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Bernard Herrmann - Unconventional orchestrations
Last post Mon, Aug 13 2012 by kleinholgi, 92 replies.
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Posted on Sat, Dec 11 2010 23:11
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1107

Without disagreeing with what you say in general, I wouldn't knock Hollywood film on that score (pun intended). Let's not forget that most European film before Hollywood's huge influence, and leaving Britain out of it, did not pay too much attention to dramatic detail when it came to music. You could have great actors of the age acting out a great script, being brilliantly directed and filmed, and the whole music would be 5-8 recorded cues, capturing say the main characters' themes and some relevant moods of the story, and which then would be allocated again and again throughout the film at "appropriate" places in the action. Now the actual music of those cues was truly inspired for the most part, and that's why this system doesn't just collapse when you watch these films today, although it is painfully obvious to an aficionado. There are of course exceptions, but this was the norm, and this practice amazingly still goes on strongly at times. Someone could talk about budgetary restrictions and such but I don't buy that for a second, certainly not from so-perceived high-brow artiste directors and producers of this continent. They were/are just downright ignorant/undeveloped for the most part. No matter how inspired their ideas were/are for prose and cinematography, they inexplicably belong beneath dilettantism musically. If Hollywood learned some things from the European art-film, European film learned something about musical richness and subtlety from across the ocean.

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
Posted on Sun, Dec 12 2010 05:24
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5707

PaulR wrote:
Listen to Alan Silvestri try Herrmann in What Lies Beneath. A fun film that tries, again, to do Hitchcock.
 

I hated What Lies Beneath.  In fact, it is one of the most senseless and illogical and absurd films I ever saw.   Its absurdity blossoms for days after you have seen it, and keep thinking -  my god, another thing that makes no sense.  So what the hell are you talking about that is a fun film?  Are you out of your Limey mind?  

However Silvestri has done some very good things - that Tom Berenger film about the man who loses his memory - interesting psychological thriller much better than What Lies Beneath.  Also as the Limey mentions, Predator.  Wow, that music score was awesome!  Better than the movie or even Schwarzenegger's muscles.  The brass writing in that was powerful, beautifully played.  

Posted on Sun, Dec 12 2010 11:02
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371
William wrote:

Are you out of your Limey mind?  

According to my last psych report......almost certainly yes.

When I say a 'fun film' you're obviously well aware I'm talking about how the two main actors really enjoy hamming it up in a very stylized way. I merely used  What Lies Beneath to illustrate an obvious example of "let's try and make a film like Hitchcock and use a Herrmann score because what else is there to do on a saturday?" 

Sometimes they work though. For instance, Blow Up and Blow Out. Although not Hitchcock in that case.

Erik - I'm not convinced about your Hollywood theory on how it seemingly influenced European film. I'm sure you're right, but Hollywood was not exactly what you would call all- American throughout much of it's inception. The strength Hollywood had was the ability to draw from all over the world. Most of the studios, actors and musicians and many directors were mostly european extraction with a strong Jewish contingent. Herrmann wasn't exactly Church of England was he? First generation American from Russia who wanted to be English. 

Posted on Sun, Dec 12 2010 12:15
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1107

You're right of course Paul, a lot of the important contributors and pioneers of what became Hollywood were first generation European immigrants. I think a lot of them were the early-bird sort before they were tainted by the pseudo-socialism that became, and still is the undisputed status quo in European cinema. In that respect, the American scripts  and issues for a lot of movies were considered silly, or parochial, or just entertainment by European creators who instead focused on "issues", existentialism etc. Good and bad on either side, my small point was that, for some reason, film music as an integral part of the action developed seriously in Hollywood as a canon rather than here (i.e. allowing for exceptions). The great European composers were for the most part limited to a few - albeit brilliantly written - cues per film, while their American counterparts were giving each film the Wagnerian treatment.

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
Posted on Sun, Dec 12 2010 21:02
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5707

Yes, Blow Out was de Palma's best film.  It was a financial failure and he did a crash-dive into the nethermost Cesspools of Cinema after that.  Besides George Lucas, de Palma is the most disappointing American director who came to prominence in the 70s because he seemed very talented back then.  

You're right that many if not most of the great Hollywood studio era directors and composers were from Europe, especially the Expressionist-influenced directors and cinematographers from UFA like Fritz Lang who profoundly influenced American film especially in film noir,  horror and mystery.  So at that time the European influence was immense and extremely good for America.  I never thought of that idea of Errikos - that the film music was less developed in Europe than in America at that time,  but perhaps it is true simply because the great composeers such as Korngold, Max Steiner, Dmitri Tiomkin who came to America were given more power by the studio system than existed then.  

However,  now all of that is gone.  There are equally huge piles of garbage being produced on all continents. 

Posted on Sun, Dec 12 2010 21:24
by BadOrange
Joined on Tue, Nov 23 2010, Quebec, Posts 60
It was viewed in Europe as the lesser art form as far as music is concerned and these composers from Europe were probably happy to just make a living composing. The only country I can think of is Russia with Prokofiev and Shostakovich but I see the political climate really pushing artists to make Russian films/propaganda . I remember reading about Copland was commissioned for a film and he made it clear that he would not make any compromises. I think that sort of gives a slight insight to his view of the film making process.
Posted on Mon, Dec 13 2010 02:24
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1107

Quite a few serious composers toyed with the idea of writing film music like Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Varese, Honegger, Milhaud, etc., but it was only those that relied more on inspiration and had natural melodic and voice-leading gifts (like Prokofiev), and/or naturally composed very fluently and fast, that could churn out great music at the time allotted, as could Shostakovich and a few others. Stravinsky asked for a year and was shown the door but at that stage of his life he had started becoming financially more comfortable than his early days and probably did not care to accommodate. If only Schoenberg had lived long enough to serially score Warhol's "watersheds" such as "Sleep", "Blow Job", "Trash", etc. It would compel me to buy the Complete Collector's Editions of those.

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
Posted on Mon, Dec 13 2010 21:32
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5707

PaulR wrote:
The difference probably today is Herrmann, Williams, Bernstein, Goldsmith etc were influenced mainly by classical composers and jazz writers. Today, filmscore writers are influenced by filmscore writers
 

I agree and think this is a major idea.  It is as if today's composers are influenced by the influenced. 

This reminds me of fantasy novels today.  They are all the same, and all copies of Tolkien.  But Tolkien was copying not other authors.  He was copying ancient myths, sagas, folktales and legends.  Like a medieval storyteller, recasting ancient ideas in his own way.  But if you  copy him, rather than going to the real source of inspiration,  you are copying a copy.  It is not primary source, it is not secondary source, it is tertiary or worse.   In other words, derivative and insipid to the Nth degree.  (And of course it does not help if the style is in a banal modern 3rd person omniscient as if a street-smart newspaperman from New York was recording the thoughts of ancient people and mythical creatures.)

Posted on Tue, Dec 14 2010 13:10
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371

That's part of the reason people complain about the state of films today. Especially the ones out of Hollywood.  The influence aspect is not so surprising though because if you take that to directors, cinematographers, script writers and so on - they must have all been influenced by the same ilk. In the early days of film making there was of course no one to influence anyone because film had never been done before. So there is a very static approach akin to stage plays. Technology then advances etc especially with cameras and camera techniques. Hitchcock, for instance, learnt a lot of his technique in Munich during the early 20's.

The worse case scenario for me is when I feel I'm watching a video game. Then it just goes straight off.

Posted on Sun, Jan 09 2011 17:50
by kleinholgi
Joined on Sat, May 09 2009, Posts 171

Boys, let me thank you for all the postings about Herrmann and his successors.

It forced me to watch Psycho I again after many years. What a mindblowing masterpiece !

While also reading the TRON 2 thread here ( OMG, some really Shakespeare-like native speaker comments keep coming over there Smile     )  I felt a little bit surrounded by a group discussing over the popular theme about "The glory of the good old times" .

IMO making a copy is O.K., as long as the quality is good and it brings a new feeling to the concept.

There´s no point in bashing the car companies because of the fact, that wheels had already been invented in ancient times.

But the problems with it seem to be comparable :

Why do so many people admire the "original" cars from the 60s/70s. All the "SteveMcQueen" Ford Mustang platforms, the old  Mercedes and Citroen DS ?

One point for sure is that many misjudge the good old time with the time when they were young. Everything was great back there.

I think nobody is free from that. The quote of everybodies parents that it was better in the past and the younger people would lack quality and competence is as old as mankind.

Nevertheless I totally agree with all your comments. In search of a proof that we still have great composers and films today I found it really hard to come up with something. The best example for something really brilliant and new for me was the Martinez soundtrack on Solaris. Musically and regarding the film itself as well. Being a copy of an older Tarkowski idea, I like the copy more than the original.

Mabye some die hard "art deco Bauhaus" fans will disagree, but the original is just too heavy for me, so I prefer the Hollywood style much more for that piece, even if it may be critiziced as more soap washed.The idea for the the soundtrack I still consider one of the most wonderful pieces in the last years.

There are also other ones, but somtimes you get caught in a trap.

The example for a really good soundtrack even on a TV series proofed as wrong to my surprise : The Band of Brothers Main theme would absolutely fulfill my criteria for a great score. Unfortunately I learned that Michael Kamen died in 2003.

So I hate to say it : Unfortunately it seems to be true. Or as a friend of mine used to put it : "I don´t go to concerts anymore. All the people I want to see are dead."

Greetings

kh

Posted on Sun, Jan 09 2011 21:11
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5707

 Yeah, you are right we should not lapse into the "everything was great back then and bad today with these young whippersnappers" stuff.   I don't think that actually.  Though I disagree about Solaris which I did not like the remake of. It is true that Tarkovsky didn't even want to make a sci-fi film.  It is not a really successful film of his.  It was too much another author's work.  He was very much a "personal" auteur filmmaker, and if made to do a studio type film was being distorted.   Stalker is his real masterpiece.   Only suggestively sci-fi, and extremely philosophical/metaphysical.  It is one of the greatest of all films ever made, in addition to Nostalghia.    Now you've started me thinking about Tarkovsky.  I love The Mirror also.  btw Tarkovsky was extremely sparing in his use of film music.  Most of the time there is absolutely none at all.  Surprise

Posted on Sun, Jan 09 2011 21:43
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1107

Re: Stalker

You're a better man than me William; I switched the video off somewhere in the middle of that interminable train-ride in silence... 

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
Posted on Sun, Jan 09 2011 22:52
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1582
William wrote:

 Yeah, you are right we should not lapse into the "everything was great back then and bad today with these young whippersnappers" stuff.   I don't think that actually. 

 

It would be interesting to look into the future and see what this forum would be like 30 or 40 years from now.  Those "whippersnappers" might be posting things like, "what happened to the good ol' days when we use to just write block chords and let our sequencer's arpeggiators do all the work?  Now everything has to be so thought out, planned and emotional.  Now, everybody is so concerned with score structure and craft.  Composers, if they want to call themselves that, are so concerned with writing themes and motiffs and counterpoint like those old boring Classical composers use to do.  You're all a bunch of HACKS!!!  You hear me?!?!  YOU HACKS!!!  By the way, can somebody tell me what the hell is an arpeggio anyway?  Nobody could ever write like H.Z.  Man those were the days.  Discussions could get quite heated like they do today.

Then of course Dietz would have to issue the dreaded stern 'I'm about to shut this thread down' warning but the posters wouldn't know what he's talking about because poor Dietz has gotten a little senile in his old age and he posted his warning in the wrong threadSleep

Just kidding DietzBig Smile  Happy New Year to you!


"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 Mon, Jan 10 2011 00:16
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1582
Errikos wrote:

Re: Stalker

You're a better man than me William; I switched the video off somewhere in the middle of that interminable train-ride in silence... 

Yeah Tarkovsky was kind of hard to swallow for me too.  I thought The Sacrifice was kind of interesting up until the end when the woman just starts screaming on the floor for no apparent reason, then Tarkovsky just lost me. 

Hey Erikk,

I understand you're Greek?  What do you think of the director Theo Angelopolous?  I've heard some call him the Greek Stanley Kubrick.  I absolutely loved Ulysess' Gaze.  Some would find those long shots (some nearly four minutes in length) excruciating but I thought they were composed so beautifully.  Also, the film worked like a book where each shot worked like an individual chapter and could stand on its own.  Not to mention the things happening off camera that worked very well to tell the story.  It was kind of like the 'don't show the monster' method that works so well in the horror genre although Ulysess' Gaze isn't a Horror film (of course that depends on how you look at it considering the subject matter of the sometimes volatile Balkins).

However, I don't agree with the Stanley Kubrick label.  Aside from his other attributes, Kubrick had a way of painting his vision on screen with light.  The next Kubrick film you watch pay particular attention to how he lights his scenes.  Make no mistake, the DP in Kubrick's films was just an assistant to Kubrick.  Kubrick was in charge of all the lighting and photographic composition in his films.  I have yet to see any other film director master lighting the way Kubrick did.  Not even Angelopolous whose work I admire.   


"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 Mon, Jan 10 2011 01:18
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5707

Well, the train ride was in Solaris, not Stalker, but was indeed overly long.  In fact, insanely long. I don't know why he did that.  He was messed up by having to do a more "commercial" (using the term very loosely) film in the wake of 2001's success.   The Soviets didn't want a Space Movie Gap as Buck Turgidson might have put it.

However, you must change your way of watching a film with Tarkovksy, because they are not plot or even drama-driven but metaphysical and poetic.  And in this sense, Stalker, Nostalghia and The Mirror are considered among the greatest films ever made.  In fact, Bergman stated that Tarkovksy was the greatest of all filmmakers.   I tend to take old Bergman's opinions fairly seriously, as he was no slouch in the cinema department himself.  Ha-ha! 

Yup, why I remember back in the good ol' days when it weren't so easy to create block chords.  Why, even the great Hans had to get LIVE players to do 'em up good.  Nothing like these uppity younguns today, what with their polytonal fugal symphonies and multi-chorus 24-tone oratorios played right out o' their hard-head-wired phones.  Ol' Hans didn't have the benefit of turning his ears into playback monitors back in those days.

Posted on Mon, Jan 10 2011 09:03
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1107
William wrote:

Well, the train ride was in Solaris, not Stalker

Sorry, it was decades ago so I confused the two... I must re-attempt 'Stalker' one of these days.

@jasen Sorry about the hitherto dyslexia on my part, it's the 'e' that threw me, I've never heard the name Jasen before. Anyway, I also haven't heard the name of Angelopoulos (no 'u') mentioned in the same sentence with Kubrick's before, I find them very different. Angelopoulos learns more from Kurosawa, and I wish he learned a little about music from him too. Sadly, and as a result of 500 years of Turkish occupation and Platonic cave-like Marxist ideology, he is not interested in the art... He has one of the top D.o.P.s in the world working for him in those breathtaking panoramic dream-like sequences, and he is happy to accompany that with the commonest musical denominator of tack! It's not even minimal scoring (which again would be inappropriate), the woman he always uses (and worships) only knows how to do one thing (and not that well). Sadly, that's what he likes so others like me never even think of approaching him.

A funny anecdote: When Angelopoulos won the runner-up award in Cannes some years ago, he walked up the aisle to receive it, took the microphone and said: "I had no speech prepared for second place", and walked off... 

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
Posted on Mon, Jan 10 2011 17:20
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5707

jasensmith wrote:
 Kubrick was in charge of all the lighting and photographic composition in his films.  I have yet to see any other film director master lighting the way Kubrick did.
 

Yes, the lighting and every other element down to the promotion long after the film was done was finished was absolutely controlled and dictated by Kubrick to the degree of mania.  That is why his films will live forever.  They became unique - even in their flaws - documents of a mind. 

One thing that struck me when you said that about the lighting/cinematography is that Bergman's films shot by Sven Nykvist have the same total control of all visual elements to an unheard of level of perfection.  btw a film composer never talked about much here but who is really great and did a lot of Bergman films - Eric Nordgren.  Like his score for Wild Strawberries, absolutely beautiful. 

Posted on Mon, Jan 10 2011 17:40
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5707

Speaking of Tarkovsky, did you know there was an "acclaimed" production of Boris Gudonov he directed?   The only opera he did but it is supposed to be the best production that has been put on film.  That might be worth seeing since anything by Mussorgsky is essential.

Posted on Tue, Jan 11 2011 22:03
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1582

@Errikos (I'm pretty sure I spelled your name correctly this time),

I was first exposed to Angelopoulos' work when I was a film student and I was just blown away with the fact that he could get away with shooting an entire sequence in one shot keeping the subject matter interesting.  Some may say, so he shoots a sequence in one shot, so what?  Well, having worked on films as a student, this is no easy task, even for student films.  Think of any sequence in say, Apocalypse Now, filmed in one long shot.  It was so refreshing to see somebody thumb their noses at the established fad of the day with MTV styled rapid fire jump cuts and camera operators with A.D.D.  I could only imagine what his actors have to go through but it forces them to really reach down inside and perfect their craft because, like stage actors, they have to memorize their lines for the entire sequence.  Film actors today just piecemeal their lines together with the hopes that fancy editing and post production trickery will fix it all later.

 

I hadn't considered Kurosawa an influence on Angelopoulos but, you know, that's a pretty accurate observation.  I was thinking more along the lines of Sergio Leone sans Morricone but Kurosawa sounds even closer.

 

I hadn't seen Ulysses Gaze in a long but I do remember the music being unmemorable.  Pretty sparse actually.  It's a shame because I could only imagine what a competent composer could do with those glorious shots.  Still, I think his work is worth paying attention to.

 

About my name, my dear old mother is probably the one suffering from any form of dyslexia as she is the one who named me but you can call me Jasen, Jansen, Joe Blow, The Dude, or whatever suits your fancy.  From now on, I'm just going to use your complete name, Errikos, instead of trying to abbreviate it because I seem to put in too many 'R's or K's whenever I do that.        


"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 Tue, Jan 11 2011 23:57
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1107

Even though his subject-matters and plots are quite far from my own predilections, I'd love to score an Angelopoulos film. How often does a composer get a combination of virtually no dialogue and glorious panoramas going for minutes on end. To compose sequences that are minutes long, dressing the same scenery unfolding slowly, giving one time to absorb everything... Inexplicably, he has teamed with that woman for so many years now, I doubt he would venture out of that comfortable zone in his old age.

Anyway, Errikos is of course the Greek version of Eric, and in this informal milieu I also don't mind mild nomenclatural departures (Eric, Errik, Ludwig Wink, etc.)

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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