If you love film music there are soundtracks you should know about that had a major influence on popular culture. We take for granted some music writing styles and sounds nowadays as if they were brand new and fresh, but the influential works they were sometimes shaped from get few or no acknowledgement. Let’s give them their due as they have lasting effect on modern works.
A major example: there’s always been some interesting discussion about George Lucas use of the temporary music cues put on the film work print (as potential examples for what was needed) for Star Wars: a New Hope (1977). What we call temp tracks. The work print given to composer John Williams included cues from contemporary composer Gustav Holst’s The Planets and music from Hollywood 1940’s film King’s Row scored by Viennese born Erich Wolfgang Korngold, one of the early Hollywood film music composers.
I’ve heard through the years people use the word plagiarist while comparing the two scores which is not fair. A great composer on his own terms, Williams,with a great range of variety in his work (see his more jazz oriented work for Robert Altman for instance) is one of the major composers who came out of Hollywood and in his turn he has a lasting effect.
Lucas hired Williams bearing in mind Hollywood’s golden age with its full romantic large scale orchestral scores of the likes composed by Korngold but also fellow American Alfred Newman, the creator of the famous Fox Fanfare that opened all the Star Wars franchise prior to Disney’s involvement. He was also Williams boss as head of Fox Music department and would endorse him right from the beginning as well as for other younger and promising talents including Jerry Goldsmith and Bernard Herrmann. Other scoring works that would be a reference regarding what Lucas had in mind should include Austrian composer Max Steiner works (he was a pupil of Mahler). Early in his film career Steiner gave us, the magnificent score to King Kong (1933) one of the first great scores of the beginning of the sound era, followed closely by German musician Franz Waxman’s master work for The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). This group of greats, including Korngold, is sometime dubbed The godfathers of Film music. Of Korngold, Composer and colleague Hugo Friedhofer said : He was the first to write film music in long lines, great flowing chunks, that contained the ebb and flow of mood and action, and the feeling of the picture. He helped, with this select group, to shape film music language.
A great way to discover Korngold (and feel the link with Williams work on Star Wars) is a Re-recording of his most famous film works, made in 2002 on the Deutsch Gramophone classical label, titled: Previn Conducts Korngold. The orchestra on the recording is the London Symphony Orchestra, the same as the Star Wars Trilogy, under the direction of famous Andre Previn. It contains highlights of four scores to Errol Flynn starred swashbucklers. There is fascinating similarities between both works and the influence can be heard right from the beginning. A great recording.
Yours to discover (along the OST to King’s Row, King Kong and The Bride of Frankenstein)
For Williams Korngold Comparison (here):