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Herrmann and Goldsmith's OTHER scores
Last post Wed, Oct 14 2009 by Tom23, 38 replies.
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Posted on Wed, Sep 09 2009 15:07
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5382

The big scores by the two masters of film music such as Psycho, Vertigo and Star Trek are well-known, but less well-known but perhaps even more brilliant are the TV scores done by these two composers for the original Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. 

You will often hear film music that is a big, full ensemble of all the instruments but which is a mediocre use of all that power.  But in these scores, you hear the opposite: tiny ensembles that are used so perfectly and imaginatively that most people don't even realize an orchestra is not playing! 

An example I just noticed was the Herrmann score to "Living Doll" of the Twilight Zone.  It is scored for three instruments only: Bass clarinet, Harp and Celesta.  It is fantastic, masterful use of that unique combination from a purely orchestrational standpoint, but also  is perfect for the film. 

Another one is the score by Goldsmith to The Invaders of the Twilight Zone.  It is for strings, with a prominent solo violin.

Yet another is the Herrmann score for "Walking Distance" which is one of his best wistful, romantic string compositions, so good it was recently re-recorded for a CD.  How many TV show complete scores - not just theme songs - have had that done for them?  Probably not one other. 

What impresses me about these is how they use such small forces to create such a huge effect.  The artistry of the composition is what makes them big, not hiring more players.  Also, with these short "Chamber Music" scores you can hear far more clearly what is being done by the composer than in a special effects-explosion-laden blockbuster.  The real art of film music is contained in these and can be learned from these beautiful gems far more than going to the theater and having your ears assaulted by noise.

Posted on Thu, Sep 10 2009 04:13
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5382

 Another example: Herrmann's score for Alfred Hitchcock Presents composed for bassoon ensemble including contrabassoon.

These scores not only are great examples of orchestration,  but are actually experiments in orchestral color which is never done today in feature films. 

Posted on Thu, Sep 10 2009 05:06
by dpcon
Joined on Sat, Oct 12 2002, Los Angeles, Posts 1646

Agreed on Herrmann's work on both TV shows mentioned. He's done some of the best work ever in TV's history. True with Goldsmith as well. His score to the Twilight Zone episode "The Four of Us are Dying" is an incredible use of Jazz Band elements that outdoes almost anything I have ever heard done in that language. You also hear very clearly the composer of Planet of the Apes a full seven or eight years before that score.

I don't know what's happened to film and television scores but the talents and approaches by those two geniuses are sorely missed.

Dave Connor
Posted on Thu, Sep 10 2009 15:08
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5382

Yeah, that episode is another outstanding one - it had an impressionistic film-noir set, combined with that great music.  Pure image and sound together. 

What impressed me about those scores was how by using a small ensemble, or even solos, the composer did more for each player than a typical score for orchestra, with strings in near-comatose boredom grinding out block chords, brass playing fanfares, woodwinds playing stupid filagrees, etc. etc. etc. We are now in a state of total standardization of film music just as much as in the 1940s studio era, when every score sounded like Rachmaninoff-Brahms-Tchaikovsky-Lite.   Only today, people are doing Herrmann-Goldsmith-Dumbed-Down.  

I would just love to hear one of the big composers today write for and personally score three solo orchestral instruments for the entire score. 

It is not going to happen.  Because they are flat-out incapable of that kind of orchestration.  To do that, you have to know the instruments as well as Mahler did.   And that is the kind of knowledge Herrmann had.  His orchestrational experiments are beyond almost all concert music, and totally blow away other film music.

Posted on Fri, Sep 11 2009 15:12
by mosso
Joined on Thu, Jun 23 2005, London, England, Posts 376

Just wanted to say I agree with your sentiments about the amazing scores Herrmann and Goldsmith produced for TTZ. I can't say I recall the details as well as you but I do distinctly remember some amazing cues.

I sometimes compose music for theatre and even though it's played back from a CD/minidisc rather than played by live musicians, I did on at least one commission severely restrict my instruments for the sake of experimentation. It was a very satisfying job (even though my results were nowhere near as good as Messrs Goldsmith & Herrmann)!

Best,

M

Martin Thornton
<a href="http://www.mosso.co.uk/" target="_blank">www.mosso.co.uk</a>
Posted on Fri, Sep 11 2009 17:11
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2370
mosso wrote:

Just wanted to say I agree with your sentiments about the amazing scores Herrmann and Goldsmith produced for TTZ. I can't say I recall the details as well as you but I do distinctly remember some amazing cues.

This is the tv music I grew up with as a kid to early teenager. This is the music that affects you most when you're that age. The only problem with this quality of music is that you then have to put up with the f******* awful crap later on in life.

Herrmann and Goldsmith were constrained by budgets. But not by talent thankfully. 'Walking Distance" may actually be the best TV score ever written.

Posted on Sat, Sep 12 2009 18:50
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1498
William wrote:

I would just love to hear one of the big composers today write for and personally score three solo orchestral instruments for the entire score. 

It is not going to happen.  Because they are flat-out incapable of that kind of orchestration.  To do that, you have to know the instruments as well as Mahler did.   And that is the kind of knowledge Herrmann had.  His orchestrational experiments are beyond almost all concert music, and totally blow away other film music.

 

Is it a case of the composer being "flat-out incapable of that kind of orchestration" or the shows producers being flat-out incapable of knowing what's good when they hear it.  You may be right but it could also be that the composer originally wrote something more subtle but when the producers heard it they said, "what the hell is this crap.  Where's the block string chords, the brass fanfares and the stupid woodwind filagrees that I hired you to compose.  If I want art, I'll dig up Hermann and have him score my show.  Just set the mood!"

 

When you mentioned block string chords it reminded me of a particular favorite dramatic TV show of mine.  I'm not going to mention the name of this show because perhaps the composer is out there reading this but I love everything about this show except the music.  The writing is superb, the acting is top notch, the direction is edgy and fresh but the music is just a succession of bland block string chords.  And they're fake strings too.  I don't mind fake strings but at least make an effort to hide their fakeness.  Dump Garritan and get VSL for God's sake.  I've noticed a lot of TV shows are like this now, especially dramas.

 

I think I'm a little younger than the previous posters but Alexander Courage and later Mike Post were TV composers that I grew up with.  One of my favorite TV themes is the Copelandesque Courage/Goldsmith collaboration for The Waltons.  Of course, who could forget the original Star Trek theme.  What I like about Mike Post is that he's edgier and likes to take risks instead of just going through the motions.  This shows with his theme for The Rockford Files,  but my favorite Post theme is Hillstreet Blues.  Often, he thinks outside of the orchestral box. 

 

Then again, you guys are talking about individual episodes and not themes.  I only remember episodes of Miami Vice having interesting music.  Yeah I know, you're all probably wincing right now.  Jan Hammer?  Are you kidding?  No I'm not, but to be honest, I never really cared much for the main theme.  The music in a lot of the individual episodes, however, was very provocative and moving.  I especially liked "Sonny's Theme."

 

Re: Goldsmith.  It seemed that the more intimate Goldsmith composed the more brilliant he was.  I read somewhere that the producers of Patton almost fired him because they wanted Patton's theme to be more of the cliché fanfare fife and drum fitting of a famous general instead of the simple trumpet phrase with the delay effect that he composed.  General George S. Patton believed in reincarnation.  The echoing trumpets are echoes from the past.  They represent the past lives that General Patton lived, the past battles that he fought the past deaths that he suffered and all of his rebirths.  Brilliant!  In the end, the delayed trumpet was kept as an introduction to a bigger score.

 

Even those of us in the younger generations miss the greats like Hermann and Goldsmith.

  


"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it."
- W.C. Fields
Posted on Sat, Sep 12 2009 20:35
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5382

jasensmith wrote:
Goldsmith.  It seemed that the more intimate Goldsmith composed the more brilliant he was.  I read somewhere that the producers of Patton almost fired him because they wanted Patton's theme to be more of the cliché fanfare fife and drum fitting of a famous general instead of the simple trumpet phrase with the delay effect that he composed.  General George S. Patton believed in reincarnation.  The echoing trumpets are echoes from the past. 
 

That is a fantastic observation!  You are right about that - especially with the Patton obsession with the warriors of the past. Goldsmith actually incorporated that into the orchestration with echoing trumpet fanfares.  That blows me away.  

Posted on Sat, Sep 12 2009 22:26
by dpcon
Joined on Sat, Oct 12 2002, Los Angeles, Posts 1646

As I understand it, the 'reincarnation theme' (trumpet through Echoplex) was added after the score was finished. The Patton Military March tune is not just a great film tune but one of the great compositions in that style in US history. That's up there with Souza's work I would say.

Dave Connor
Posted on Sun, Sep 13 2009 01:14
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5382

That is definitely true.  I was thinking about that march today - it has a contapuntal style that is reminiscent of Bach (like in Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring) with a complex main melody that has a chorale-like countermelody that is simpler but equally memorable.  You could say that score is an example of virtuoso film music.  Especially thinking about how a film composer can do the minimum - say, block chords or rhythm pads - and actually succeed in scoring the scene.   But Goldsmith did the maximum.  Without ever doing too much.  With both him and Herrmann,  I never once - even once - heard a score that had too much and was taking over the scene.  They always fit in perfectly, but just happen also to be great music.  

Posted on Sun, Sep 13 2009 03:00
by dpcon
Joined on Sat, Oct 12 2002, Los Angeles, Posts 1646

I agree. Both composers could do very complex music and it would work perfectly. Both could also write very simply and say everything. Herrmann is the king of the simple or spare idea saying tons. He's the master of psychology conveyed through music.

Dave Connor
Posted on Sun, Sep 13 2009 09:22
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2370

Yeah- Mike Post. He wrote musical themes you could remember. You could be in another room and one of his themes would tell you what was on without actually seeing the tv screen. Imagine that happening today? Stick out tongue

Those themes seem to be out of favour these days. Probably because they can't write them anymore. It takes skill and imagination to write themes you can remember 20 seconds after you first heard it.

The echoing trumpets in Patton were extremely effective and I still remember that from being in the cinema when the film came out. One of Goldsmith's trademarks of course. The echoing pizz strings from Alien for instance.

Miami Vice was a very good theme given the narrow area of time and fashion it was trying to represent i.e the 80's with rolled up jacket sleeves, fake tans, fake cars and unbelievable hair styles - and that was just the males. I think I remember Jan Hammer working on a Fairlight to get some of that sound and it was very good playing.

Posted on Sun, Sep 13 2009 14:13
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5382

I have to add Erich Korngold to that exclusive list of the greatest film composers that includes Herrmann, Goldsmith and Williams because his scores were actually the most complex contrapuntally, harmonically and orchestrationally. John Williams has done some outstanding concert music as well, but some of Herrmann's concert music for orchestra is not as good as his film music. Like his symphony - it seemed a little dull to me.  Though his chamber pieces  are fantastic, like the Souvenir de Voyage and Echoes for string quartet.  However, with Korngold, his concert music is the best of all these composers, with his great concertos and operas.  Die Tote Stadt is one of the greatest modern operas.  Dave, did Jerry Goldsmith write much concert music?  Or does anyone know about that?  I have never heard any concert pieces he did.

Posted on Mon, Sep 14 2009 18:11
by dpcon
Joined on Sat, Oct 12 2002, Los Angeles, Posts 1646

No question that Korngold's concert works are the best of the composers mentioned here. Only Rosza's concert works could possibly be compared. Die Tote Stadt is an amazing work and hold's it's own against works of that era. In fact it has original elements in content and orchestration that are singular to Korngold.

Yes William, Jerry did write a few concert works but I couldn't name them and don't think I've heard them. I think they were specifically commissioned by certain American orchestras. I will see what I can dig up.

 EDIT: Found a little on Wikipedia. Goldsmith never cared for the term "film composer", as he also wrote a fair amount of "absolute" music for the concert hall as well (such as "Music For Orchestra", which was premiered by Leonard Slatkin and the Minnesota Orchestra in 1970)

Dave Connor
Posted on Tue, Sep 15 2009 08:39
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2370

Korngold set the orchestra up in the traditional old school Vienna style and got that sound. He wrote leit motifs.

Herrmann didn't get involved with leit motif work and set the orchestra up entirely differently. He would have been the first film composer to use modern techniques - for example the quadruple tracking of the solo violin (in 1941) in The Devil & Daniel Webster. Bringing instruments to the foreground that would not be possible (to hear) in a live performance with all the other noise going on, is another example.

Herrmann's music was suited to the films he did partly because those were the films he was offered. You get the same thing with actors. It makes no odds about what genre is most suitable for this composer or that - or what your favourite this or that is. You have to accept that Herrmann was the best at his trade and is the benchmark for everything else - including John Williams. 

Posted on Wed, Sep 16 2009 15:06
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5382

Yes, about the specific films Herrmann did, the ones he was offered - that has always struck me.  Here is a film composer whose first film score is THE GREATEST FILM EVER MADE according to many movie critics and historians.  Citizen Kane.  And then, after polishing off that little gig, Benny went on to score, oh, let's see, a few little projects like all of Ray Harryhausen's classic fantasy films, all of Hitcthcock's greatest masterpieces, etc. etc. etc.

It is true he was a great composer, but he was also incredibly lucky to have been living at the exact moment when all those film projects were around and he could do them. 

Posted on Thu, Sep 17 2009 03:35
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5382

One other thing I was thinking might be appropriate for this discussion - John Williams early TV scores.  The ones by "Johnny Williams" - like, Lost in Space.  They are very good, but it is clear that he was learning how to score.   Because he is a brilliant composer, his education was very useful to the TV networks.  However, compared to his later film scores they are very simple little ditties. 

This is in sharp distinction to the Herrmann and Goldsmith TV scores.  They are the works of absolute masters who used the budget limitations as a challenge for new ideas.  

Posted on Thu, Sep 17 2009 04:37
by dpcon
Joined on Sat, Oct 12 2002, Los Angeles, Posts 1646

Agree with that William. A favorite early Williams film score of mine is Midway simply for the fact that the JW we would come to know (his tuneful approach to film) is very much on display. Even so Goldsmith's Tora Tora Tora (to name a similar earlier score to the same film material) is indeed masterful with JG's trademark scintillating cues abounding right and left.

Dave Connor
Posted on Thu, Sep 17 2009 07:51
by mosso
Joined on Thu, Jun 23 2005, London, England, Posts 376

I remember a comment Jerry made at as pre-concert talk about him, John Williams and another composer (think it was either David Shire or David Raksin) working in offices that shared a corridor when they were all working in TV. He said it was a wonderful environment to work in because there was all this fantastic music coming from each of the rooms and the composers would always be 'wandering' down the corridor to listen to the latest ideas from each other - and then try to write something better!

M

Martin Thornton
<a href="http://www.mosso.co.uk/" target="_blank">www.mosso.co.uk</a>
Posted on Thu, Sep 17 2009 11:19
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1021

Apart from those already mentioned, I remember - even as a boy - how impressed I was with David Rose's music. He was mainly given, let's say, not the most sophisticated scripts to score (Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie), basically wholesome, moralizing scripts, with some slapstick/comedic elements, and almost cartoon-depth characters and atmosphere. However, there are many moments where he chose to show how many layers of expression he was capable of, really lifting the action and providing extra dimensions to those characters and scripts, including some jaw-dropping musical moments. Same with Bruce Broughton and Dallas. Same with Mancini and Columbo, etc.

People smirk and condescend on such TV today, since Ally McBeal, Law and Order, Sex and the City, CSI, etc. are not fully patronizing and are much more relevant today (right...). If that is the case, why is the music which is supposed to heighten that "depth" (yeah...) and "sophistication" (sure...) so freaking base? Why oh why does TV music slurp so vehemently today (excepting Star Trek TV and a couple of other shows)? O.K., say that I am biased since I hated those shows with an immortal passion... In that case, I found House MD's first few seasons generally quite intelligent (you may disagree). At the same time, I was confounded by the inappropriateness of the title and dramatic musics (you may not disagree). If you can't score for - what is intended - a  highly brilliant and complex, suffering personality and your music sounds like powering up a studio's gear, get the F.A.Q. out of here and give me the job!

Also, from a previous point, I remember a lecturer at the university commenting about how relatively bad is the concert music of film composers, and musing "there is justice in this world". I have to agree and say that Herrmann's, William's, Morricone's, Goldsmith's, Barry's, etc. concert musics betray nothing of what those people are capable in front of celluloid. 

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
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