To prepare for the Academy Awards Concert I’m giving on Maui, I thought about the different kinds of music used in movies.
Over the years, I’ve collected quite a portfolio of music to suit all occasions. Music from movies, in particular, fits well as background and foreground music. I’ve used several in my most recent concert on Valentine’s Day, for love songs proliferate radio, TV, and cinema.
To precede tomorrow’s Academy Awards ceremony, I decided to put together a concert of movie themes.
At first, I selected works I have and love. These include classical pieces that existed well before their being chosen for the movies. Chopin’s famous posthumous nocturne in C-sharp minor was used in “The Pianist” and Rachmaninoff’s piano solo from the “18th Variation on a Theme of Paganini” was played many times in the movie “Somewhere in Time.” More recently, Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” was strategically placed in “Twilight.” There are countless classical works that preceded the movies and whose composers, long dead, never saw the light of day to receive royalties or recognition. Yet somehow these movies revive those classical works, bringing them new context and new audiences.
That was my initial idea — to introduce instrumental music that inherit new meaning as a result of their selection and placement in movies. After hearing Bach’s harpsichord concerto in “Hannah and Her Sisters” one may associate that piece only with that movie, for instance.
To counter pre-existent music chosen for film, I intended to also play music written specifically for movies which take on a life of their own. For instance, Whitney Houston made Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” more famous than the original version and the movie it was used in — “The Body Guard.” It stands separately as a song in its own right. Other songs written for film have gone to hit the charts as singles the world over.
Then there is the specific genre of so-called “film music.” You’d recognise it when you hear it. Some of my fellow composition classmates at the KMT (Kunst Media Technologie in Hilversum, Netherlands) wrote such music and aspired to continue doing so after they graduated. I was impressed how they, after only a few years of study, managed to score orchestral music that echoed a familiarity not distant from James Horner and John Williams. For many composers, film music is the breeding ground for new compositions.
When I sat down to put together my one hour programme for tomorrow afternoon’s concert, I discovered that I had enough music to cover just the Oscar winners of best original score and song. There was no need to include the nominees that did not win or works that did not get nominated or works of movies that did not get nominated at all.
I wanted to play Dan Coates’ wonderful piano solo arrangement of “Miss Celie’s Blues” from the movie “The Color Purple.” But that 1985 nomination lost to “Say You, Say Me” from “White Knights.” In the end, I decided that I really should propose another concert — Music from Movies for Mother’s Day — to include all those works I had prepared but discarded for tomorrow’s Oscars.
The programme for the Academy Awards Concert at Roselani Place in Maui goes as follows:
- 70th Academy Awards Winner of Best Original Score – 1997 – “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic
- 65th Winner – 1992 – “A Whole New World” from Aladdin
- 54th Winner – 1981 – “Arthur’s Theme: Best That You Can Do” from Arthur
- 49th Winner – 1976 – “Evergreen” from A Star is Born
- 46th Winner – 1973 – “The Way We Were” from The Way We Were
- 43rd Winner – 1970 – “Love Story” from Love Story
- 42nd Winner – 1969 – “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- 38th Winner – 1965 – “Lara’s Theme” from Doctor Zhivago
- 38th Winner – 1965 – (Scoring of Music – adaptation or treatment) The Sound of Music
- 29th Winner – 1956 – “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” from The Man Who Knew Too Much
- 12th Winner – 1939 – “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz
I have several arrangements of “Over the Rainbow” – from Dan Coates’ arpeggiated piano solo to a jazzy soul version, one by Keith Jarrett, and ultimately, the ukelele version by Iz which stayed at number 1 in Germany for 12 non-consecutive weeks in 2010. It’s a nice way to end an afternoon in central Maui.