Smaak, stijl en (on)originaliteit

Afgelopen weekend heb ik de film The Judge weer eens terug gekeken. De filmmuziek van Thomas Newman is valt onder de categorie “beste scores waarvan ik de cd nog niet heb” en ik heb daar dan ook erg van genoten tijdens het kijken.

Tijdens mijn kwartiertje onderzoek vanmorgen kwam ik deze review tegen met daarin een interessante vraag rondom Newman’s stijl en gebrek en ontwikkeling en originaliteit (zelf-plagiaat zo u wilt). Hier maakt de schrijver de vergelijking met The Equalizer van Harry Gregson-Williams.

In my recent review of The Equalizer, I wrote: “before I listened to the score, and before I saw the film, I knew exactly what this score would sound like, based purely on the name of the director, the name of the composer, and the genre of the film, and I was right.” In the case of The Equalizer, this was a negative thing, because that score was written in a style I generally don’t care for. In the case of The Judge, I could say exactly the same thing. If you have heard any of Thomas Newman’s pleasant drama scores over the years – The Help, Saving Mr. Banks, going all the way back to things like The Horse Whisperer and even Whispers in the Dark – then you will know exactly what this score sounds like. Gentle, intimate string writing. Quirky struck and plucked percussion items. Appealingly warm orchestrations. It’s all really agreeable and charming, and anyone with an affinity for Newman’s style will find it much to their liking. But, having criticized Harry Gregson-Williams for his unoriginality, can I then turn around and praise Thomas Newman for writing music that is just as unoriginal, but which I find more to my taste?

Zijn conclusie aan het eind is dan ook als volgt:

Much of The Judge plays like a Thomas Newman Greatest Hits album, and although I find this music very enjoyable to listen to, to I have point it out as the album’s major drawback. If I’m not letting Harry Gregson-Williams get away with it for The Equalizer, I can’t let Thomas Newman get a free pass either.

Een docent in Afrika, maar vooral een vriend

Eerder vroeg ik mij af of het verblijf en werk van Harry Gregson-Williams in Egypte en Kenia hem had geholpen bij het scoren van verscheidene films die zich in die regionen afspelen. Ik ben niet de enige, want in een interview over zijn werk voor Spy Game wordt de vraag ook gesteld. Het antwoord is verrassend:

You mentioned that you taught in Alexandria, and Africa – did your experience there help on Spy Game, with the Middle Eastern flavor?

It would be neat and romantic of me to say “yes”.  I did learn Arabic, because the children I was teaching didn’t speak English, and I became very accustomed to the calls to prayer and the sound of the streets of a place like Alexandria.  The thing that made a huge difference to the music that I composed for the Beirut sequences was finding, quite by chance, a vocalist who has become a good friend, and had a complete abandon about the way he sang. He had never done films or studio recordings, and because of that he had no fright or fear of being completely on the wrong planet.  I gave him some guidelines, and I had some recordings which were made on location when the film was being shot of some phrases and sounds that I was interested in recreating.  I had written a very straightforward and classical western strings accompaniment, and it was absolutely amazing when he came in and sang.

De vriend in kwestie is Khosro Ansari, die onder andere ook mee werkte aan Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.

 

Zelfkritisch

Het was heel verrassend om te lezen hoe Harry Gregson-Williams tegen zijn score voor Spy Game aankijkt. In dit interview spreekt hij open en vrij over zijn twijfels bij het resultaat.

I feel very fortunate to have done the film, but I still worry a lot about it.  Tony is certainly one of a kind.  I didn’t really feel the force of it on Enemy of the State, since there were two of us composing, and we came in pretty late.  I think I was a pretty poor substitute for “the Z“, and I think Tony felt a bit let down.  And since that time, Hans has been with Tony’s brother, Ridley.  So I was fortunate on Spy Game – I don’t think the producers were that keen on me at first, but Tony went out on a limb for me – I didn’t do a demo or anything.

Zo erg zelfs dat hij zich bij de premiere van de film ongemakkelijk voelde.

Sitting at the premiere the other night I found it almost unbearable because there’s so much music, and in your face.  I knew it was going to be that way – I was at the dub so none of it surprised me. […] I have to shoulder some of that blame myself, I did spot the movie with Tony – but he’s so very clear about the amount of music.  To be honest, his visuals do lend themselves to a lot of underscore.  Frequently the old equation that “if a movie needs a lot of music, it’s probably lacking somewhere” is a truism – but I didn’t feel that on Spy Game.  It’s just that there were few places where music wouldn’t have helped.  I think I’ve learned a lot from that.  If we did it all again, I would probably try to be more assertive – and take a “less is more” approach.

Ik heb het wel een beetje met hem te doen.

Smilla’s Sense of Snow review

Ik vond hier een aardige review over de score voor Smilla’s Sense of Snow waarin onder andere de compositie-verhouding tussen Hans Zimmer en Harry Gregson-Williams aan bod komt. Daarnaast besteed het enige aandacht aan de ‘Media Ventures sound’ en de beschrijft het de muziek voor de film redelijk accuraat.

Either way, if you’re a fan of the composer’s synthetically-enhanced expressions of force, be forewarned that this score, as mostly a non-descript, atmospheric Gregson-Williams project, has no passages exhibiting that excitement. It is a simple, predictable, and potentially boring score, but its droning consistency is its strongest attribute.

Een docent in Afrika

In verscheidene interviews heb ik al gelezen dat Harry Gregson-Williams de passie heeft om kinderen les te geven in sport en muziek. Uit dit interview blijkt dat hij daarmee is begonnen in Egypte en Kenia nadat hij zijn scholing had afgerond.

After music school in London I turned to teaching the two things I enjoyed – Music & Sports. I lived and taught in Alexandria, Egypt for a couple of years where I learned to speak Arabic. After that I travelled through Africa to Kenya where I settled in the Rift Valley for a while – again teaching children music and games. If I have a vocation it is teaching.

Dit is interessant om verscheidene redenen. In de eerste plaats vanwege zijn werk aan films die zich afspelen in Afrika. Hierbij denk ik aan Kingdom of Heaven, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time en Spy Game. Daarnaast kwam ik er gisteren achter dat Harry ook de muziek heeft verzorgd bij de film Mr Pip met Hugh Laurie (die wel een beetje op Harry lijkt met z’n baard); deze film gaat over een docent in Afrika. Dat zal geen toeval zijn…

De muzikale familie Gregson-Williams

In dit interview komt een leuke vraag voorbij waarin Harry Gregson-Williams iets prijsgeeft over de plaats van muziek in zijn jeugd en het ouderlijk gezin.

What was the first instrument you learned how to play and what would you say is your favorite instrument to write for, play?

I learned music since I was probably four. By the time I was seven I was shipped off to a boarding school, which was a specialist music school. So where some people would have an hour and a half of biology, an hour and a half of math, etc … my day was centered around music. Learning to read, to write, and sing music. I had all of the other lessons to get through high school, but they were very much secondary. So I could read music probably before I could read words at the age of 7.

My brothers and sisters all played musical instruments. My sister played the clarinet and I would play along with her. I played many instruments, but my main instrument was the piano – and I sang. Now it doesn’t really apply in a movie like The Equalizer where I didn’t use woodwinds at all, but on a movie like Shrek or countless other scores that I’ve done – often when I’m orchestrating a passage that may be sensitive, romantic, or has got some deep feeling in it- there will be a clarinet somewhere. And that probably goes back to my childhood and just making music with my brothers and sisters.

Nowadays I’m primarily a keyboard player. I have a lot of electronic equipment in my studio in order for me to make the demos that I make. Like all symphonic composers in the world I have a sampled orchestra. I have all the sounds at my fingertips.

Southpaw: Gregson-Williams of Horner

In mijn onderzoek naar Harry Gregson-Williams werk voor The Equalizer 2 kwam ik een interview tegen waarin Gregson aangeeft dat hij na zijn werk voor de film The Equalizer (de eerste film, 2014) van regisseur Antoine Fuqua een volgende film van dezelfde maker van muziek zou voorzien.

Het gaat om de film Southpaw. Nu weet ik dat de score voor deze film helemaal niet door Gregson-Williams is geschreven, maar door James Horner. Het werd een van zijn laatste werken, naast The Magnificent Seven (ook door Fuqua geregisseerd).

Een review van de cd op Filmtracks beweerd daar het volgende over:

Due to its rather minimal budget, Fuqua had planned to return to his collaborator on The Equalizer, Harry Gregson-Williams, to provide the music for the film. The director had a fruitful collaboration with Hans Zimmer and his associates through the years (Gregson-Williams joining Mark Mancina and Trevor Morris), but when veteran drama composer James Horner offered to Fuqua that he’s produce a score for free for Southpaw, the director could not resist. Horner was moved by the story to such an extent that he insisted that he needed to write the music for it, regardless of the fact that he would have to cover all his crews’ costs out of his own pocket. Horner was thus granted the job and produced a synthetic work produced by just a small group of his core team.