Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds
For some time I have felt that film score was the ” new ” classical music . . . or at least music which could help to sustain a regional symphony orchestra in light of dwindling interest in the ” masters ” which have been performed to death over the last century.
It’s possible — there are some wonderful film scores around. But a few seasons ago I attended (the first half of) a concert based on science fiction-themed music. It included lots of John Williams and I forget who else, and R. Strauss (2001) so we thought it had possibilities. But by the half, we were pretty underwhelmed. Fine film (and TV) scores, which serve their media brilliantly, were not holding up on a concert stage. Anyone who has seen Star Wars knows how well the score works with the film, and I daresay that is equally true of many other film scores — I have not heard that many in a concert hall (some may work as standalone pieces).
But it is going to have a dumbing down effect on music listeners — while often very attractive and, in its place, perfect, it is pretty much easy listening without the films that these scores are meant to support. The ultimate crossover.
Case in point: I think it was here that I saw a link to Nicola Benedetti, a violinist whom I wish would never stop when she is on a concert stage, playing the theme from Schindler’s List. I had seen the film, and recalled that the music was very effective. But I found her performance of this piece — which apparently has also been recorded by Perlman — to be a very slight effort, repetitive, empty and not nearly as powerful as it was when played in synch with the very moving film. So the trend identified in this article is not one I welcome unreservedly.
I don’t see this as an impending sign of the apocalypse. A lot of these film composers are really good, and their film music may not be Beethoven or Wagner but it’s not bad. And if orchestras want to be relevant, they need to be creative in what they program. The only part I’m wary of is if they play to pre-set metronic markings, with headphones, etc., which just seems a bit uninspired.
I recently attended a Dallas Symphony Pops Orchestra presentation of “Casblanca” in this manner. It’s a poor way to see a movie; for whatever reason the dialog audio track was pretty much unintelligible and in this live orchestra situation you become very aware of how much of the movie DOESN’T have music so it’s a bit slim as a concert also.
Exactly right Richard: sustain and bring a different audience. But it would be a problem if it ended up being too prominent.
Author, novelist, broadcaster, cultural commentator.
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