Film Score Monthly
FSM HOME MESSAGE BOARD FSM CDs FSM ONLINE RESOURCES FUN STUFF ABOUT US  SEARCH FSM   
Search Terms: 
Search Within:   search tips 
You must log in or register to post.
  Go to page:    
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 4:01 PM   
 By:   ajhfsm   (Member)

Everyone has a composer(s) whose style grates against their tastes. I enjoy reading constructive criticism.

 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 4:09 PM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

after listening to a lot of Raksin recently, I kept being reminded of.... Friedhofer, North, Rosenman, Duning (to a certain extent) and Les Baxter (perhaps most surprisingly). So I have all those composers kind of sharing a compartment in my head, even if their limbs often stick out the windows and doors on the many occasions in which they seem not to be "bound together" at all. And Mr Row has chucked Raksin off the train altogether, seeing no connection to the others. That's fine and makes sense.


Hi, Graham.

Could you offer some examples?

For instance, what Alex North soundtracks get triggered in your brain when you listen to Kritzerland's Preminger @ Fox set?

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 7:36 PM   
 By:   RM Eastman   (Member)

Another streamofconsciousness question - If you like Raksin (for example), do you also have the others amongst your favourites?


I don't like Raksin.



I don't either, aside for a few scores he was so so ordinary.

 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 8:11 PM   
 By:   ajhfsm   (Member)

While we are talking about "common denominator"s, my favourite Friedhofer song is North To Alaska.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 25, 2013 - 4:13 AM   
 By:   Graham S. Watt   (Member)

Ah! I knew that someone would ask me exactly which scores by the other composers I'm reminded of when listening to Raksin. And I was dreading that moment, because I have no answer!

Tone, you ask which North score I'm put in mind of when listening to the "Preminger at Fox" set. Well you see, it's not the Fox set in particular that reminds me of one particular North score - they are more (mere?) fleeting moments which appear across Raksin's work and which remind me of fleeting moments in North (and Friedhofer etc) scores in general. I think I tried to mention the idea in my first post. Here it is again, in a no less clumsy way... although I think you could express my thoughts better than me, using expressions such as "dense polyphonics". Use of counterpoint, "unusual" (in the sense of unexpected) chord progressions within long-line passages, a certain sense of the cerebral rather than a direct heart-on-sleeve approach... That's about as eloquent as I get.

 
 Posted:   Oct 25, 2013 - 5:11 AM   
 By:   ajhfsm   (Member)

Graham, I believe you are hearing things. Still these guys all worked in the same general field so they probably joined some sort of artistic movement of their own devising, this may be what you have picked up on, but maybe not.

I like David Raksin as much as they others mentioned, except Alex North, he is the BOSS!

Where the river is windin'
Big nuggets they're findin'
North to Alaska
They go North, the rush is on.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 25, 2013 - 3:53 PM   
 By:   Graham S. Watt   (Member)

You're probably right, ajh. I'm hearing things. But these things seem real to me. Is that madness?

Whatever, ToneRow has given me a clue in his some-may-construe throwaway remark about the only thing they have in common being the fact that they were born American citizens, and didn't emigrate from Europe. Now, I'm slow, but that got me thinking...

Without trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, I do believe that Raksin's jazz interest and background in dance bands led him to incorporate an American blues sound into his film scores even before the mid '40s. He often strikes me as being stylistically forward-thinking (for Hollywood at least). Didn't he spend a time arranging for Benny Goodman? And the thing is, that influence spills over into even his historical-piece scores. If you really listen to FOREVER AMBER, you'll hear "blues" note-bending on the clarinet (I think) in the most unexpected places. There you go - "unexpected" again. But all that stuff generally goes unheard, swept up as it is in the bravura pastiche.

By the way, I was listening again to the "Preminger at Fox" set, and I noticed that a bit in the track "The Andrews Blues" from FALLEN ANGEL (1945) reminded me somewhat of both A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and THE SOUND AND THE FURY - a kind of downtrodden piano rumble throughout, which probably developed from the jazz bands of the era of which Raksin was so familiar, and which North later picked up on.

As for the Friedhofer connection, he cast his net wide, but he seemed to also have a deep knowledge of the American jazz tradition, apart from his obvious love of Spanish and Mexican-influenced music - something he shared with Alex North, it seems. And we can interpret the later Rosenman/ Duning/ Baxter scores against that background, or that might be only me.

Anyway, I've just noticed that the book I mentioned earlier - "The Art of Film Music" by George Burt ("Special Emphasis on Those Mentioned in This Thread") goes into detail about the way in which those composers interpreted the psychology of the characters, with reference to the difficulties of scoring behind dialogue. Yes, a kind of aural psychological backdrop. Not your normal "obvious" scoring...

So all those people share a certain something, to my ears anyway. They sort of speak the same language, for whatever reason. And it's interesting to speculate why those who have all the credentials fall outside the group... Victor Young (not enough Silver Age); Bernard Herrmann (too Bernard Herrmann); Elmer Bernstein... he falls outside the group for me. Too Elmer Bernstein? And Alfred Newman. The most American of film composers. Bridged the Golden and Silver Ages with years to spare. Had more than a jazz/ blues influence ( "Street Scene" and a million other things from Gershwin etc etc)). And yet he never quite spoke the same language to me as Raksin, Friedhofer, North...

Composers have certainly interpreted the psychology of the films in their own way... Maybe it's just that those I highlighted - apart from overlapping in their influences - shared the same psychiatrist's couch.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 25, 2013 - 5:47 PM   
 By:   manderley   (Member)

It seems to me, Grahame, that you have it the wrong way around.

Since Friedhofer started in the business in 1929, and Raksin in 1935, most of the other composers you mention are latecomers.

You're being over-adulatory of North, and under-generous to Raksin and Friedhofer.

What you are REALLY saying is that there are fleeting moments in scores by Alex North (and others) that remind you of the work of Raksin and Friedhofer! smile


As to the common denominator, at least with Raksin and Friedhofer, who knows? I'd present the idea that for the first ten or so years of each's working career in films, although they composed scattered scores or parts of scores, they were primarily orchestrators for other composers of the day (and mostly top-flight ones like Steiner, Korngold, Newman, etc.) They can't help but have picked up certain musical ideas from them to weave into their own styles. Friedhofer's score for THE BANDIT OF SHERWOOD FOREST in 1945 is a swashbuckling take on the work of his old mentor, Korngold, and a wonderful Korngoldian score it is---though it is just as equally Friedhofer.

Friedhofer and Raksin were also very close friends and I think that they composed very much alike. I'll bet you could interchange cues from some of their scores and no one would be the wiser. But, what is most amazing to me is how modern their sound is---nearly to the end---even though they were a big part of the Golden Age.

Duning was a Big Band arranger and I think that style comes through in his work. Personally, I hear nothing of Friedhofer, Raksin, or North in Duning. He seems to have his own very recognizable style---honed at Columbia for so long that it became "the Columbia style".

Apart from the modernities in Friedhofer and Raksin (and North), I think the similarities particularly involve a sad, wistful, bittersweet quality to many of the melodies. Several of these in Hugo's BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES bring me nearly to tears, particularly the one for Harold Russell's "Homer" character, and Raksin's "Parting/Farewell" cue from WILL PENNY is another that "gets me" every time. Of the three key composers we're primarily talking about---Raksin, North, and Friedhofer, and each is unique in his own way and I like them all---I personally find Friedhofer the most melodically accessible and warm, Raksin in secondary position, and North often seems cold and brittle to me. But there are excellent exceptions for each in their career spans. It IS interesting how the same melodies and composers tap something different in each of us who listen to them, AND that we can come to different conclusions about the same material.

It may be that the "common denominator" of which you speak---which connects each of these composers in your mind---has nothing to do with the composers OR their music but the events and situations in your own life which binds you to them and certain musicalities in one way or another.

In the end, I think that I tend to like the scores for the individual films themselves, rather than fanaticism toward a particular composer---if that makes any sense. I agree with Billy Wilder's one-time statement, "You're as good as the best thing you've ever done." This kind of statement implies that there is some work that is NOT the best you've ever done, and I think that is true of every creative artist. It all depends on the circumstances, the time allotted to do the job, and the cooperation and assistance of the people with whom you work. And so, I've heard what I consider some pretty chancey or questionable scores by some of my favorite composers---just like I've heard some great and memorable ones by some I'm not particularly fond of.

Incidentally, on the Raksin box set I was blown away by his score for UNTIL THEY SAIL---and particularly the title melody---which was a yearning, romantic, and, I thought, deceptively complex melody. I've never seen the film, but considering the plotline, I suspect the score fits the tenor of the film like a glove. I'm also very fond of Raksin's score for a Rock Hudson-Cyd Charisse film hardly anyone knows anymore, TWILIGHT FOR THE GODS, made at Universal around 1957.

 
 Posted:   Oct 25, 2013 - 7:15 PM   
 By:   ajhfsm   (Member)

Thanks for your posts TR, Graham and manderlay. I'm certainly not fanatical about any film music, or anything really, passionate is the more suitable term I think. Certainly not an ill conceived thread.

Many connections between these artists have been identified, so it is understandable that this would be somehow reflected in their work.

I particularly enjoy the cohesion in David Raksin's orchestral music, it is tight and flows marvellously to my mind. This may be more a difference than a commonality.

Would Frank Cordell fit in here?

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 25, 2013 - 8:42 PM   
 By:   TomD   (Member)

So, for you, what is it with Raksin, Friedhofer, North and Rosenman that binds them together - if you believe they are bound together at all?


I don't consider them as bound together at all.

The common demoninator is that they were all born American citizens and did not emigrate to Hollywood as the Europeans had done.


More than that, their filmmusic is more American, contemporary, and challenging than that of other composers, and yet, they were still successful, even prolific in Hollywood films.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 26, 2013 - 6:26 AM   
 By:   Graham S. Watt   (Member)

Thanks to all for your insights, and for keeping this thread going.

One thing, manderley. I didn't mean to undervalue or overvalue any of the composers mentioned. The chronology of things was really of little importance in my posts. So yes, I said that Raksin reminded me of North, but I could equally have said that North reminded me of Raksin - I was referring to the order in which I heard the scores and made the connection, not to which ones were written first.

Anyway, thanks again to all. Food for thought indeed. I'll keep chewing over this one.

 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2013 - 10:54 AM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

---I personally find Friedhofer the most melodically accessible and warm, Raksin in secondary position, and North often seems cold and brittle to me. But there are excellent exceptions for each in their career spans. It IS interesting how the same melodies and composers tap something different in each of us who listen to them, AND that we can come to different conclusions about the same material.

Perhaps we arrive at differing assessments because we, as individuals, prefer our own temperature settings on our thermostats.

manderley prefers warmth; I prefer cooler temps.

Alex North's coolness/aloofness/detachment are the characteristics which I value more than accessibility or warmth.

Orchestrations are ultimately more effective to me than melody construction.

One could take a reverent theme from a biblical epic and jazzify that theme via different instrumental arrangements (& different performing styles from musicians) into a nightclub tune.

This actually happened with John Barry's theme for THE LION IN WINTER. Within one of Barry's pop album LPs (derived from his own film themes), Barry himself transformed his own theme for a historical play into a late-'60s party number! smile

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2013 - 11:54 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

It used to happen all the time! Popular arrangers like Mantovani, Chaksfield, Felix Slatkin, et al. turned many fifties themes by Rozsa, Newman, Waxman, and others into pop/jazz/lounge music of various sorts. The results were risible to most of my acquaintances, but I can see how the general public might enjoy such pieces when completely removed from their original context.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2013 - 6:08 PM   
 By:   Bill Finn   (Member)

Pure speculation here, but I do hear where you're coming from. I've often thought very similar thoughts.

I do consider Friedhofer and maybe Raksin in a similar vein. To me the common thread is that they wrote a lot of music that might be termed Americana. Probably because a lot of what they did was based upon American pop songs of the time (Raksin was, amongst other things, a splendid song writer). You can hear the major 7ths pile up in their compositions. North, well I don't know. His music was very unique.

Part of the problems that some listeners may be having is that so much of the best Raksin scores have NEVER been released, even on commercial LPs. Same for Friedhofer, although BEST YEARS has had a recording. A very good recording. But there is still no commercial recording of Raksin's SEPERATE TABLES or CARRIE for instance. Both scores exhuded a similar Americana sound that was also used sometimes by Friedhofer.

I'm not sure that I would place North in the same category, although I think he was a dynamite composer in his own way.

I think that Duning's music is close to Friedhofer and Raksin at least in substance, if not in style.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 28, 2013 - 5:37 AM   
 By:   Graham S. Watt   (Member)

Cheers Bill. Maybe I'm flogging a dead horse at this stage, but for whatever reason they all seem to stimulate the same areas of what's left of my brain - even when being radically different sounding. But yes, the Americana bit is probably part of it too. I think we touched on that earlier. It's a complex issue, because we're mixing composer style, approach and listener-response. We'll all react in a different way, but for me it's as if those aforementioned composers are all part of "my" family. They're like brothers. Often they don't look (sound) anything alike, but I'll pick up on some trait which runs through them now and then. But again, it would be strange indeed if we all responded in the same way.

 
 Posted:   Oct 30, 2013 - 4:01 PM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

We'll all react in a different way, but for me it's as if those aforementioned composers are all part of "my" family. They're like brothers. Often they don't look (sound) anything alike, but I'll pick up on some trait which runs through them now and then. But again, it would be strange indeed if we all responded in the same way.

Hey, Graham!

Do you consider Tristram Cary, Humphrey Searle, Gerard Schurmann, & Don Banks as brothers, too?

And isn't Elisabeth Lutyens your sister? smile

[and will Toru Takemitsu, Jean Prodromides, Piero Piccioni or Mikis Theodorakis ever get the chance to become your relatives? big grin)

 
 Posted:   Nov 6, 2013 - 3:47 PM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

I agree with what other people said about why the four composers were featured together in the book. They all are American and similarly have a knack for modernism and/or jazz.

I sense the most kinship between Friedhofer and Raksin, with North much closer to them than Rosenman. I really think that if you declare people like Bernstein too Bernstein-y to lump in then you must exclude Rosenman because he doesn't sound remotely like anyone else. I can't say I'm much of a fan of his, but he certainly developed an in-your-face style, whereas I think Raksin and Friedhofer, while certainly unique and distinguishable, were a bit more subtle and chameleon-like.

It's hard, though, because for the less European-sounding Alfred Newman scores (ie. when he wasn't operating under the influence of Steiner/Korngold which he did often early on), I detect a high kinship with Friedhofer...probably the sound of the studio to some degree but these two composers collaborated with each other not too infrequently.

I don't think you're crazy and I really enjoyed your post. Made me think.

Come to think of it, I'm the only person I've ever heard with this association, but I liken Friedhofer with Jerry Fielding, of all people. Not that they sound alike at all, but that their aesthetic sense shares a lean-ness...they often go for more spare textures. A classical composer I'd liken them to is Sibelius (though again I'd never mistake the music by one of them for that of another).

Yavar

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 6, 2013 - 6:04 PM   
 By:   filmusicnow   (Member)

Pure speculation here, but I do hear where you're coming from. I've often thought very similar thoughts.

I do consider Friedhofer and maybe Raksin in a similar vein. To me the common thread is that they wrote a lot of music that might be termed Americana. Probably because a lot of what they did was based upon American pop songs of the time (Raksin was, amongst other things, a splendid song writer). You can hear the major 7ths pile up in their compositions. North, well I don't know. His music was very unique.

Part of the problems that some listeners may be having is that so much of the best Raksin scores have NEVER been released, even on commercial LPs. Same for Friedhofer, although BEST YEARS has had a recording. A very good recording. But there is still no commercial recording of Raksin's SEPERATE TABLES or CARRIE for instance. Both scores exhuded a similar Americana sound that was also used sometimes by Friedhofer.

I'm not sure that I would place North in the same category, although I think he was a dynamite composer in his own way.

I think that Duning's music is close to Friedhofer and Raksin at least in substance, if not in style.


"Separate Tables" was available on a suite on the "Wonderful Inventions" album, which included a suite from "Carrie". And I'm still waiting for "The Secret Invasion" from Friedhofer.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 6, 2013 - 9:30 PM   
 By:   Bill Finn   (Member)

Pure speculation here, but I do hear where you're coming from. I've often thought very similar thoughts.

I do consider Friedhofer and maybe Raksin in a similar vein. To me the common thread is that they wrote a lot of music that might be termed Americana. Probably because a lot of what they did was based upon American pop songs of the time (Raksin was, amongst other things, a splendid song writer). You can hear the major 7ths pile up in their compositions. North, well I don't know. His music was very unique.

Part of the problems that some listeners may be having is that so much of the best Raksin scores have NEVER been released, even on commercial LPs. Same for Friedhofer, although BEST YEARS has had a recording. A very good recording. But there is still no commercial recording of Raksin's SEPERATE TABLES or CARRIE for instance. Both scores exhuded a similar Americana sound that was also used sometimes by Friedhofer.

I think that Duning's music is close to Friedhofer and Raksin at least in substance, if not in style.


"Separate Tables" was available on a suite on the "Wonderful Inventions" album, which included a suite from "Carrie". And I'm still waiting for "The Secret Invasion" from Friedhofer.


I probably should have mentioned that release, as I have it myself, but I didn't think it was what we might consider a 'commercial' release. Wasn't it a Library Of Congress special recording or something?

 
 Posted:   Nov 30, 2013 - 7:51 AM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

Hey, Graham.

I wonder if you would ever consider the concert music by Leonard Bernstein as belonging to your grouping of Friedhofer, Raksin, North & Rosenman?

Having recently listened to a piece by Leonard B and a piece by Aaron Copland, I'm thinking that Copland would not enter into this cadre for similar reasons as you deign onto Elmer Bernstein as being too much Elmer to join the club. Is Copland too much Aaron (that is, too extroverted or too life-affirming in his positivity) to be included in these composers of psychological and melancholy and jazzy music?

 
You must log in or register to post.
  Go to page:    
© 2014 Film Score Monthly. All Rights Reserved.