the early days of Doctor Who as created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. For more information see the BBC Proms website.
On May 29th 1913 the Paris Premiere of Igor Stravinsky's ballet "The Rite of Spring" (Le Sacre Du Printemps), famously precipitated a riot among some audience members. Now Stravinsky's masterpiece is recognised as a turning point in modern classical music. To celebrate this anniversary the famous 1958 recording of the work, by Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, has been carefully remastered from the original analogue reels and reissued in several formats. The CD version with the original LP cover art is available via these links at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. For those with deeper pockets you can also get a Facsimile of the Autograph Full Score.
On July 9th London Music Works will perform a live concert of Film and Television themes. The concert will feature British TV themes, American TV themes, a short Hanna Barbera section and a celebration of Jazz in Film. The event will take place at the Islington Assembly Hall in Upper Street and tickets are available from Event Brite. London Music Works regularly record music for the soundtrack record label Silva Screen and, in addition to the video alongside, another selection of taster sounds can be heard at this link on Soundcloud.
On June 26th in London, there will be a rare opportunity to hear the film composer Gabriel Yared talk about his career, and the composer will also be playing live. Yared has a wealth of credits to his name including Betty Blue, City of Angels, Sylvia and The Lives of Others. His long-standing relationship with director Anthony Minghella resulted in film scores for Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr Ripley, The English Patient, and Breaking and Entering (with Underworld). For The English Patient released in 1996, Yared won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and a Grammy. More information about the event can be found here at the BFI website.
The chamber series Festival Brikcius 2013 has 3 Spring and 3 Autumn concerts. The 2nd Spring concert is on Thursday 16th May in Prague, with a programme of music by Joseph-Hector Fiocco (1703-1741), Zikmund Schul (1916-1944), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and David Popper (1843-1913) with an encore by Czech composer Irena Kosíková. Duo Brikcius will be performing the works. The cello duo consists of brother and sister František Brikcius and Anna Brikciusova. Tickets are available from the Prague Ticket Office and details of the other concerts in the series can be found at the Festival Brikcius website.
Star Trek returns to the big screen this month with "Star Trek Into Darkness" scored by returning composer Michael Giacchino. The soundtrack album will be released on 14th May (on both sides of the Atlantic) and it can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Giacchino also created a completely new score for the Star Trek computer game, which was also voiced by the film cast. With J. J. Abrams also working on Star Wars VII there has been speculation that Giacchino would score that movie too, though JJ has now said that he expects the one and only John Williams to return to the Star Wars universe to score the movie.
We have now expanded our Composer Timelines article to include timeline diagrams for the Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Periods. In total the diagrams now cover from 800 A.D. to the present with all the main composers from each period. In total there are now more than 600 composers, and we provide a complete composer listing, with their dates (where known), links to their biographies (if listed on mfiles), links to examples of their music or articles where the composers are referenced. Interestingly the initial timeline diagrams are short and wide, while later diagrams are tall and thin. It is as though the pace of musical development is accelerating.
The "Finnieston Crane" is a prominent landmark in Glasgow. It sits beside the River Clyde as a monument to the city's engineering heritage, and was built to lift heavy machinery on and off ships. Sound artist Bill Fontana has now transformed the iconic structure into a giant musical instrument. For Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art he has fitted very sensitive microphones onto the crane, from where live sounds are transmitted via satellite. As the environment and the weather act on the crane it sets off vibrations in the structure, which are picked up and amplified by the microphones. You can hear the sound live on the Silent Echoes website until 3rd May.
In 1946 Jean Cocteau released "Beauty and the Beast", an acclaimed adaptation of the traditional fairy tale with a wonderful fantasy score by Georges Auric. In 1994 Philip Glass famously replaced the whole soundtrack (music and dialogue) to create his opera "La Belle et la Bête". This video cheekily goes one step further replacing the visuals with lego characters in an abridged version of the opera! Here's part 1 and part 2. Auric's original film score is at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, and you can hear Philip Glass' opera at this year's Edinburgh International Festival.
Our new article called Composer Timelines showcases graphic images which map out the main composers in each Classical Music Period. There are currently images for the Baroque, Classical and Romantic Periods. They can be viewed on screen but are in sufficient detail that they can be printed out and pinned on a wall, either on A4/Letter or A3/Ledger paper. The Classical Period highlights some key features: e.g. Haydn lived well in to his 70s but Mozart died in his 30s; Bach's sons spanned the Baroque and Classical Periods and inspired composers of the Classical Period; likewise composers such as Beethoven, Schubert and John Field lived towards the end of the Classical Period and helped to introduce Romanticism.
Continuing the Doctor Who 50th anniversary soundtrack series after "The Caves of Androzani" was released this week, we move back from the 80s to the 60s for "The Krotons" by Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Brian Hodgson worked on the show from the very beginning creating many of its signature sounds, with perhaps the most famous being the Tardis dematerialisation sound which he created by first dragging a key down the bass strings of a piano and then electronically processing the recording. The new album is available from 13th May in the UK and it can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.co.uk and later at Amazon.com.
Following a YouTube driven rise to fame and an appearance at the Royal Albert Hall last summer, Valentina Lisitsa has now released a double album entitled "Rachmaninov" consisting of the composer's major works for piano and orchestra. The pianist is equally at home with Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov though previous albums have focussed on chamber works either for solo piano (the "Live" album) or the Charles Ives "Four Sonatas" for violin and piano with Hilary Hahn as the violinist. The new release has all 4 of the Rachmaninov Piano Concertos and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra under Michael Francis. This new release is available now at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
The latest film score by Clint Mansell is "Stoker". After festival screenings at Sundance and Glasgow, the movie is now on general release in cinemas. Mansell sets the tone for the movie with some hauntingly atmospheric music, and a few pulse-driven tracks. Piano music features in a pivotal movie scene (see the trailer here on youtube), and this source music "Duet" was provided by none other than Philip Glass in his own inimitable style. The soundtrack album also includes music by Emily Wells, who collaborates with Mansell on the final bonus track "If I Ever Had a Heart". The album is available now at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
ITV is full of trailers for its drama series "Mr. Selfridge" about the American entrepreneur Harry Selfridge who started the London department store in 1909. All these trailers are accompanied by a piece of big band music from the Swing Era. "Sing, Sing, Sing" is a song written in 1936 by the jazz musician and songwriter Louis Prima (1910–1978). The following year clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman (1909–1986) ditched the lyrics to create the famous instrumental version. Here is a video of the music from the 1956 film called "The Benny Goodman Story" with Steve Allen playing the Bandleader and miming Goodman's clarinet solos.
Related to our last post about Doctor Who music, there is a festival in East London this month called "Pioneers of Electronic Music". Various events will be held in different venues from March 6th to 17th. The festival has been put together by "Nonclassical" and full details can be found on their website at www.nonclassical.co.uk. The events include practical demonstrations building and using synthesisers for those interested in Electronic Music, films with pioneering soundtracks: The Day the Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet, and concerts with music by Messiaen, Stockhausen, Varese, Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, and Tristram Cary.
New Doctor Who Soundtracks with be released this year to celebrates the show's 50th anniversary. First up is the 1984 story "The Caves of Androzani", where Peter Davison regenerates into Colin Baker, and voted the best story by readers of Doctor Who Magazine in 2009. The music for "The Caves of Androzani" is by Roger Limb and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Various member of the Workshop provided music for the show between 1980 and 1985, and Roger Limb had previously scored "The Keeper of Traken" with Tom Baker and a number of Peter Davison stories. This first soundtrack album will be available from 25th March but you can pre-order it now at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (available April 23rd).
No doubt the Oscars parties are still in full swing. There were a lot of good condenders for oscars, and on the whole the awards were spread evenly among some well-deserving films with the oscar music awards in line with the earlier Golden Globes. In the best score category Mychael Danna won for "The Life of Pi", one of our Top 10 Scores of 2012, beating strong competition from Dario Marianelli, Alexandre Desplat, John Williams and Thomas Newman. Newman has the consolation of winning "Best Score" at the Baftas for Skyfall, with Adele and Paul Epworth again winning for the film's title song "Skyfall". See the full story of the 2013 Awards and the Film Music Oscars.
In "Sound the Trumpet" we are treated to the Royal Music of Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel. The works include a selection of enjoyable regal pieces and arrangements with the starring trumpet ably support by the English Concert orchestra under their founder Trevor Pinnock, and a sprinkling of additional artists. Alison Balsom plays a valve-less trumpet as a nod to the baroque instruments of Purcell and Handel's day, though a little more manageable than a period natural trumpet which is notoriously difficult to play. The album was fittingly released in 2012, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year, and has since rocketed up the classical charts. It is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Fresh from Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, Danny Elfman's music is back at our cinemas with "Hitchcock". The biopic looks at the professional and domestic aspects of the Alfred Hitchcock's life while making "Psycho" but his marriage to Alma faces a crisis. The score is all Elfman but with nods to the suspense music of the director's famous movies. The CD covers in the UK and US are strangely different, but now available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
As part of their Masterclass series, Screened Music Network will host "Scoring Drama" at the BFI, exploring different approaches to composing for film and television drama. This day-long event features 3 award-winning composers: Debbie Wiseman MBE (Wilde, Warriors, Judge John Deed), Murray Gold (Doctor Who, Shameless, Torchwood) and John Lunn (Downton Abbey, Going Postal, Hotel Babylon). Some sessions include analysis of scores, so the ability to read music is recommended. More details and booking information can be found at the Screened Music Network website.
Mozart's Jupiter Symphony is famous - it is his Last (No.41), The Wombles used the 3rd movement for their song "Minuetto Allegretto", but to musicians the 4th movement is famous because Mozart did something special. He combined Baroque counterpoint fully into a Classical symphony, i.e. he has multiple themes going on at the same time. Mozart wrote the famous Coda first (from 10:30 in the video) and then created the rest of the movement to introduce and combine all these themes. The video really seems to highlight this stroke of genius, because the eye helps the brain to "hear" all the different themes.
Awards Season 2013 is now well underway, with the nominations announced this week for both the BAFTAs and the Oscars. The Golden Globes are always one step ahead: their nominations were announced in December and their awards ceremony is on Sunday. Looking at the Music Categories, there is again a lot of consistency between the big three awards. Anna Karenina by Dario Marianelli, "The Life of Pi" by Mychael Danna and "Lincoln" by John Williams are all nominated for all 3 awards, while "Argo" by Alexandre Desplat and Skyfall by Thomas Newman are both nominated for 2 out of 3 awards. Mychael Danna also has a nod for the song "Pi's Lullaby" and Adele's "Skyfall" and Schonberg's "Suddenly" from "Les Mis" have both got 2 song nominations.
Howard Goodall is known as the composer for several iconic TV series, including Blackadder, Red Dwarf, Mr. Bean, The Vicar of Dibley, and Q.I. The composer is also well-known as a presenter, on the Classic FM radio station and on sereval TV documentary series such as "Big Bangs" and "How Music Works" on Channel 4. His latest series starts later this month on BBC 2 called "Howard Goodall's Story of Music", which aims to describe aspects of music in layman's terms and cover a broad inclusive range from classical to popular genres. A book to accompany the series is already available in shops. Called "The Story of Music" the book can be found online at Amazon.co.uk (now) and Amazon.com (soon).
We recently posted a review of the excellent Anna Karenina score by Dario Marianelli. Another film scored by the composer is "Quartet" which is currently showing in the UK and elsewhere. Directed by Dustin Hoffman, the film features an all-star cast playing characters in a home for retired opera singers. The soundtrack album is therefore a mix of classical instrumental and opera works (by Verdi, Schubert, Haydn, Gilbert and Sullivan, etc.) with four tracks by Marianelli. The album is available at Amazon.co.uk. The US version has a different cover and is available from tomorrow at Amazon.com.
Happy New Year to mfiles visitors! For our first post of the year, we wanted to mention "Life of Pi" which is currently out at the cinema. Not only is this a visual treat (especially when seen in 3D) but it also features a great score by composer Mychael Danna. The Canadian composer is known for his interest in Indian music, which makes him an ideal choice for "Life of Pi" based on the novel by Yann Martel. The story is about Pi Patel the son of an Indian zoo-keeper who is moving to Canada when the ship is involved in a shipwreck. He then finds himself adrift in a lifeboat with a tiger and other animals. The soundtrack is one of our Top 10 from 2012 and is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
For current and recent new items, see Jim's Blog.