Mamoulian, The Drunken Woman in the Other Room, and Laura Conducted by John Wilson

“You know I directed Laura.” said Mr. Mamoulian to me matter-of-factly.

See, here’s the thing. I had been under the impression, ever since I was a kid and actually read the listing in TV Guide, that the director of Laura was a guy named Otto Preminger. But here was The Old Man sitting knee to knee with me, announcing right out that he was—what’s the Variety word?the helmer of that glamorous but nutsy picture with Gene Tierney.

So what did I do?

I was twenty-three. I was on a job. I nodded.

(more later)



The Trolley Song by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine, Orchestrated by Conrad Salinger

Co-composer Blaine once said that he’d been glancing at a book he’d found at the Beverly Hills Public Library, landed on a page about early streetcars captioned “Clang, Clang, Clang, Went the Trolley”, and bang was off to the races.

Orchestrator for this song—as well as the entire MGM Judy Garland musical Meet Me in St Louis—was Conrad Salinger. As producer Hugh Fordin wrote:

Salinger’s arrangement was a masterpiece. It conveyed all the colour, the motion, the excitement that was eventually going to be seen on the screen. With the remaining numbers and the background scoring for this film as well as all the work he was to do thereafter, Salinger always maintained sonority and texture in his writing, which made his a very special sound and style that has never been equalled in the American movie musical.

Orchestrator/arranger/conductor Jack Campey pointed to this clip highlighting Salinger’s orchestration, sans vocals. Thanks, Jack.

The Death Star and Dambusters, Conducted by John Wilson

A grand movie score by the prolific Eric Coates, very inspiring and very English. This is the kind of piece that cues you to proudly fly the Union Jack, which obviously some chap did, right in the middle of Royal Albert Hall. I’m guessing this is some sort of tradition. Normally I wouldn’t have chosen this clip, but the Proms included the famous climactic shots from The Dambusters—you know, the movie George Lucas ripped off when he did Star Wars. Not the Death Star down there, though, it’s the Eder Dam in the heart of Nazi Germany. (Starts at 6:00.)

How Carl Stalling and Looney Tunes Influenced a Generation of Composers

In following the visual logic of screen action rather than the traditional rules of musical form (development, themes, variation, etc), Carl Stalling created a radical compositional arc unprecedented in the history of music. All the basic musical elements are there, but they are broken into shards, a constantly changing kaleidoscope of styles, forms, melodies, quotations. ~John Zorn, Composer

Thanks to Royal College alum David Bruce for his mini-lesson.

Catholics Surrounded by Lutherans and Some Conducting by John Wilson

Wishing you two clean and ready handkerchiefs every concert day, John.

On what would have been my dad’s 113th birthday I’d like to remember one of the few times he and I actually went to the movies together. This time we went to see, first run, the warrior epic Taras Bulba (1962, screenplay by blacklisted writer Waldo Salt) on the recommendation of my girlfriend Tamara’s mother, who emigrated from Lviv after the war and was a booster for All Things Ukrainian. (A survivor of Axis bombings, she had a lot in common with my mom.) Our neighborhood was made up mostly of Catholics from everywhere, Italian, Ukrainian, Polish, Filipinos. Of course the Lutherans were all around us but being mostly Swedes, they had their own heritage too. And at Christmas, all that pepparkakor—num.

As for “Ride of the Cossacks”, there’s a rather thrilling ostinato toward the end.

Patrick Doyle’s Much Ado About Nothing

This is as lush and grand as Korngold, or at least Richard Rodney Bennett. Anyone know if it’s been concertized, like Bennett’s Murder on the Orient Express?

Update, 6 June 2018: A sympathetic correspondent tells me that Doyle’s music for Much Ado About Nothing was, in fact, concertized way back in 2007 at the Proms and sent me the link (starts at 7:30). Oh my. Look who’s here.