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Powerful film scoring
Last post Thu, Jun 09 2022 by William, 6 replies.
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Posted on Sun, Jun 05 2022 01:45
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5704

To me this seems like some of the best film music ever - it is  very complex rhythmically, in fact I couldn't figure out the  meter until I saw the score which constantly switches from 3/8 to 5/8 to 4/8 etc.  Also, it is a development of the later more lyrical theme, here presented in a more "primal" brass motif - 

Anvil of Crom

Posted on Sun, Jun 05 2022 23:55
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1107

I was about 14 when I went to see that with friends. I didn't pay much attention to film music back then, but this score made me notice it. I remember going out of the theatre during the intermission awed by it.

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 Tue, Jun 07 2022 00:06
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5704

Oddly enough I had almost the opposite reaction in that when I saw the film - when it first came out in the theater - I thought it was rather good and the music OK.  Though I kept remembering the music afterwards.  Years later it is clearly one of the outstanding film scores of all time, even one of those that are better than their films.  (Though the film is very good with some fantastic scenes directed by John Milius.) I obtained the complete score put out by Chris Siddall the son of Basil Polidouris and it is 300 pages long!  A massive amount of work with an amazing array of percussion, full choir and large orchestra. 

Posted on Wed, Jun 08 2022 12:27
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 561

Someone said that the really talented artists working in Hollywood tend to "over-deliver". Surely that can be said of Basil Poledouris, as well as the director, John Milius (who also directed Apocalypse Now), in terms of their superbly sumptuous contributions to this film. I like what the top reviewer said in the film's IMDb page:

"... the real stars are Poledouris' score and the cinematography. I have never seen a more beautifully-shot film in my life. ... They could take all of the dialog out of the movie, and just have the music and pictures and it would still be worth watching."

Poledouris' classmates at USC's School of Cinema-Television included George Lucas and John Milius. Normally I'm skeptical about giving Academia any credit in teaching the arts; indeed I suspect it's all too often a case of how well students manage to protect their creative talent from being substantially damaged by 'academic molestation' while at college. But in this particular case, I found it inspiring and encouraging to hear what Milius said of Irwin Blacker, their teacher at USC:-

Blacker would say, "I can't grade you on the content. I can't tell you whether this is a better story for you to write than that, you know? And I can't teach you how to write the content, but I can certainly demand that you do it in the proper form." He never talked about character arcs or anything like that; he simply talked about telling a good yarn, telling a good story. He said, "Do whatever you need to do. Be as radical and as outrageous as you can be. Take any kind of approach you want to take. Feel free to flash back, feel free to flash forward, feel free to flash back in the middle of a flashback. Feel free to use narration, all the tools are there for you to use." 

So-called "programme music" is designed to accompany and support an external narrative - such as that of a screenplay. And I regard the other, more 'classical' kind of composition as dealing with internal and often very deeply subjective narratives. But notably, Poledouris' piece here seems to me to span these two types with ease. Moreover, for me, his fluent switching between different rhythmic signatures stands out by not standing out; how often do we find less talented composers than him making a somewhat obvious and clunky mess of time-signature switching? And last but not least, he manages to evoke visceral engagement in powerful, almost Beethoven-ish ways, without needing today's HZ-ish incoherently-violent special effects. 

I agree, William, Poledouris was one of the most gifted and talented of US composers - though also, I'd take no issue with native Greeks who'd want to claim him as 'one of their own', as it were (just as Sweden, Latvia and Germany can claim some credit for Holst although he was born and raised in England).

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Wed, Jun 08 2022 23:24
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1107

Macker: Well, we claim who we can. There aren't many of us there, sadly - including me!.. One whom you wouldn't expect us to claim -due to his surname- is Alexandre Desplat. I agree with your approach to Conan.

 

P.S.: The soundtracks to The Blue Lagoon and The Hunt for Red October were good too. I only enjoyed one of those movies, of course. Several times.

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 Thu, Jun 09 2022 01:19
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5704

Macker,

That's a great review of the film and music, in that the cinematography as well as the music is so good. Milius was inspired by Kurosawa and it shows in that film, especially in the battle scenes.  Also it truly is one of those scores that is the best element of the film - another prominent example of that phenomenon is "Obsession" which though very vividly directed by Brian De Palma, had such a great score by Bernard Herrmann it is the outstanding element of the film.  It is one of Herrmann's greatest scores even though one of his last!   

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