04 April 2008

The Return of the iPod Ten

And you thought it was dead! Here’s another “iPod Ten,” where I jam my iPod on shuffle mode and see which ten songs pop up first. I then unwisely try to explain the random selection and hope this illuminates something about me.

Lalo Schifrin: “The Window” from The Amityville Horror (1979)
The hoax that won’t die. The original Amityville flick is a dour and boring affair (the remake is hardly better), but Schifrin’s score—based on a, eerie two-note motif using a young girl’s voices—is excellent, and he received an Academy Award nomination for it. This is an excellent suspense track.

Jerry Fielding: “Bleak Bad Big City Dawn” from The Gauntlet
The “other Jerry” from film music. Near the end of his career (he died in 1981 of a heart attack) Fielding had a productive relationship with Clint Eastwood. He composed the stunning music for The Outlaw Josey Wales (an Academy Award-nominee), followed up with The Enforcer, and then took on this 1977 actioner with a “dirty jazz” score that Clint must’ve loved. This scene-setting opening feels like a jazz-hangover; a perfect way to start the film.

Sergei Prokofiev: “The Battle on the Ice: Spears and Arrows” from Alexander Nevsky
We know him as a concert composer, but Russian maestro Prokofiev also turned out one of filmdom’s most studied and appreciated scores. Unfortunately, it was poorly recorded for the movie, and some temp piano music somehow got into the mix, but at least we have some excellent re-recordings such as this one from Leningrad. The section covers the climactic battle scenes and uses the ponderous Latin chorus singing “Peregrinus Expectavi” (“As a wanderer, I expected…”)

Jerry Goldsmith: “Something of Value” from The Wind and the Lion
You knew Jerry would show up here eventually, right? This is one of the best scores the composer ever turned out, a rollicking adventure score and an Oscar-nominee. The music here is for the quiet and introspective coda of the movie, where the composer works together the Arabian flavor with the stalwart Teddy Roosevelt theme. Beautiful, beautiful stuff. I miss Jerry sumthin’ fierce.

The Raymond Scott Quintette: “Girl at the Typewriter”
Another burst of chamber-jazz goofiness from the 1930s master of oddball jazz and cartoon archive music. Here, the six men in the quintette (no, that’s not a typo) imitate the clattering sound of a woman in a typing pool pounding away. No wonder Carl Stalling slapped Scott’s music onto WB cartoons every chance he got.

Philip Glass: “Sand Mandala” from Kundun
Hey, a timely piece of music considering the uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule! Glass provides his customary circular minimalism to the film and mixes in traditional Tibetan instruments ad throat-singers. Glass is a Buddhist as well, and he beliefs probably influence his approach to the material.

Akira Ifukube: “Meltdown” from Godzilla vs. Destoroyah
Whoa, this track lasts a whole fifteen seconds! Not the best way to get to know the brilliance of the late Ifukube and his thundering Godzilla scores. Maybe next time I’ll get a track that lasts over half-a-minute.

Count Basie and His Orchestra: “Doggin’ Around”
We have to have some swing in here someplace, and it happens to come from the greatest swing band in history during their golden era in the late 1930s. Now get up and dance! Dance! Dance, damn you!

Leonard Rosenman & The Yellowjackets: “Market Street” from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
I should point out that film music and concert composer Leonard Rosenman died recently. So it saddens me to say that this is my least favorite of the Star Trek movie scores. This particular piece is some mid-‘80s pop schlock for when the Enterprise crew walks down Market Street in modern-day San Francisco. It’s here because I’m a completist. That’s the best I can offer.

Michael Nyman: “Not the Only One” from Gattaca
Having both Nyman and Glass on the same list must mean my iPod got trapped in minimalist mode. Nyman’s work has a warmer sound than much of Glass’s output, which explains why he does more films, but he has a very similar repetitive style. It services the sterile futurism of Gattaca very well.