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 Posted:   Sep 24, 2009 - 4:19 PM   
 By:   Sarge   (Member)

Just picked up AT THE MOVIES: BRUCE SMEATON from iTunes, and it contains the score to ICEMAN -

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?id=179840261&s=143441

For the uninitiated, it's beautiful stuff - exotic, colorful, and haunting. And at $5.99, it's a steal.

Between this and Smeaton's still-unreleased score to BARBAROSA, consider me a fan of this underappreciated composer.

Any other fans of this score?

 
 Posted:   Sep 24, 2009 - 4:43 PM   
 By:   Ron Pulliam   (Member)

Oh, yeah...

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 24, 2009 - 5:21 PM   
 By:   peterproud   (Member)

It's the perfect score to a pretty effective movie...I remember putting this score on a lot of mix tapes in the "old days" smile

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 24, 2009 - 6:12 PM   
 By:   Timmer   (Member)

I've banged on about it before but I would love a release of THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND and CIRCLE OF IRON ( aka THE SILENT FLUTE ), both are excellent scores.

Never heard Barbarosa but I'll take your word that it's good.

 
 Posted:   Sep 24, 2009 - 6:55 PM   
 By:   Saul Pincus   (Member)

A few years back I traveled to Binalong, Australia to interview Bruce for FSM Online. I found a well-read, thoughtful, utterly engaging man who was every bit the sensitive and creative soul you'd expect to find behind the music of Iceman.

Here's a (lengthy) excerpt from the Iceman portion of our talk:

SP: In this case the main theme is a great example of how you can evoke a sense of wonder through melody and through inventive orchestration and unique instrumentation.

BS: Yeah, I used a Japanese instrument, and that came about through A Town Like Alice. Neville Shute, who wrote the original book, took a lot of pains to delineate between the goodness and badness of individuals. It was the perfect opportunity to say “bad Japanese” and “good Australians” and he really went out of his way to make sure that didn’t happen. I used a koto. It looks like a surfboard with strings. I got together with a woman who played koto who showed me what you could do and what you couldn’t do, usual thing, and I then made quite a study of Japanese music. I learnt notation, which is a bit like guitar symbols. It’s related to the instrument. It’s not an umbrella system that you apply to everything. In my listening, I became attracted to the shakuhachi, but I didn’t feel it was specifically Japanese in the sense that bagpipes are specifically Scottish. I felt that if you took out the harmony from behind the shakuhachi and classical Japanese music, you just had this mad, wild, wonderful thing that was so different, all the things that are frowned on in European music: blowing spit through the instrument, squealing, blowing your cheeks out, shaking and wobbling and doing these … it was just so wonderful. I found a Japanese guy called Kazu Matsui, a wonderful musician. He showed me the fingering, and I made the mistake of writing the music out in Japanese notation and he asked me whether I’d mind writing it out in Western notation – because he couldn’t read the other one. I based the entire melody off the finger positions of a shakuhachi. If it doesn’t lay well on the instrument, it will never sound good. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Tchaikovsky violin concerto, or Iceman. Then I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote, to keep finger positions, but to develop some music sense into it. Then I rewrote more to intensify it emotionally. Once I got that right, I started to work around other things.

SP: You really put a lot of thought into it. No wonder the melody has such a natural flow, and an emotive tug.

BS: I always had a problem with Fred. If I got the music too emotional, he was worried I was overpowering his film, so I had to pull back. And that happened over and over again. This was a film that Fred was taken off, by the way, for deliberately not shooting it the way he was supposed to at the end. He just went on a rampage. He’d agreed to shoot it one way, and told the producer Dan Melnick that he would do it, and didn’t do it.

SP: It does seem to kind of just end, and that’s one of its weakest points.

BS: Fred doesn’t know how to end a film. Have a think about them. Devil’s Playground, Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Roxanne. It’s almost as if you’ve gone to sleep and the film is over. He cannot resolve things in a film, for whatever reason. I guess it’s become now part of the style. But he was removed from the film. I don’t know enough about the infighting and politics and pecking order that occurs in the film community, but World War Three erupted over that. He was brought back on and he was in a very strange state of mind. A lot of those funny cues would “drip, drop, drip, drop.” Someone had told him that electronic music and all that was all the in go. There were things where he did not want any music at all. Later on, he wanted music. But we couldn’t go back.

SP: So there were a few points where the music was faded in, essentially needle-dropped?

BS: Yeah. Embarrassing. He changed a lot of the cues from where they lay. [Music editor] Jim Henrickson laid them up, and we didn’t know, but he’d gotten back into the dubbing theatre and just shifted stuff around, which didn’t improve it, because, as you know, when you get in there it’s such a complex thing between dialogue, effects, music, and it’s not just one track of each, and where you put them, and something works here and it doesn’t work there. You know, you try shifting a window in a brick wall. You don’t just grab it and move it two bricks to the right.

SP: I guess you’re at their mercy.

BS: It’s a protocol that a film’s not changed after it’s locked. In Iceman, Fred got in and made twenty-eight major changes to the film while we were preparing to go into Glen Glenn Sound and record with a hundred-and-thirty piece orchestra. I found out on the podium. Jim said “None of this music is fitting.” I said “What?” He said “It’s not fitting.” I said “That’s impossible” and he said “let me check” because Jim – I think his first film was Spartacus. He goes back a long way, so he doesn’t trust anyone or anything – he checks everything meticulously, at any level. He’s also a very fine musician. He said “The film’s been altered.” I said “That can’t be” and he said “do you want my advice?” and I said “what’s that?” and he said “abort the session now.” Fred, interestingly enough, never turned up.

SP: He was hiding!

BS: He was “fleeing the interview” to use a phrase out of Fargo. I honestly thought that something had happened. I didn’t know what. It was the only time in my life I ever had a standing ovation. As you know, with a full score in front of you, transposed, it’s very difficult. Jim gave me the timings on where we would change, and this is not modular music like rhythm-based “a-rucka-chuka-rucka-chuka … we’ll cut there.” This is organic stuff with cello lines and all that sort of stuff. I re-thought the music in front of the orchestra and called out all the changes to the whole lot. I can’t tell you what it’s like, having to stand up in front of an orchestra of maybe the best musicians in the world and imagine your score – not just in general terms, but every single detail – and be told you’ve got to cut out three-and-a-half bars, and then make it harmonically join so you can’t pick. We ran something like fifteen or twenty minutes into overtime, and both had our throat torn out for doing this. At no point did the director even ever confess what he’d done. It was probably about then I should’ve just not worked with him ever again.

SP: But you did.

BS: Yeah. You probably don’t believe it. It’s like when you have a marriage break down. You can’t bring yourself to be the one who pulls the plug. You also cannot believe that it’s being done to you. And it’s not being done for the movie. It’s some sort of neurosis, and it’s also trashing everyone. It’s trashing the editor, it’s trashing the producer, everyone around you. You’re just doing it because you feel like it.

SP: This is an aside, but you made use of the shakuhachi, and it’s long before James Horner did. It’s now a staple of his palette.

BS: I got a phone call from Danny Wallin, saying “Have you had the phone call from James Horner?”

SP: What do you mean?

BS: Danny rang me from Los Angeles and said “Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, and Bill Conti have all phoned, you haven’t they.” He’d picked up on the fact that they all suddenly discovered the shakuhachi after I introduced it to them, in the same way as panpipes. He said to me “What have you done? You’ve ruined music!”

 
 Posted:   Sep 24, 2009 - 8:10 PM   
 By:   Silence Is Golden   (Member)

It's the perfect score to a pretty effective movie...I remember putting this score on a lot of mix tapes in the "old days" smile

You got that right Peter. It's a shame that the DVD isn't in it's original aspect ratio of 2:35.1. An overlooked gem of both a score and a movie. Definitely Smeaton's best work for sure. A damn shame that Fred Schepsi tampered with the movie so no one could hear his full blooded work.

Good things that Schepsi didn't temper with Jerry Goldsmith's music because he definitely would've ripped him a new one that's for sure.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 24, 2009 - 9:08 PM   
 By:   antipodean   (Member)

Just picked up AT THE MOVIES: BRUCE SMEATON from iTunes, and it contains the score to ICEMAN -

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?id=179840261&s=143441


The "hardcopy" version of this is also still available from Hot Records for £3.50 (plus shipping).

cf. http://www.hottestsoundsaround.com/?page_id=12&category=18&product_id=141

 
 Posted:   Sep 24, 2009 - 10:33 PM   
 By:   drivingmissdaisy   (Member)

I have a CDR of this and just recently sat down and finally listened to the entire thing. LOVE IT. Now I need to find an original and then get a hold of Mr. Smeaton for his John Handcock.

I faintly remember the film and I know I enjoyed it a lot. I also LOVE Bruce's Roxeanne score.

 
 Posted:   Sep 24, 2009 - 10:42 PM   
 By:   SillyString   (Member)

Now, why can't shit like this get widely released and accepted?? This is a brilliant collection of music. Seriously, I can't stomach why anyone would tolerate the fact that their cash is being spent of Rent-a-Trash instead of THIS -- And it's cheaper! Nice mention, OP.

 
 Posted:   Sep 24, 2009 - 10:52 PM   
 By:   BobJ   (Member)

This is wonderful score. Mr. Smeaton's work in general is worth checking out. I love "The Great Macarthy".

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 24, 2009 - 11:35 PM   
 By:   Bond1965   (Member)

Interesting what he said about Schepsi not wanting emotional music as the emotional (but brief) score Smeaton wrote for PLENTY is one of his best.

James

 
 Posted:   Sep 25, 2009 - 6:31 PM   
 By:   Sarge   (Member)

Hey Saul... did Smeaton have much to say about BARBAROSA?

How I long for a CD of that score...

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 25, 2009 - 7:20 PM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

Hey Saul--that was a nice interview, for, among other reasons, it finally responds to a post created by Yours Truly on July 7, 1998 entitled The Time Machine, Iceman. It came on the heels of returning home after having my eyes blurred and ears blown out at the cinema watching Armageddon.

Hey Sgt. Esterhaus, here's the relevant part in response to the solicitation in your opening post of the present:

"Can't really call the shots for Iceman (1983) but it's a pleasurable listening experience nonetheless. Don't know anything about this Bruce Smeaton; doesn't appear he's had a prolific film-scoring career. What's there is excellent. So what if the Main Title theme recurs throughout with the same flute arrangement. It's a good listen. Gives the film poetic atmosphere. And not a bad little film, to boot.

A little story, a little flash, a few earnest performances...and some good music. That's entertainment. No apologies."

Hey Timmer--once again we trail after each other at the mention of Iceman.wink

 
 Posted:   Sep 25, 2009 - 7:46 PM   
 By:   Josh   (Member)

We picked this up about a year ago when someone offered a copy of the out-of-print Southern Cross CD on the FSM trading post. I'd never seen the film nor heard the score, but I was interested in hearing Smeaton's music, and the price was right, so I grabbed it. Definitely one of the most pleasantly-surprising blind soundtrack purchases I’ve ever made. I've certainly never heard another score quite like it, and doubt I ever will.

It’s an absolutely gorgeous, eerie, thoughtful score, with an unforgettable main theme, ghostly synthscapes, intense piano/percussion/horn riffs during the action sequences, and heart-wrenchingly beautiful shakuhachi playing throughout. Given my very limited knowledge of musical terminology, I can hardly do the score justice by mere description, but for what it’s worth, I give it my highest recommendation.

NP: Iceman

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 25, 2009 - 8:22 PM   
 By:   Timmer   (Member)

Hey Saul--that was a nice interview, for, among other reasons, it finally responds to a post created by Yours Truly on July 7, 1998 entitled The Time Machine, Iceman. It came on the heels of returning home after having my eyes blurred and ears blown out at the cinema watching Armageddon.

Hey Sgt. Esterhaus, here's the relevant part in response to the solicitation in your opening post of the present:

"Can't really call the shots for Iceman (1983) but it's a pleasurable listening experience nonetheless. Don't know anything about this Bruce Smeaton; doesn't appear he's had a prolific film-scoring career. What's there is excellent. So what if the Main Title theme recurs throughout with the same flute arrangement. It's a good listen. Gives the film poetic atmosphere. And not a bad little film, to boot.

A little story, a little flash, a few earnest performances...and some good music. That's entertainment. No apologies."

Hey Timmer--once again we trail after each other at the mention of Iceman.wink


big grin The Iceman cometh

A bit lame but what the hey, great minds and all that eh H? wink

 
 Posted:   Sep 26, 2009 - 7:57 AM   
 By:   Saul Pincus   (Member)

Hey Saul... did Smeaton have much to say about BARBAROSA?

How I long for a CD of that score...


He did - quite a bit, actually. There wasn't much we didn't cover in the very tight, three-part, 18,000 word FSM Online article (with some video).

I know that a few years ago Bruce was in the process of organizing what tapes of his earlier work could be found so he could preserve them - apparently quite a few titles had gone missing. At that point, Barbarosa was still unreachable. A shame - it's one of my favorites of his, so infectious.

 
 Posted:   Sep 26, 2009 - 8:10 AM   
 By:   Saul Pincus   (Member)

Hey Saul--that was a nice interview, for, among other reasons, it finally responds to a post created by Yours Truly on July 7, 1998 entitled The Time Machine, Iceman. It came on the heels of returning home after having my eyes blurred and ears blown out at the cinema watching Armageddon.

Hey Sgt. Esterhaus, here's the relevant part in response to the solicitation in your opening post of the present:

"Can't really call the shots for Iceman (1983) but it's a pleasurable listening experience nonetheless. Don't know anything about this Bruce Smeaton; doesn't appear he's had a prolific film-scoring career. What's there is excellent. So what if the Main Title theme recurs throughout with the same flute arrangement. It's a good listen. Gives the film poetic atmosphere. And not a bad little film, to boot.

A little story, a little flash, a few earnest performances...and some good music. That's entertainment. No apologies."


I still feel Bruce Smeaton is one of the least known and most obscure genuinely-gifted film composers alive - and I say so in the same breath as Williams, Goldsmith, Bernstein, North, etc. Bruce's talent and technique are unmatched by most, and he's written many memorable works. They just happen to be Australian, and since he was literally one of the first (if not the first) Australians to "make a career" (his words) of writing music for film, few of his films were seen outside Australia and even fewer recordings were saved.

That said, Philip Powers of 1M1 Records also believes in Bruce's work and has done what he can to preserve a few early Smeaton gems:

http://www.1m1.com.au/

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 26, 2009 - 9:37 AM   
 By:   Tobias   (Member)

Just saw that movie a couple of weeks ago for the first time and liked both the movie and the score. Prior to that viewing of this film I had only seen one movie scored by Smeaton: Roxanne. What a movie, this must be the very best movie Steve Martin did. So that perfomance must have inspired Smeaton quite a well.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 26, 2009 - 2:44 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

I keep confusing him with Bruce Rowland, who did the wonderful (albeit slightly cheesy) MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 17, 2009 - 5:25 AM   
 By:   JADSTERSDAD   (Member)

I was really happy to discover this thread! Thanks for the extracts to that great interview too, Saul.

I wondered how Bruce is today and if he's contactable. It would be nice to express admiration for his great music directly.

 
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