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 Posted:   Sep 16, 2013 - 7:33 AM   
 By:   Graham S. Watt   (Member)

I think we've had a few threads in the past which address the issue of the Hollywood Golden Age sound and how (and why) it differed from the sound of British film music. I don't mean to go over that ground again, so this post is just really an obsevation and a question based on a recent listening of Quartet's WAR GODS OF THE DEEP/ CROSSPLOT release (it's not really my opinion of those scores per se, so I'm not adding this to the other thread).

Having only been familiar with Stanley Black's Main Titles from WAR GODS (or CITY UNDER THE SEA as I know it), I was intrigued to see if the rest of the score would fit into the same mold as the Les Baxter/ Poe classics. I was even trying to imagine that it was a Les Baxter score, but something kept getting in the way and telling me that it was really very different from Baxter at AIP. Then I listened to CROSSPLOT, and both scores together were constantly putting me in mind of other things...

So the things that came to mind were (in no particular order) -

Brass outbursts - the SF scores of Malcolm Lockyer (eg NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT)
Travelogue music - Laurie Johnson (eg WHICKER'S WORLD)
Suspense - Barry Gray (eg THUNDERBIRDS)
Chase scenes - Ken Thorne and Edwin Astley (eg THE SAINT and THE PERSUADERS)
Pastiche - Barry Gray again, and Ron Goodwin (in general)
Jazzy outbursts - Bill McGuffie (eg DALEKS INVASION EARTH 2150 AD)
Pure horror - Paul Ferris (eg THE CREEPING FLESH)

Now, is it strange or is it not strange that all those films and composers which I was reminded of are British? If it's not strange, could someone enlighten me as to how a "particularly British" score differs from its American counterpart? Bear in mind I'm not talking Max Steiner vs Vaughan Williams here, but more the '60s dramas/ horrors/ thrillers...

On a similar note, I'd never mistake a Johnny Dankworth jazz score for one from an American composer. Even Roy Budd, who was probably the closest Britain got to Lalo Schifrin, had a particular way with brass etc which placed him on this side (I'm in Europe) of the Atlantic. But I can't put it into words.

Would anyone care to flesh out my feather-brained ramblings with historical reasons and facts? Or just say "I agree" or "I disagree"? Thanks!

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2013 - 7:43 AM   
 By:   OnlyGoodMusic   (Member)

British orchestras have long had a reputation for being "brass bands with strings attached", alluding to their lighter, sometimes thin string sound. But that's in comparison with continental European orchestras, not American. I've often listened to vastly different orchestra "timbres" at the PROMS from one day to the next. Generally, the continental orchestras did have a warmer, fuller sound in the strings. OTOH, the British brass were often more brilliant.

I find it altogether more difficult to identify orchestras used in film scores, as many of them were/are recorded by pick-up orchestras, session musicians. But the "old Hollywood" orchestras surely had an affinity for heavier-than-usual vibrato.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2013 - 7:50 AM   
 By:   Graham S. Watt   (Member)

Thanks for the input, OGM. I know that I deliberately left out other European countries (the jazz in German thrillers of the '60s could make for a thread on its own), but I didn't want to make things too cumbersome - and the thread was spurred by the Stanley Black CD.

//added a bit later via secretspyphone// -

Hmm, I've just been wondering how much The Shadows guitar sound made its way into British films of the '60s. And the guitar of Vic Flick (who also worked on Barry Gray's scores), plus the John Barry Seven... John Barry! He's a kind of strange case in a way, because when I listen to him I never find myself going "That sounds British" or "That sounds American", but rather "That sounds John Barry".

So we've got a couple of strands going on this topic. I'm still trying to get my head around it all, and I hope someone can wrap it all up neatly for me.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2013 - 10:52 AM   
 By:   Simon Morris   (Member)

I've always thought that there was a different sort of sound to the brass in British orchestras, and even in the rhythm sections too. There always seemed to me to be a bit more bite in the British brass. I still think American musicians have a special feel for jazzy music, possibly because that's where it originated?

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2013 - 10:56 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Then you have guys like Georges Auric, who was French -- but who scored a lot of British films. His sound is an odd mix of British, French and American sentiments, IMO -- from the broad and romantic to the almost avantgarde (he was part of "The Six", after all).

There are definitely music-cultural differences between countries, but at the same time it's difficult to go by strict geography. It has more to do with PARADIGMS. The Hollywood paradigm has been dominant for many years, so you'll find composers in any country mimicking or composing in that style. Just as you find local influences in local scores. That didn't answer your question at all, just a general musing on the issue.

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2013 - 2:07 PM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

This one's quite difficult to navigate.

It must have something to do with cultural locality. It's that Dawkins thing - where memes tend to self-perpetuate by being devilishly infectious in their nature. They initiate from a common nucleus and then propagate outward with small variations along the way. How does this translate into musical form between american and british speakers? That's the difficult bit to decipher. It must have common ground with the unraveling of connections to language. Perhaps even the way the english language is spoken affects cognitive development in ways that takes reductionism to task.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2013 - 3:51 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

Sinatra said the best brass sections were in England.

I've spent pretty much the past two decades picking up groovy music from England, France, Italy, Germany, and all of these countries put there own spin on the music in a way that is hard to articulate. Play the MPS compilation "Snowflakes" and it just sounds so German, even when they're doing American jazz tunes.

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2013 - 4:32 PM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)


Jazzy outbursts - Bill McGuffie (eg DALEKS INVASION EARTH 2150 AD)


Are there any resemblences, Graham, to McGuffie's CORRUPTION?

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 17, 2013 - 1:19 AM   
 By:   Graham S. Watt   (Member)

Not much of McGuffie's CORRUPTION on display in the Stanley Black scores, Tone. Just the occasional jazzy blast, which almost works as a horror stinger. Nothing really as developed as the extraordinary "live at Ronnie Scott's" cheerful swing numbers which accompanied Peter Cushing chasing young girls along chilly English beaches, snogging them (tongues and everything), then stabbing them to death with a scalpel.

Getting back to my original post, there's another sort of overly dramatic device heard on staccato brass which crops up in the Black scores. I couldn't put my finger on it until today... Was it something which reminded me of, curiously, a score from Hollywood? Would it be something quintessentially English? Then it came to me - Eric Rogers' "stalking" music from ASSAULT, which was basically a reworking of his "Oddbod" motif from CARRY ON SCREAMING. Can't get much more British than that, guv.

Oh, many thanks to all for the useful contributions. I'll try to comment on each one if my brain expands enough to be able to assimilate it all. Meanwhile, keep 'em coming.

 
 Posted:   Sep 17, 2013 - 6:09 AM   
 By:   Jehannum   (Member)

Very often I can tell when a score was recorded in Britain from the trumpet sound. I read something about the mouthpieces being different. I don't know if that's true. I just know that particular British brass sound when I hear it.

EDIT: Interesting to see other people hear a difference too.

 
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