Friday, 18 October 2013

KM Show, 21 Oct 2013: 1982

This is the script to my slot in Kevin Markwick's weekly film & music show on Uckfield 105 FM, Mondays at 9pm

The 1980s are now well underway. All sorts of musical risk-taking is going on, not only in film but also in stand-alone pop music. Novelty is the thing, with synthesizers everywhere. If electronics in a film like Chariots of Fire was a surprise, it surely seemed much more natural in science fiction.

In 1982 you could take your pick. There’s Maurice Jarre’s music for the Cold War action thriller Firefox, to the original Tron movie with music by Wendy Carlos, who had provided some music for The Shining. Both are conventionally scored but interestingly processed. For all-out synthetic opulence however, there’s no contest. The full dystopian wonder of a privatised future rolls out in the glowing static of Vangelis’ score to Blade Runner.

If there’s one thing linking these films beside the music, it’s a sense of social dread. Someone else is taking control. For example, Alan Parker’s film version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall sticks Bob Geldof in the middle of a domestic Orwellian nightmare.
It’s also very much the case in Sophie’s Choice, a wistful love story that looks back with great pain at a personal story of loss as Nazi Germany carried out its Final Solution. Sophie’s Choice uses a number of tracks from the classical canon from Beethoven to Johann Strauss’ Waltzes.

This music’s in a funny position though, representing the period rather than having a say of its own. Instead, the real emotional content comes in a simple romantic score from the late Martin Hamlisch.

This determinedly American, pastoral music is in a different tradition to the rest. Like much mainstream American classical music of the mid-Twentieth century it looks back wistfully but with optimism. As such the music represents Stingo, the young writer and narrator of the film, rather than the titular Sophie; we’re not asked to assimilate ourselves with her heavy memories but rather with the young man’s compassion. Thank goodness!

Now, in case you thought that classical music was in danger of being boxed up and forgotten about in this brave, new, modern decade, how about this to start a movie:

No teasing, thumping or over-familiar here, just ardent, rich music of great beauty, moving steadily forward. Indeed the very first shot of this film, Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, is of a Brahmin-like body of water flowing with all the inexorability of life, just right for a rite-of-passage epic. The music is from a Schumann Piano Quintet and though it may be as intimate as John Williams’s ET score (which we heard last week) is grand, it carries equal romance and vision. It’s music that’s alive and thriving, just like the cinema.

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