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Retro Review

 

Editor's Choice:

Best of the Month
June 2003

 
 

Since the CD has become somewhat of a collector's item, this review is reprinted with slight revisions for those who want to learn more about it...  

Something Wild

SOMETHING WILD (1961)  

Music composed and conducted by Aaron Copland

11 Tracks (Total Time = 35:10)

Produced by Aaron Copland.  Executive Producer: Robert Townson.  Mastered by Erick Labson. Cover Art by Saul Bass.  Unpublished illustration by Al Hirschfeld.
CD notes by Aaron Copland and Mark Leneker.

Varese Sarabande 302 066 469 2

Rating: ****

Track titles:

1. New York Profile [2:45]
2. Part At Night [1:25]
3. Subway Jam [2:12]
4. Mary Ann Resigned [1:57]
5. Incarceration And Nightmares [7:03]
6. Escape Through The City [7:21]
7. Love Music [1:53]
8. Walk Downtown [3:06]
9. Episode On The Bridge [4:49]
10. Mother Alone [0:56]
11. Reunion [1:05]

Who would have guessed that a lost original film score by Aaron Copland would ever appear on CD?  But that's the case with this wonderful last film score by Copland in a World Premiere release.

Warning -- spoliers ahead about the story of this film!

It was composed for a highly expressionist 1961 film starring Carroll Baker and Ralph Meeker, and directed by Baker's then husband, Jack Garfein.  I remember seeing this film when it was first released and being very impressed with Carroll Baker's sensitive acting in a very difficult role as a rape victim, and I was especially aware of Aaron Copland's stark and sensitive score.  Copland decided not to score the rape scene and I believe he was correct since it is already dramatic enough in its brutality.  

The opening track of SOMEWTHING WILD, "New York Profile" (2:48), just bristles with dissonant brass blasts along with heavy percussion support.  This is a dynamite theme, used for the opening credit titles by Saul Bass.  This theme might remind some of Leonard Bernstein's ON THE WATERFRONT, but Copland writes a more intense one. 

Another terrific cue is track 3 ("Subway Jam"), where the subway train can be heard reproduced in the brass and percussion.  Then things quiet down on the next track with the melancholy cue: "Mary Ann Resigned."  

On track 5, "Incarceration and Nightmares," Copland begins with subtle moody writing when Mary Ann first rejects her captor, Mike, who goes out on alcoholic binges.  Copland next quotes the Subway Jam theme, introduced by beating of the drum, as Mary Ann begins her frightening dream.  This is masterful writing for emotional effect.

The next track, "Escape Through The City," is the longest one on the CD and depicts Mary Ann's escape from Mike's apartment and roams around New York's Midtown and Central Park.  Once again, Copland's music begins highly dissonant as if to echo Mary Ann's disturbed and confused state of mind, and then eventually becomes more reflective as she goes back to Mike's apartment.   

One of the most intense cues is "Episode On The Bridge (track 9)," where Copland uses jagged brass and strident strings to accompany this powerful scene of  Mary Ann's loneliness and depression.

The "Love Music" (track 7) is nicely written and manages to express deep feeling with less than two minutes of music.

The final track, "Reunion" (track 11), reunites Mary Ann with her mother, who is shocked when she hears that her daughter is going to have a baby. Copland wisely writes this scene in a harsh yet conciliatory manner so that it ends with uncertainty as the story suggests.

It's great to have the original 1961 notes by Copland included in the CD booklet.  Also, there's a note from the director, and the fascinating account by Mark Leneker how the original LP recording was discovered and transferred to CD.  Leneker also provides an excellent description of each track.

Unfortunately, the CD is very short.  Why not include another Copland original film score, like THE RED PONY? According to Leneker, that Copland score was the first original soundtrack on LP ever released -- and it was on Varese Sarabande.

Copland was undoubtedly one of the greatest and most respected American composers of the 20th century.

This CD of SOMETHING WILD is surely a milestone of film music restoration.  

It deserves to be in any film music collection.  

-- Roger Hall,  28 June 2003

 

Read the interview with Aaron Copland about his film scores listed at:

Film Composers and Soundtracks

 

Aaron Copland has been named for a Lifetime Achievement Award at

The Sammy Awards

 

 

 


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