Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

CD Series Reveals the Pleasures of 'Unheard' Classic Film Scores

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

CD Series Reveals the Pleasures of 'Unheard' Classic Film Scores

Article excerpt

One of the most thoughtful books about film music is called "Unheard Melodies." That title highlights the common idea that a good score contributes to the overall movie without calling attention to itself, particularly in the case of dramatic films.

According to this popular wisdom, the audience may watch an entire film without even noticing the music, except during the credits when there's little else going on. That may be true in many cases, but it has two unfortunate effects.

For one, music sets the story's emotional tone. Ignoring it means being less alert to how the filmmakers manipulate our responses from one moment to the next.

For the other, good movie music is good music, period. To let it pass through one ear and out the other is to overlook - or underhear - some of the most interesting and engaging modern compositions.

All of which makes it a pleasure to salute the Nonesuch Film Music Series, a new project launched by one of the most adventurous record companies in the business. The first four CDs in this enterprise make an exciting package, recalling fond memories of classic films.

Soundtrack recordings are nothing new, of course, but the producers of this series have taken several steps to raise it above the crowd. Instead of spinning out all the music from a single movie or weaving selected fragments ("cues") into stand-alone compositions, these discs present carefully chosen cues as they were written and originally played.

In addition, the CDs include music previously unreleased in stereo. Nonesuch worked directly with the composers (or their estates) to ensure the authenticity of the finished products.

Following are brief descriptions of the debut discs:

* Alex North pioneered Hollywood's use of symphonic jazz in his score for "A Streetcar Named Desire," enhancing the movie with pieces he thought of as "mental statements" based on the evolving psychology of the characters. …

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