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 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 3:04 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

OK, first I have to say that I have been a fan of the LADYHAWKE soundtrack for many, many years (being a huge Alan Parsons fan and completist), so this obviously leaves me biased. But when I saw the movie for the first time yesterday, I tried to see it with an open mind and as objectively as possible.

I liked the film for the most part, even though the dialogue was a bit stilted in places and it lacked some dramatic "punch". But the cinematography by Vittorio Storaro was absolutely spellbinding. Lots of colour grading, which I love. And the performances by Rutger Hauer and Leo McKern, in particular, were convincing.

The music. Well, since this score has been lambasted left and right, I was expecting something far, far worse than what I got. Opinions:

1) All the crucial and "serious" scenes related to love and suspense are scored in a traditional symphonic manner. In other words, the scenes that really MATTERED were NOT tongue-in-cheek, and Powell rightfully respected them as such. There's some seriously SCARY music as people are sneaking around in the forest. And there's a BREATH-TAKINGLY beautiful love theme that is often pushed to the fore, such as in the scene where the two lovers barely touch before they transform or the scene where Ladyhawke flies across the water, wings dipping the surface. John Williams or James Horner couldn't have done it better. Then there are some entertaining source cues that set the film in its period.

2) The tracks with a pop beat that people react to are relegated to transportation scenes or tongue-in-cheek action scenes like swordfights and duels. I certainly agree that this is very unusual and some of the 80's production values shine through. But is it really that out-of-place? We only find it unusual because it breaks so radically with convention. We're not used to a pop beat in this genre. But Powell's music always fits the visuals in these scenes. The galloping horses, for example, are accompanied by a "galloping" beat. It's certainly far less of a convention-breaker than A KNIGHT'S TALE was. Additionally, you have to remember that a traditional Korngoldian score would also have been radically out-of-place if you're judging the music purely by its "fidelity" to the period. It's just that it has become convention. I think one gains a lot in film appreciation by having an open mind and allowing filmmakers to push the boundaries of what any given genre should include - also musically.

In short, this is really a wonderful score (mixed high in the film as well) that is the target of such scorn because it stands hopelessly alone (more or less) in its experiment with contemporary sounds in an epic fantasy setting. Highly, highly underrated.

By the way, this must be the only(?) contemporary film to include a main title credit for the PRODUCER of the score (Parsons) and who performed it (The Philharmonia Orchestra)?

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 3:25 PM   
 By:   ahem   (Member)

Today it looks like a bad episode of Xena and has a very dated for the time disco score (worse than FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN or SCARFACE combined- in 1985 it sounded less contemporary than "James Bond 77").

It became obvious very quickly that Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz weren't the exclusive brains behind SUPERMAN THE MOVIE.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 4:48 PM   
 By:   musickco   (Member)

Of course Gerard Schurmann was originally contracted to score the movie - then the film makers decided to go for more "youf-orientated" music. But yes, the score has its fans - and its detractors.

 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 4:50 PM   
 By:   Moonie   (Member)

Ladyhawke is a great score and Alan Parsons Rules.

sd smile


"he loves them, he loves them"

 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 5:01 PM   
 By:   Ed   (Member)

I remember seeing the film the week it opened and thinking the music sounded pretty encouraging right up until the film's title flashed up on the screen and the drums started...

Then my mouth dropped open in shock.

I thought then and I think now it was the wrong choice. Featuring up-to-the-minute pop music in what ought to be a timeless fantasy won't wash, and the arguement that Alan Parsons is only a few decades away from the traditional symphonic scoring of the Golden Age, and thus equally (in)appropriate to the time period depicted in the film doesn't convince.

However, I should say in the interests of full disclosure that I own the cd and (sigh) really enjoy hearing it from time to time. It's my favorite "cheesy" soundtrack.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 5:25 PM   
 By:   Don   (Member)

It's my favorite "cheesy" soundtrack.


Mine too.

I've read somewhere that Milius' Conan originally was supposed to get a similar "pop"-score, too, but Milius refused to do the movie without "old-fashioned" scoring. Is this true?

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 5:38 PM   
 By:   ahem   (Member)


I thought then and I think now it was the wrong choice. Featuring up-to-the-minute pop music


In my opinion: The problem being that the music was FAR from up to the minute for 1985. This was an era of digital synths, MIDI, early sampling, sophisticated drum programming and here came a bunch of primitive analogue disco sequencers that would sound old hat in a 1978 Claudja Barry/Hot Gossip/Abba/Bee Gees/Bellotte-Moroder Donna Summer record. Againsta backdrop of MTV colour filtered swords, Kestrels and valley girl accents it was an instant audio-visual suicide.

Look at either Goldsmith or Tangerine Dream's unique blends of the romantic and disonnant for LEGEND, a fantastical synthpop tinged approach to the genre. And let's face it, as a film LEGEND probably isn't even as good as LADYHAWKE!

Donner was asleep at the wheel in my opinion.

 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 5:46 PM   
 By:   Ed   (Member)

All good points, ahem.

That's the really unfortunate thing about Donner's choice here. The film is actually pretty good and would hold up much better today with a score less tied to a specific fad in pop music.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 5:58 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Alright, I see I have to fight this on numerous fronts....

ahem, I don't consider the beat a "disco" beat. More of a pop beat. The Alan Parsons Project was a prog-pop band after all, not a disco band (although they do have a couple of disco-beat songs on their resume).

I will agree with you that some of it sounds a bit dated today (and even in 1985) but I will repeat once again that those particular tracks were not used in the scenes that truly mattered from a dramatic viewpoint. And they fit the rhythm of the editing and visuals.

I don't understand how you can compare its looks to XENA, though. I found the cinematography artistically far superior (perhaps the grading was overdone in a few scenes, but for the most part it was very well executed).

Ed,

***I thought then and I think now it was the wrong choice. Featuring up-to-the-minute pop music in what ought to be a timeless fantasy won't wash, and the arguement that Alan Parsons is only a few decades away from the traditional symphonic scoring of the Golden Age, and thus equally (in)appropriate to the time period depicted in the film doesn't convince.***

Just to clarify: It was Andrew Powell who composed the score, not Parsons. But why doesn't the argument convince? Please elaborate.

NP: THE ADVENTURES OF INDIANA JONES (Williams)

 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 6:26 PM   
 By:   Ed   (Member)

Thor,

Of course you're correct, it was Powell, not Parsons, who wrote the score, but it was the Alan Parsons sound the producers were after and it was Parsons who was approached first, and who recommended Powell (his long-time arranger and orchestrator). So, my analogy was that the pop sound of Alan Parsons (speaking here collectively of the whole "Project") that I was referring to.

The reasoning doesn't convince because (IMHO) a film score that endures and speaks not only to the audience that summer, but to audiences for years to come is a score that avoids cliches that tie it to a specific passing fad in music and instead finds an idom that transcends the moment and speaks to the drama. Here, I think Bernard Herrmann speaks on the subject more eloquently than I can, but I think this would be his point. That's certainly not to say that a composer can't utilize the latest technology to enhance his score (i.e. Goldsmith) or that elements of pop music can't be effective, but that a great film score avoids trends that quickly become dated.

Now, there are plenty of film scores that deliberately refer to a specific period in pop music (say, jazz) to evoke a certain time and place, usually in period films. True enough. But clearly, as I said above, the progressive/disco/new wave sound did not evoke the Middle Ages well. On the other hand, plainsong chant would not have worked either. So you see the dilemma: a composer has to speak to today's audience, but hopefully not in a way too tied to a trend that the audience will dismiss only a few years later.

By way of example, look at the entire score for LADYHAWKE. It's mostly a fine score. The orchestral passages are well-crafted and have all the elements of a timeless film score. It's only the main and end credits and the action sequences that resort to pop ensemble scoring. It's those few passages (and their prominence) that date the film.

For a second example, look at Bernstein's GHOSTBUSTERS. The score as a whole works well, but oy, those pop outtakes! There's no question they don't hold up as well as the rest.

 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 6:28 PM   
 By:   Mike Skerritt   (Member)

I will agree with you that some of it sounds a bit dated today (and even in 1985) but I will repeat once again that those particular tracks were not used in the scenes that truly mattered from a dramatic viewpoint.

That's actually what bothered me most about the approach to the score. I don't mind so much the fact that cheesy, dated synths were used, but that the film did not have a singular musical identity. If you're making a romantic fantasy set in medieval times about a woman who turns into a bird and a guy who turns into a wolf, you need to do everything in your power to suspend disbelief to draw the viewer in. It's a precarious thing to try to accomplish. One thing that can interrupt that suspension-and therefore sink the film-is an abrupt shift in music, editing, etc. In this case, of course it was music. If Powell had gone with synths from the outset and consistently used them throughout the picture, maybe it would've been easier to swallow them as the musical voice for the film, and perhaps the film (and score) may have fared better. As it is, an already uneven film (technically accomplished though it may be) was further hindered by a wayward score.

 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 6:42 PM   
 By:   Olivier   (Member)

Today it looks like a bad episode of Xena and has a very dated for the time disco score

Besides it not being disco, you can't say the score is pop-ish, because roughly 75% of it is tradional, orchestral score; a few passages are even of the "medieval" kind (sort of, naturally).

I liked the movie & score when I first saw it, on TV, several years ago. I was surprised at first, but the music was so much fun, so good, and matched the visuals so well (in terms of action, as Thor pointed out), it didn't bother me, especially as there's a beautiful theme and most of it is orchestral.

Those fun parts are really limited to the first few exciting fights; then it gets much dark, sober; some synth show up, with some pads for the rhythm, but the exhuberant pop parts are really limited to the beginning.

You may like these Alan Parsonsisms or not, but those who don't usually dismiss the whole score as if it consisted exclusively of such music, and that's not fair.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 7:01 PM   
 By:   ahem   (Member)


ahem, I don't consider the beat a "disco" beat. More of a pop beat. The Alan Parsons Project was a prog-pop band after all, not a disco band (although they do have a couple of disco-beat songs on their resume).


In my opinion, those analogue sequencers were ludicrously dated for 1985, and relied on DISCO rythms straight out of the late 70s. When LADYHAWKE had come out it had been SIX years since this came out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsckqWFK26w&search=sparks%20moroder

and Ladyhawke still managed to sound out of date by comparison. If it was prog, it made 80s era YES sound like Floyd in their psychadelic prime.


Besides it not being disco, you can't say the score is pop-ish, because roughly 75% of it is tradional, orchestral score; a few passages are even of the "medieval" kind (sort of, naturally).


I think That Orchestral stuff amounts to the standard string and horn work found on a Chic/Earth Wind and Fire record, no matter how many sessions players were forced to overlabour it's execution. Albeit without any funk. Supremely bad (and very) disco, intended or not (and obviously not).

 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 7:07 PM   
 By:   Olivier   (Member)


That Orchestral stuff amounts to the standard string and horn work found on a Chic/Earth Wind and Fire record, no matter how many sessions players were forced to overlabour it's execution. Albeit without any funk. Supremely bad (and very) disco, intended or not (and obviously not).


No, I'm referring to the actual score, not the arrangement of the popish parts.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 7:09 PM   
 By:   ahem   (Member)

I too was refering to the actual orchestral score.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 7:24 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

So, my analogy was that the pop sound of Alan Parsons (speaking here collectively of the whole "Project") that I was referring to.

Oh, OK.

The reasoning doesn't convince because (IMHO) a film score that endures and speaks not only to the audience that summer, but to audiences for years to come is a score that avoids cliches that tie it to a specific passing fad in music and instead finds an idom that transcends the moment and speaks to the drama.

But if ANYTHING is clichée, it would have to be the standard neo-romantic approach that all medieval fantasy films have used throughout the years. Right? On the one hand, I think the "timeless quality" of this film is retained through the traditional orchestral writing that underscored THE SCENES THAT MATTERED and that will stand the test of time. On the other hand, I salute the filmmakers for having the guts to do what they did; to confront convention. I don't think the point was to cash in on a "trend" here. To my knowledge, Richard Donner fell in love with the Alan Parsons sound as he played it on the car stereo while scouting the English countryside for locations. He saw a link there, and THAT is the motivation for using it.

It's a bit like James Horner's synthscapes for IN THE NAME OF THE ROSE.

True enough. But clearly, as I said above, the progressive/disco/new wave sound did not evoke the Middle Ages well.

Why not? And even if it doesn't, should filmmakers just continue to use traditional orchestra for these films just because it's convention? Isn't that a bit passive?

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 7:26 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

If you're making a romantic fantasy set in medieval times about a woman who turns into a bird and a guy who turns into a wolf, you need to do everything in your power to suspend disbelief to draw the viewer in.

But it's exactly in the scenes involving these crucial points that Powell goes the traditional route.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 7:30 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

When LADYHAWKE had come out it had been SIX years since this came out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsckqWFK26w&search=sparks%20moroder


That clip sounds NOTHING like ANY part of LADYHAWKE.

If it was prog, it made 80s era YES sound like Floyd in their psychadelic prime.

The Alan Parsons Project was POP-prog (not crazy 70's era Yes prog), and elements of this are in Powell's score as well.

That Orchestral stuff amounts to the standard string and horn work found on a Chic/Earth Wind and Fire record, no matter how many sessions players were forced to overlabour it's execution. Albeit without any funk. Supremely bad (and very) disco, intended or not (and obviously not).

This is pure bullshit, of course. Me thinks you should go back and actually listen to the score (as featured on the expanded GNP album) or see the film again. The purely orchestral parts are like any other fantasy score by the likes of Williams or Horner or whatever. They have no "pop" sentiments whatsoever.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 7:44 PM   
 By:   ahem   (Member)

If I must, I'll grudgingly rewatch (admittedly I haven't suffere..."seen" the movie properly since 1995) as no doubt time can change a few things. I'll certainly be the first to raise their hand and confess to being wrong. However, I recall not being impressed by ANY of the score, diso or orchestral (I remember a lot of names credited for music) and the opening title sequence looked and sounded like Baywatch with Kestrels.

Have you seen the Swedish fantasy movie LAND OF FARAWAY, Thor? It has a really good title song by Benny and Bjorn sung by GEMINI. Very good score too, and I remember thinking it would have suited LADYHAWKE well.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2006 - 7:53 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

If I must, I'll grudgingly rewatch (admittedly I haven't suffere..."seen" the movie properly since 1995) as no doubt time can change a few things. I'll certainly be the first to raise their hand and confess to being wrong. However, I recall not being impressed by ANY of the score, diso or orchestral (I remember a lot of names credited for music) and the opening title sequence looked and sounded like Baywatch with Kestrels.

Well, you could always just download some tracks or check out the sound clips at Amazon. That will save you the "horror" of seeing it, as you put it. Of course, you're free to think whatever you will of the music. But always have the facts straight! And remember that for everything you know about the music itself, some times you have to consider the filmic context as well (especially as long as we're not talking soundtrack albums). smile

Have you seen the Swedish fantasy movie LAND OF FARAWAY, Thor? It has a really good title song by Benny and Bjorn sung by GEMINI. Very good score too, and I remember thinking it would have suited LADYHAWKE well.

Yes, or MIO MIN MIO as it is called in Scandinavia (based on Astrid Lindgren's famous book). It's one of my childhood favourites. I don't remember the title song by Andersson/Ulvaeus in particular...it's been many years since I saw it...but I loved Anders Eljas' score. It, too, had certain pop flavours, but perhaps less pronounced than LADYHAWKE.

 
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