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 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 1:56 PM   
 By:   Linae   (Member)

I thought someone else might find this of interest.

His top 10 scores of the 1970s.

Inspired by a series of “best 10“ lists in a 1980 issue, given to me recently, of the Miklós Rózsa Society's Pro Musica Sana, I belatedly offer my list of what I felt were the 10 best film scores of the past decade. I do this in full recognition that there very well could be a film I haven't seen with a score that would bump one on the list below. For example, two French scores—Philippe Sarde's Barocco for the André Téchiné film (1976) and Antoine Duhamel's La Mort en direct for the Bertrand Tavernier film (1980)—are both outstanding scores for which I have heard the recordings (Barclay 930.020 and DJM 407 503001, respectively) but not seen the film. But since I am judging on both musical quality and on appropriateness for the film, I have not included any scores for movies I've not seen. Here, then, in chronological order, are my choices; recordings are indicated if ever available.

1. Michael Small: Klute (Alan Pakula, 1971). Tingling and instrumentally very original suspense music combines with a mellow love theme to make this score work particularly well for Pakula's thriller. Warner Brothers had scheduled a release for this score (WS 1940) and I have even seen it listed; but I have never seen the album, which was also brought out on a pirate label, I do believe.

2. Jerry Fielding: Straw Dogs (Sam Pekinpah, 1971). The Fielding/Pekinpah collaboration peaked in this brutal but brilliant film. Although owing a great deal to Stravinsky at certain points, Fielding's score beautifully captures the various moods of the film. Recording: Citadel: “Four Film Suites by Jerry Fielding“ (CT/JF-2/3). Close second: Fielding's even more varied, part-jazz score for Michael Winner's 1978 The Big Sleep.

3. Ennio Morricone: Duck, You Sucker (Sergio Leone, 1971 ; also known as A Fistful of Dynamite). Although Morricone has had immense success in all possible genres, his greatest efforts are perhaps the scores for the so-called “spaghetti westerns.“ The warmth of the Rod Steiger/James Coburn friendship in this film is but one of the many elements beautifully expressed in Morricone's often almost operatic music. Recording (original domestic): United Artists LA-302G. Close second: the much more surrealistic music for Tonino Valerii's much more surrealistic My Name Is Nobody (recorded by General Music Rome in Italy and by Ariola in Germany, 87582 IU).

4. John Williams: Images (Robert Altman, 1972). Although the Star Wars music indisputably works marvelously for George Lucas' space epic, it cannot touch, musically, Williams' ingeniously gripping theme and much more original avant-garde percussion effects for Images, both of which perfectly second the psychological violence of this Altman near-masterpiece. Recording: Sound/State C.I.F. 1002. Close seconds: The Fury (Brian De Palma, 1978; Arista AB 4175) and Dracula (John Badham, 1979; MCA 3166).

5. Bernard Herrmann: Sisters (Brian De Palma, 1972). Most film-music buffs seem to prefer Herrmann's lusher score for De Palma's very forced Obsession to the earlier Sisters. I find the music to the former excessively self-derivative, while the irony that permeates much of Sisters, both musically and filmically, is much more my cup of tea. Recording: Entr'acte ERQ 7001-ST.

6. Richard Rodney Bennett: Murder on the Orient Express (Sidney Lumet, 1974). From what I have heard, Bennett has never penned a bad film score, from Far from the Madding Crowd to Equus. But with its delightfully anti-stereotypical waltz for the train itself, and with its many-faceted symphonism to complement the movie's changing perspectives, Murder on the Orient Express has something utterly special about it. Recording: Capitol ST-11361.

7. Jerry Goldsmith: The Omen (Richard Donner, 1976). With his brooding, chorus-and-orchestra Satanism, Goldsmith came up with a perfect sound to accompany a scare film that was nowhere nearly as bad as many people made it out to be. Recording: Tattoo BJL1-1888. Close second: Capricorn One (Peter Hymans, 1978; Warner Brothers BSK 3201).

8. Nino Rota: Felllni's Casanova (Federico Fellini, 1977). While director Fellini's talent continued to wane, the late Nino Rota continued to produce witty and, well, Fellini-esque scores for the Italian director, even in such duds as Amarcord. But for Fellini's Casanova, Rota added a touch of the other-wordly to his Fellini-profiled scoring, perfectly rounding out the film's lush photography and contributing an out-of-sync ambience to the film, which would have been considerably less effective without Rota's sonorous backing. Recording: CAM SAG 9075.

9. Miklós Rózsa: Providence (Alain Resnais, 1977). If one can be grateful to recent film composers for sometimes sacrificing personal style to meet the needs of a given picture, one can be equally grateful to Rózsa for continuing, over the last 30 years, to sound like himself. The composer's moody, sometimes even morbid romanticism works especially well in adding a musico-temporal stratum to the French director's extraordinarily rich vision of the creative process. Recording: DRG SL-9502.

10. Howard Blake: The Duelists (Ridley Scott, 1978). I have little idea who Howard Blake is other than that he has scored such whoppingly obscure films as All the Way Up and, would you believe, An Elephant Called Slowly. My guess is that he is English and of the same musical persuasions as Richard Rodney Bennett. Wherever he comes from and whatever his background, Blake produced for The Duelists an immensely sensitive, romantic score with one of the loveliest melodies ever to grace a soundtrack. The music forms an inseparable part of Ridley (Alien) Scott's exquisite and terribly neglected adaptation of the Joseph Conrad tale. Can't somebody give us a recording?

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 4:29 PM   
 By:   Linae   (Member)

His picks for the 1980s:

Finally, inspired by a request for the ten best scores from Pro Musica Sana, the journal of the Miklós Rózsa Society, I offer my list, sans comments, of the best scores of the past decade. There is no way I could limit it to ten, however. More than a few films from above appear below: after all, one thing that can help make a film great is its score.

The Fourth Man (Loek Dikker, 1979/1984).
Altered States (John Corigliano, 1980).
Deathwatch (Antoine Duhamel, 1980).
Dressed To Kill (Pino Donaggio, 1980).
Body Heat (John Barry, 1981).
Dragonslayer (Alex North, 1981).
Invitation au voyage (Gabriel Yared, 1982?).
Koyaanisqatsi (Philip Glass, 1983).
Videodrome (Howard Shore, 1983).
Once Upon a Time in America (Ennio Morricone, 1984).
Ran (Toru Takemitsu, 1985).
Betty Blue (Gabriel Yared, 1986).
Babette's Feast (Per Nørgaard, 1987).
Housekeeping (Michael Gibbs, 1987).
Siesta (Marcus Miller/Miles Davis, 1987).
Criminal Law (Jerry Goldsmith, 1988).
Dangerous Liaisons (George Fenton, 1988).
Dead Ringers (Howard Shore, 1988).
Henry V (Patrick Doyle, 1989).

 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 4:47 PM   
 By:   judy the hutt   (Member)

If you do not count Close Encounters than this is bogus!

 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 5:09 PM   
 By:   Advise & Consent   (Member)

@ Mr. Linae: very interesting lists. Much food for thought.

However, Amarcord a dud? I don't believe I've ever heard that before, but I'm open minded and would like to know more.

Also, I must congratulate you on having the stones to choose Criminal Law as a best of the eighties. (Personally, I happen to love it, but that would make you part a group of less than three who do around these parts).

Again, very interesting list but more Cook than Brown at first glance. wink

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 5:12 PM   
 By:   ZardozSpeaks   (Member)


Again, very interesting list but more Cook than Brown at first glance. wink


Royal Cook or Brown Page?

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 5:24 PM   
 By:   Dylan   (Member)

Great list, but his comment on "Amarcord" might be misleading to some. "Amarcord" was an extremely well-received Oscar-winning film that also did very good box office in America (where it was distributed by Roger Corman's New World Pictures), so even if Royal S. Brown didn't like it - which is what I assume is the case - calling it a 'dud' might imply that "Amarcord" flopped, which was not the case.

Also don't agree with him about "Obsession," but his comments on that come across as more subjective.

 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 6:17 PM   
 By:   Scott McOldsmith   (Member)

Well, unless this is a totally different Royal S. Brown, I did some plays with his wife a few years ago (omg she was/is a sweetheart). Very much an expert on Hitchcock and cinema in general. We spoke about Bernard Herrmann and the sound mix of Vertigo. He was curmudgeonly, but amazing company and a really nice fellow. Spent Christmas Eve with him and his family one year.

Funny how ignorant I was of his acumen. I haven't seen him in year - again if it's the same Royal S. Brown on Long Island, NY around 80 years old. How many could there be?

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 7:35 PM   
 By:   Linae   (Member)

Wow, the world is smaller than I thought! smile

Royal S. Brown's #1 film score of all time is Bernard Herrmann's Vertigo apparently and Elmer Bernstein's To Kill a Mockingbird was perhaps top 10 of all time material for Brown.

Moreover, he wrote that "Duhamel's score for for Pierrot le fou, which ranks high on my 10 best-of-all-time list."

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 8:06 PM   
 By:   Linae   (Member)

I just found his top 10 film scores of the 90s:

The 10 best scores:

Elmer Bernstein: The Grifters (1990)
Howard Shore: Naked Lunch (1991)
Joanna Bruzdowicz: Jacquot de Nantes (1991)
Thomas Newman: The Player (1992)
Akira Senju: Rampo (1994)
John Williams: Sleepers (1996)
Neil Young: Dead Man (1996)
Dave Grusin: Mulholland Falls (1996)
George Fenton: Mary Reilly (1996)
John Corigliano: The Red Violin (1999).

Best new film composer of the last decade: Thomas Newman.

Most consistently derivative, mediocre, bad, or horrible film composer of the last decade: James Horner. No hesitation.

 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 8:56 PM   
 By:   Advise & Consent   (Member)

Amarcord a dud?

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 9:00 PM   
 By:   Linae   (Member)

Amarcord a dud?

I can't find that he has written more about this - at least I can't find it.

He did call Juliet of the Spirits and Casanova his favourite two Nino Rota scores though.

 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 9:00 PM   
 By:   Advise & Consent   (Member)

Most consistently derivative, mediocre, bad, or horrible film composer of the last decade: James Horner. No hesitation.

@ Mr. Linae: Another interesting list, and kudos for picking the Grusin which is a magnificent piece of work. (Thanks to Bruce from Kritzer for the beautiful release).

I have to agree about Horner, unfortunately, but his work is just way too derivative to really enjoy, however good the lifts sound.

 
 Posted:   Oct 31, 2020 - 9:02 PM   
 By:   Advise & Consent   (Member)

Amarcord a dud?

I can't find that he has written more about this - at least I can't find it.

He did call Juliet of the Spirits and Casanova his favourite two Nino Rota scores though.


Love all them myself, but I'm curious about how he came to that conclusion.

And as for Casanova, that score has got to be in my top ten. Just a wondrous work.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 2, 2020 - 12:12 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Moreover, he wrote that "Duhamel's score for for Pierrot le fou, which ranks high on my 10 best-of-all-time list."

It's certainly among the most interesting New Wave scores, especially how Godard plays around with it (to Dudamel's frustration). Brown goes into this in his analysis in his book OVERTONES AND UNDERTONES, which is a must-have book for all serious film music researchers. A classic, even. I used it extensively in my own thesis.

 
 Posted:   Nov 2, 2020 - 12:22 PM   
 By:   Scott McOldsmith   (Member)


I have to agree about Horner, unfortunately, but his work is just way too derivative to really enjoy, however good the lifts sound.


I cannot disagree more strongly. I thoroughly enjoy his work, lifts and all. He developed themes that he used throughout his career. The classical music quotes, while more problematic because he never gave credit, actually turned me onto composers I may not have heard otherwise. I actually enjoy spotting them now.

Mr. Horner is the composer whose work I enjoy the most.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 2, 2020 - 12:30 PM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Moreover, he wrote that "Duhamel's score for for Pierrot le fou, which ranks high on my 10 best-of-all-time list."

It's certainly among the most interesting New Wave scores, especially how Godard plays around with it (to Dudamel's frustration). Brown goes into this in his analysis in his book OVERTONES AND UNDERTONES, which is a must-have book for all serious film music researchers. A classic, even. I used it extensively in my own thesis.


I attended a lecture of Brown's wherein he lauded the PIERROT score and screened examples. Somebody in the audience asked what was the benefit of mixing up the music like that. I can't recall Brown's answer, but it didn't make sense to me. I had the sense that the questioner was not satisfied either. I do have the book, of course. Its prolix style keeps me away from it most of the time.

 
 Posted:   Nov 2, 2020 - 12:33 PM   
 By:   Advise & Consent   (Member)


I have to agree about Horner, unfortunately, but his work is just way too derivative to really enjoy, however good the lifts sound.


I cannot disagree more strongly. I thoroughly enjoy his work, lifts and all. He developed themes that he used throughout his career. The classical music quotes, while more problematic because he never gave credit, actually turned me onto composers I may not have heard otherwise. I actually enjoy spotting them now.

Mr. Horner is the composer whose work I enjoy the most.


Fair enough. smile I still think that it deeply dishonest to pass off other people's work as your own. I know it was a long time ago, but such a practice was deeply frowned upon when I was in Uni. Call me old fashioned.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 2, 2020 - 12:40 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

I attended a lecture of Brown's wherein he lauded the PIERROT score and screened examples. Somebody in the audience asked what was the benefit of mixing up the music like that. I can't recall Brown's answer, but it didn't make sense to me. I had the sense that the questioner was not satisfied either. I do have the book, of course. Its prolix style keeps me away from it most of the time.

The benefit of constantly muting and unmuting Dudamel's scherzo for the car-jacking sequence was to make the audience member aware of the mechanics of film production, which - in turn - helps us remain critical to the established. The ol' Frankfurter School of Thought. I've always enjoyed that, which is why I show the clip whenever I'm doing lectures on film music. Something 'alternative' to the classical Hollywood style where everything needs to be integrated and "invisible".

I'm perfectly comfortable with academic prose, so that's no issue to me. His observations are really good.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 2, 2020 - 2:45 PM   
 By:   Chris Malone   (Member)

Did Royal S. Brown do a list of his top 1960s scores? Did he make any comments/observations?

Chris

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 2, 2020 - 2:57 PM   
 By:   Stefan Schlegel   (Member)

Moreover, he wrote that "Duhamel's score for for Pierrot le fou, which ranks high on my 10 best-of-all-time list."

It's certainly among the most interesting New Wave scores, especially how Godard plays around with it (to Dudamel's frustration).


You are totally wrong in believing that Antoine Duhamel was frustrated. On the contrary, Duhamel enjoyed very much his work with Godard on PIERROT LE FOU (and three years later on WEEKEND), although Godard used only fragments of the music he had for the most part composed before the film was even finished. Duhamel always stated that Godard had very clear ideas about using the music like a modern painter and he was therefore more like an orchestra conductor who knew exactly how to use and place music in his films. Therefore in Duhamel´s words it was one of the most fruitful and creative collaborations he had ever had with a director with often surprising and wonderful results.

On the other hand, Duhamel was very disappointed how Francois Truffaut used his music in LA SIRÈNE DU MISSISISPPI. Godard and Truffaut had totally different approaches on how to use music in their films. In interviews Duhamel stated that Truffaut didn´t know at all what he wanted - at first he wanted almost no music in the movie, then Duhamel had to write an hour of music of which in the end only about 15 minutes remained in the movie. And Duhamel was also not at all satisfied with Truffaut´s often wrong placement of the tracks he had composed. Duhamel described Truffaut as someone who was not very much interested in the post-production, in the mixing and the recording of the music so that for him the score was more a tapestry of sound than a real musical work. This was also the reason why he soon ended his collaboration with Truffaut in 1970 after DOMICILE CONJUGAL.

 
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