A Look at Classical Music in the Movies

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For nearly 80 years, movie patrons have been exposed to orchestral music custom-tailored to fit the films themselves.  But in some cases, a director’s infatuation with pre-existing classical repertoire has yielded some rather interesting and unconventional results.  Film editors will often cut films together with the musical aid of Stravinsky, Beethoven, Wagner, and many others.  In fact, George Lucas had intended to use strictly classical music for Star Wars, until John Williams stepped in and provided his own Academy Award winning original score – a work that embodies the heavy influence of Holst and his Planets Suite.  Sometimes a director will simply fall in love with a temp track, and abandon plans for an original score altogether (Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey anyone?).  Others find ingenious ways to employ classical works as a reoccurring motif – consider Blake Edwards’ use of Ravel’s Bolero as a sort of prelude to Daryl Hannah’s romantic conquests in the steamy comedyTen. Many of these classical composers have lent their talents to opera, appropriately enough, seeing as how this art form is a distant cousin of the motion picture.  Speaking of great opera composers, who could forget how Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries added ironic poignancy to Francis Ford Coppola’s Viet Nam epic, Apocalypse Now?  Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture helped put considerable oomph in the climatic revolution ofV For Vendetta, and Woody Allen’s love of Gershwin and his Rhapsody in Blue helped to illuminate the skyline of Manhattan.  While it’s true that many of these composers are currently decomposing, their music lives on in the magic of the movies. Click the classic composer or click here.

Remembering Michael Kamen

His name may not conjure the recognition of Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, David Bowie, or Metallica, but without Michael Kamen and his insightful orchestration and inventive arrangements, these artists wouldn't have garnered the success and popularity that they continue to enjoy to this day.  A graduate of New York's prestigious Julliard music school,  Kamen began scoring films in the mid-70's, and became a premiere action composer for 80's films like DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPON.  His versatility shown through, however, and he found himself writing music for the 1991 swashbuckler, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, followed by THE THREE MUSKETEERS in 1993.  His heartfelt and awe-inspiring music for MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS inspired a charitable organization of the same name, and his music for the small screen, FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON and BAND OF BROTHERS received critical acclaim.  Although he passed away in November of 2003, Michael Kamen's music continues to touch listeners around the globe.

His name may not conjure the recognition of Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, David Bowie, or Metallica, but without Michael Kamen and his insightful orchestration and inventive arrangements, these artists wouldn’t have garnered the success and popularity that they continue to enjoy to this day.  A graduate of New York’s prestigious Julliard music school,  Kamen began scoring films in the mid-70’s, and became a premiere action composer for 80’s films like DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPON.  His versatility shown through, however, and he found himself writing music for the 1991 swashbuckler, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, followed by THE THREE MUSKETEERS in 1993.  His heartfelt and awe-inspiring music for MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS inspired a charitable organization of the same name, and his music for the small screen, FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON and BAND OF BROTHERS received critical acclaim.  Although he passed away in November of 2003, Michael Kamen’s music continues to touch listeners around the globe. Click on Michael’s Picture or download here.

War of The Worlds 2012

88.3 FM WXOU and Cinema Serenade proudly present the 8th annual presentation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, a LIVE radio dramatization airing from 2-4pm on Wednesday, October 31st. Celebrate Halloween with some of WXOU’s finest DJs as they bring to life the Mercury Theatre’s ultimate broadcast, famously responsible for breeding a climate of mass hysteria across the country in 1938.  Hear every word of it live before your very ears, on the Michigan Association of Broadcasters College Radio Station of the Year.

Cinema Serenade 10-28-2012 Vampires, Witches, and Monsters with Stitches

Dracula is perhaps the most photographed story in film history, beginning in 1921 with F.W. Murnau’s  NOSFERATU, followed by Bela Lugosi’s immortal portrayal of the character a decade later for the Universal film directed by Todd Browning.  After the count’s breath-taking box office debut, FRANKENSTEIN was just around the corner, and a blood-curdling Technicolor series of films starring both characters appeared throughout the 50’s and 60’s courtesy of the British Hammer Horror Studio.  DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN were lavishly re-imagined by Francis Ford Coppola in the early 90’s, and featured the heart-stopping and passionate music of Wojiech Kilar and Patrick Doyle, respectively.  As for our covenant of witches, John Williams supplied a fanciful and enchanting score for THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK in 1987, and Bette Midler belts out Screamin’ J Hawkin’s “I Put a Spell On You” in 1993’s HOCUS POCUS.  It’s enough music to shake a broomstick at, or, at the very least, sink your teeth into!

1.) “Carriage without a Driver” from DRACULA (1931)

Music by Philip Glass, performed by Kronos Quartet

2.) “Cry Little Sister” from THE LOST BOYS

Music by Gerard McMann 

3.) “The Creation” from MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN

Music by Patrick Doyle

4.) “The Dance of the Witches” from THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK

Music by John Williams

5.) “I Put A Spell on You” from HOCUS POCUS

performed by Bette Midler, written by Screamin’ J Hawkins

9-19-2012 A Tribute to James Newton Howard

From Elton John keyboardist to A-list Hollywood film composer, James Newton Howard has provided well over 100 scores for directors like Lawrence Kasdan, M. Night Shyamalan, and Christopher Nolan. Nominated eight times but still no Oscar to call his own, Howard began writing music for movies in 1985; his blending of synthesizer and symphony orchestra echos the style of one of his heroes, Jerry Goldsmith, and is used prominently in some of his most famous scores including THE DARK KNIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES.  Although present at all recording sessions, Howard prefers the control room to the podium; he rarely conducts his own scores.  His association with Walt Disney Studios had yielded some of his most melodic scores, like DINOSAUR and TREASURE PLANET, and the charm, wit, and warmth found in his music for DAVE was one of the best scores of the early 90’s.  At a rate of 3 or more films a year, Newton Howard remains one of Hollywood’s most prolific modern-day film composers, and listeners around the world continue to benefit from his immeasurable talents.

1.) “Twelve Years Later” from TREASURE PLANET

Music by James Newton Howard

2.) “What Are You Asking Me?” from THE VILLAGE

Music by James Newton Howard

3.) “Main Title” from DAVE

Music by James Newton Howard

4.) “Horn of Plenty” from THE HUNGER GAMES

Music by James Newton Howard

5.) “The Egg Travels” from DINOSAUR

Music by James Newton Howard

9-12-2012 Happy Birthday Hans Zimmer!

German-born film composer Hans Zimmer’s unique blending of synthesizer with string ensemble has led him to the forefront of Hollywood’s most highly soughtafter makers of movie music.  His knack for writing exhilarating action scores garnered the attention of director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and he soon found himself writing music for THE ROCK, PEARL HARBOR, and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.  An Academy Award came his way for his efforts on THE LION KING, and he has proven to be creative visionary Christopher Nolan’s composer of choice for films like THE DARK KNIGHT and INCEPTION.  Extremely popular with the younger crowd, Zimmer’s whispers of retirement in early 2008 seem to have fallen on deaf ears, as the composer is routinely selected to write music for some of Hollywood’s most high-profile films, including the upcoming Superman sequel, THE MAN OF STEEL.  Although some have criticized his often derivative and self-admonishing style, Zimmer remains one of the best-selling soundtrack artists of all time.

1.) Suite from PIRATES OF THE CARABBEAN

Music by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer

2.) “Discombobulate” from SHERLOCK HOLMES

Music by HANS ZIMMER

3.) “Now We Are Free” from GLADIATOR

Music by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard

4.) “Paradox” from INCEPTION

Music by Hans Zimmer

5.) “Chevaliers de Sangreal” from THE DA VINCI CODE

Music by Hans Zimmer

8-22-2012 Remembering Elmer Bernstein

Remembering Elmer Bernstein

His was the music that accompanied the child-like innocence conveyed so beautifully in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and his famous march help put the spring in the step of the otherwise lethargic horses featured in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.  In the late 1950’s, composer Elmer Bernstein went from being gray-listed to Hollywood’s A-list after scoring Cecil B. DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS; a Wagnerian film score which showcased the 34-year-old composer’s ability to write dramatic and memorable melodies.  Often credited alongside fellow film composer Alex North for infusing jazz into film scores, Bernstein found himself writing music for comedies after the hugely successful NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE debuted in 1978.  The cult favorite HEAVY METAL soon followed, as did the mega hit GHOSTBUSTERS in 1984.  Bernstein scored MY LEFT FOOT free of charge in 1989, and wrote a heart-wrenching score for 2002’s FAR FROM HEAVEN; a score that proved to be the composer’s swansong.  Bernstein will be remembered for his evocative use of the French instrument known as the Ondes Martenot, and for writing music for some of the most entertaining films to have ever come out of Hollywood.

1.) Main Title from THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

Music by Elmer Bernstein

2.) Theme from GHOSTBUSTERS

Music by Elmer Bernstein

3.) Main Title from FAR FROM HEAVEN

Music by Elmer Bernstein

4.) Suite from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Music by Elmer Bernstein

5.) “The Flight” from HEAVY METAL

Music by Elmer Bernstein

7-25-2012 Music for a Dark Knight

His name instills fear in his adversaries, and thrills in the audience members who have paid to see him on the big screen for over twenty years.  Gotham City’s avenger is back after a four-year hiatus, and Cinema Serenade celebrates his return by featuring some of the greatest music ever written for a pulp fiction hero.  Aided by more than what was in his utility belt, Bob Kane’s bad boy orphan has defeated a rogues gallery of super villains whilst accompanied by the music of Danny Elfman, Elliot Goldenthal, Hans Zimmer, and James Newton Howard.  Elfman’s efforts best personified the character of Bruce Wayne – a man with many secrets –  and the dynamic heroism of his alter ego, the Caped Crusader.  Goldenthal picked up where he left off, composing a score that was much more worthy than the films they accompanied.  Zimmer and Newton Howard knew how to pack a musical punch for director Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT, especially in the absence of campy 1960s’ word bubbles. So charge your Bat mobile, dust off your grappling gun, and throw on a pair of Bat headphones!  Holy AMAZING film music, Batman!

1.) “Descent Into Mystery” from BATMAN

Music by Danny Elfman

2.) “Batman Theme Reprise” from BATMAN

Music by Danny Elfman

3.) “Main Title and Fanfare” from BATMAN FOREVER

Music by Elliot Goldenthal

4.) “Main Title” from BATMAN

Music by Danny Elfman

5.) “Molossos” from BATMAN BEGINS

Music by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard 

7-11-2012 Honing in on Horner

Fifteen years and 30 million dollars later, James Horner remains one of the most handsomely rewarded film composers of his era.  Long before he provided the music for the two most successful Hollywood films of all time, TITANIC (for which he received 1.2 dollars for every album sold) and AVATAR, James Horner was a working stiff churning out music for Roger Corman’s ultra low-budget schlock factory, New World Pictures.  With two Academy Awards to his name, and valuable associations with some of Tinseltown’s most lucrative filmmakers, Horner’s B grade days are far behind him.  Alternating between independent art-house fare and big budget blockbusters like THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, Horner’s career is rich with melody and dramatic orchestration.  He’s blasted off into space on more than one occasion, most notably with his music for APOLLO 13, and has even managed to sneak in a war film or two with GLORY and ENEMY AT THE GATES. Fans continue to appreciate his work for fantasy-based films, with KRULL and THE ROCKETEER among their very favorites.  Cinema Serenade salutes the prolific and varied career of James Horner!

1.) “Becoming Spider-man” from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Music by James Horner

2.) “Main Title and Taking Flight” from THE ROCKETEER

Music by James Horner

3.) “Main Title” from APOLLO 13

Music by James Horner

4.) Theme from GLORY

Music by James Horner, featuring the Harlem Boys Choir

5.) “Ride of the Firemares” from KRULL

Music by James Horner