For some time now I have thought of offering people interested in music for motion pictures the opportunity to listen to a film soundtrack before watching the film the better to understand how the music was actually used in the picture.
Monday, October 3,
7pm: JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS The soundtrack followed by the film. As strings had not been invented in the time period of this film Bernard Herrmann decided to create a score without them.
The Cineforum, 463 Bathurst below College Across From The Beer Store. 416-603-6643. A program like this at a college, university or film school could cost $100 or more. Donation $20 ($10 under 24)
Bonus 6pm: BERNARD HERRMANN. For those unfamiliar with Bernard Herrmann this documentary will more than fill you in. https://www.amazon.ca/Bernard-Herrmann-Music-Movies/dp/B000TJ0SB8
|CD Review by Dan Goldwasser|
One of my favorite fantasy films as a child was definitely Jason and the Argonauts. It got me interested in Greek mythology, and while that phase eventually passed, I still have a lasting affinity for the film. With Ray Harryhausen’s classic stop-motion animation, and exciting story, the film also featured orchestral underscore by Hitchcock regular Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann had previously worked on The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad andMysterious Island for producer Charles Schneer, and in writing this score, decided to get rid of all of the strings, and beef up the other instruments. The result was a powerful and dramatic score that still holds up today as an excellent example of film music.
Unfortunately, the score to Jason and the Argonauts was edited a bit in the final film, and with a mono mix combined with dialogue and sound effects, much of Herrmann’s complex orchestration and arrangement fell through the cracks. However, Intrada took it upon them, with the help of Bruce Broughton conducting the Sinfonia of London, to re-record this score as Herrmann intended. The ensuing album is a must-have item in any serious Herrmann enthusiast’s collection.
The thunderous fanfare in “Jason Prelude”, with roaring brass and timpani, contains three main themes that will be reoccurring throughout the score. It’s fantastic, and leads into the diametrically opposite “The Prophecy / The Battle” which begins out as quiet and brooding as they come. Reminiscent of Citizen Kane, the cue slowly builds into a battle sequence filled with percussion and an alternating “tug of war” between horns and bassoons. “The Feast” contains a more “period” type of dance cue, and “The Oak Grove / Ascension” features a harp solo which slowly grows into a heroic brass fanfare.
In “Departure” we hear the main theme once more, followed by a very calm – but slightly ominous “Hera’s Effigy”. “Argo” starts out with the optimistic heroic fanfare, but then slows down into a dark foreboding motif. The action in “Talos / The Boat / The Wreck” serves as a great example of why Harryhausen was the master of his craft. The pounding timpani and brass in this scene are exciting and tense. With the exception of “Hera Speaks”, the Talos attack (including the next track, “The Attack / Talos’ Heel / Talos’ Death”) runs nearly eight minutes long, and allows Herrmann an opportunity to really let the brass give their all.
“The Nets / The Rope / The Cage” is another tense action cue, while “Medea’s Ship” is in party rhythmically similar to the main title Herrmann wrote to North by Northwest. In “Medea”, we finally get a romantic theme out of the action and drama. Warm woodwinds and a French horn play out this soft and romantic cue. After a few more fight sequences (“Acastus and Jason Fight”, “The Hydra / The Hydra Fight”) we reach the pinnacle moment in the film. The teeth of the Hydra become skeletons, and in a signature Harryhousen moment, Jason and his crew battle a stop-motion skeleton attack. “Hydra’s Teeth / Skeletons / Attack” begins with low brooding rendition of the “Dies Irae”, and as the skeletons emerge, woodblocks and castanets are used effectively to “rattle” the bones. This climactic battle takes form in “Scherzo Macabre”, which is one of the more challenging and exciting cues. During the next three minutes the orchestra (literally) goes wild! With instruments seemingly bouncing back and forth with complex maneuvers, the music stopping and then starting again, and all the while building in power and intensity.
This is, quite simply, an excellent album. Broughton and the Sinfonia have done an excellent job in interpreting Herrmann’s score, and the sound quality is spot on perfect. With a running time of a tad over an hour, this is a hearty album that never gets boring. In fact, it is noted in the (mildly extensive) liner notes that very short or repetitive cues weren’t recorded for the album, which is something I wish would happen more often when re-recording film scores! Available exclusively from their website (http://www.intrada.com/), I strongly urge you to pick this album up. It will be worth it.
As a young man I was encouraged to become a writer. I saw the movies as the medium in our time print had been in the 19th century. Today, in the 21st century both print and the movies no longer interest the public. That is because the people working in both media are creating works that fail to capture an audience.
I set out to give myself the best possible education in the art, business and history of the motion picture covering all aspects of the medium from its origins until now (including porn). Along the way many others have benefited. Here are some of the ads used to promote JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. Enjoy them.
If you do not live in Toronto I have provided a link to the film’s soundtrack. You can listen to it and then watch the film. In his books TRUE AND FALSE and BAMBI VS. GODZILLA David Mamet states, “Invent nothing. Deny nothing. Stand up. Speak up. Stay out of school.” I’m with Mamet. I want only bad students. What are bad students? Henri Langlois of the Paris Cinematheque: “An art form requires genius. People of genius are always troublemakers, meaning they start from scratch, demolish accepted norms and rebuild a new world. The problem with cinema today is the dearth of troublemakers. There’s not a rabble-rouser in sight. There was still one, but he went beyond troublemaker to court jester. He clobbered the status quo. That’s Godard. We’re fresh out of “bad students.” You’ll find students masquerading as bad ones, but you won’t find the real article, because a genuine bad student upends everything.”–Reg Hartt,