My taste in music has evolved over the years. As a teen growing up in London, England, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I gravitated toward rock music when it first emerged on the music scene with Bill Haley and the Comets, then Elvis Presley all the way through The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and other British musicians of that era, like Eric Clapton, many of whom are still going strong.
But as I have grown older, my musical tastes have shifted to classical music. While that has not meant purchasing that many CDs, my car radio is always tuned to Classical Minnesota Public Radio when I am out and about.
I was exposed to classical music as a child because my parents enjoyed listening to it on the radio; the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) had one channel just for classical music, often broadcasting live or recorded concerts by one of the BBC orchestras and others, and still does I believe.
Indeed, when I was seven or eight and on holiday with my parents at a south coast resort in England, I recall them taking me to a concert. My lone memory of that evening, but one that has stuck with me all these years, was the final piece of music played, “Bolero’ by Maurice Ravel. It got my attention then and has remained a favorite of mine ever since. Among the record collection from my youth, which I still have, is one of the first LP (long playing) records that I bought. It was not a rock song, but rather a 1950s recording of Gustav Holst’s “Planets Suite” performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent.
But my evolvement from rock to classical music can also be traced to the fact that I have always enjoyed movie music and in the days of my frequent movie going when I was in my teens and 20s, the music was often as enjoyable as the movie itself, sometimes more so.
Nowadays, I will often turn on the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) to watch a old movie (anything from the 1930s through the 1980s) to listen to the music score as many as see the movie itself.
Almost all those scores were symphonic in nature and some classical music composers, for example, Americans Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein and Russians Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich wrote music for the movies.
And in the case of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, one of the most prolific movie composers of the 1930s and 1940s, his “Violin Concerto,” is one of the staples of the classical music violin repertoire.
Korngold wrote almost all his movie scores for Warner Bros. so did Max Steiner, who was still writing scores into the 1960s, although probably Steiner’s most famous movie score, “Gone With The Wind,” was for an MGM release. In those early days, composers were often under contract to one studio, much like actors and actresses. Alfred Newman at 20th Century Fox and Victor Young at Paramount were other examples.
Others, however, were not tied to a specific studio. They freelanced, but often were used for multiple films by the same director. A case in point is the legendary Bernard Herrmann, who first broke on the scene when he scored Orson Welles’ early movies like “The Magnificent Ambersons” and “Citizen Kane” and then wrote the music for Alfred Hitchcock’s movies from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s, “Psycho,” “North By Northwest” and “Vertigo” being memorable, not just for the movies, but the scores, too.
There are many other great composers of movie scores – Dmitri Tiomkin, Franz Waxman, Elmer Bernstein, Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith, Lalo Schifrin, Maurice Jarre, Miklos Rosza and John Barry, who ironically started his music career as a rock musician in Britain in the 1950s – to name but a few. And in more recent times, composers James Horner, Danny Elfman, Howard Shore, Rachel Portman and, in particular, John Williams, who has won numerous Oscars, spring to mind.
But in these days of blockbuster action movies with all the special effects, music takes much more of a back seat, which is a pity. Movie scores at their best not only enhance the mood and story of the movie, but can be memorable on their own.