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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)

 
   

 

 

 


8th Anniversary Special

This e-zine began online with Volume 1, Number 1 on 8 July 1998.

In that first issue there were 6 scores and 4 compilations reviewed, with the highest ratings going to Max Steiner's KING KONG (Marco Polo re-recording) and John Williams CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Arista expanded CD). Due to a computer malfunction these reviews have been lost. But the list for Best of 1998 is still available.

These are some of the comments received after the initial issue in 1998:

"Clearly you have a long view of this art form - and that is good!" --- Bob Bowd

"I was very impressed when viewing your site...I appreciate your taste in film music" --- Matthew Gear

"Enjoyed your web site - nice job and very informative" --- Randall D. Larson, Editor, Soundtrack Magazine

"I want to congratulate you on your new site - for me it's one of the best review sites on the net (or in print) simply because it gets to the 'meat' of the story without all the fluff and nasty personal grudge stuff that seems to be standard at some other sites" --- Mark Northam, Film Music Magazine

"Excellent site - straightforward, no nonsense and to the point. Every film music buff should visit it."--- David Wishart, CD producer and writer

Now eight years later, FMR has grown from a few web pages to a multi-page e-zine with over 500 Book, CD, and DVD reviews posted. The previous reviews are found in Volumes 1- 7 of Film Music Review (click on the link in the left column).

There are still a few copies remaining of the reference book, A Guide to Film Music. But supply is limited so order your copy soon! Click on the link in the right column to order the guide, which comes with a free CD.

You can read previous anniversary comments at this link:

Film Music Essays

Up until recently Film Music Review focused mainly on new film scores.

Beginning 1 July 2006, a new policy has begun of reviewing only film music from at least a decade ago, or from the early 1930s to the early 1990s.

This has been to highlight vintage film music in an attempt to preserve it and is in keeping with the goals of the American Music Preservation web site. It is also in reaction to the low quality of many new soundtracks.

What follows are some thoughts by two reviewers on
...


Film Music for the Ages

By Roger L. Hall


Film music right now seems to be at a low point in its history.

Just about every film today gets a soundtrack album, often with lots of bad songs and a bit of score thrown in for good measure. This is a most unfortunate trend.

Many, but not all, of today's soundtracks just don't approach the level of excellence of past decades from film composers like: Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Henry Mancini, Alex North, Alfred Newman, Miklos Rozsa, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, Franz Waxman, and Victor Young. All of these composers were film music masters working within a certain time or Age.

What are these "Ages"?

I would classify them according to various decades and have added links to a few soundtracks reviewed:

  • Bronze Age (1980s - 2000s)
    -- from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK by John Williams to today's film scores. The techniques include increased use of synth and ethnic music, as well full blown orchestral scores. A few examples:
    THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (John Williams)
    FRIDA (Elliot Goldenthal)

    SEABISUIT (Randy Newman)


    Naturally there are film composers that fit into more than one Age, such as Elmer Bernstein or Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams. But it is more their film scores that defines where they fit in time. So Bernstein's HAWAII would be in the Silver Age and his FAR FROM HEAVEN would be in the Bronze Age. The same would apply for Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Ennio Morricone, and John Barry.

    Just like with today's film soundtracks, there are some from the past which are not so good, such as several early film scores by James Horner: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS & HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP.

One way to sample many of the great themes from the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages of Film Music is with this 4 CD set from Silva: CINEMA CENTURY 2000. There are 55 themes included on these CDs and they provide a very good survey of film music from the 1930s to 1990s.

Another source of many fine film scores from the Golden and Silver Ages is the Film Score Monthly CD releases.

There are also some On-Demand radio programs of these scores. One of them is the four part series by Erik Woods, "A Tribute to Charles Gerhardt", with The National Philharmonic Orchestra performing film music by Golden and Silver Age composers like Herrmann, Korngold, Rozsa, Steiner, Tiomkin, and Williams.

Finally, I'd like to mention some of the fine producers who have given film music listeners many hours of listening pleasure.

These producers include (in alphabetical order):

  • Ray Faiola
  • George Feltenstein
  • James Fitzpatrick
  • Lukas Kendall
  • John Morgan and William Stromberg
  • Ford A. Thaxton
  • Robert Townson

These and other producers have provided remastered or re-recorded CDs of older film music and deserve much praise for their efforts. I salute them all.

Now what are you thoughts on vintage film music?

Send in your comments to:

Film Music Review 


The Cinema Century

By Steven A. Kennedy


As we are midway through the first decade of the 21 st Century, it is hard to imagine the multitude of musical scores yet to be uncovered.

The last decade has seen a real increase in discovering, or re-discovering, the great film music of the first 100 years of cinema. Yet, it is fascinating what is being explored, or ignored.

From the Silent Era, very little recording of scores has progressed. It is somewhat hard to believe that even a classical label has yet to embark on recording some of the early theater orchestra stuff. New World Records used to carry a recording of one of the great theater organs which featured some of this music. But interest in the early era of film music is lacking. Instead, we have many attempts at writing new scores like Carl Davis’ work on the Chaplin films (available from Silva) and more famously, Philip Glass’ score for DRACULA.

If you watch film music discussion boards, very little interest or conversation exists regarding anything from pre-1940. BYU continues to release Max Steiner scores but you really do not see much excitement about them. Thankfully, they are preserving his work for future generations to explore. Steiner helps provide a link to the Silent era methods of scoring while also moving film music into the Golden Age.

 

 

It would seem that most of Korngold’s music has been re-recorded or put to CD by now with varying success, but it surprises me that Waxman’s music is less known. Work on the movie studio system related to film music is still slowly getting attention. In some cases, it may be too late to track down everything.

A resurgence in interest in jazz from the 1960s has seen a few scores pop up here and there on CD from this era as well. It is a great way to hear orchestrations by many composers who would go on to film music careers. Of growing interest for me are the jazz scores by Henry Mancini, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and Quincy Jones. They all are distinctly different but the overlap of orchestration approaches is fascinating to listen to from one score to the next. And, we are beginning to see lesser known scores from the 1970s and even 1980s get released.

As we get ready to focus our attention on older film music, it is odd that both SUPERMAN RETURNS and THE OMEN reused music from two films that were of primary influence to me as a pre-teen (at least with SUPERMAN).

While my personal interest in maybe hearing a great score from a new talent wanes with this decision, it also makes perfect sense as even this far into the New Year I have yet to hear anything that is really distinguishable. Unless you count ABOMINABLE…a score from Lalo Schifrin no less!

 


Related FMR links dealing with film music from the Golden Age and Silver Age:

Editor's Choice: Top Ten Film Scores (1930s-1970s)

Web Poll: Top 10 Favorite Movie Songs

Web Poll: Top 10 Favorite Film Scores (1930s-1970s)


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