Listen to Tom talking about film music
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Over the years I’ve taken part in the recording of many film scores, but the very first was more significant than I then realised. In 1986, and very much a new boy in the profession - I'd been a member of the London Philharmonic only for some months - I turned up at CTS studios for four days of recording. The film was Roland Joffé’s award winning “The Mission”, with its beautiful and haunting score by Ennio Morricone.
Many of the processes of the craft have changed since that time. For instance, I remember the film rushes were projected onto a huge screen at the back of the studio and nothing more than a large stopwatch-cum-clock was used by Morricone to synchronise music to action as he conducted the sessions. (Indeed, CTS studios themselves are no longer there – having made way for the new Wembley stadium.) What remains the same though, and what really struck me during those sessions, is the huge difference with playing or recording concert repertoire. Here, with film music, the tiniest nuance was weighed and measured until it achieved exactly the effect desired with the picture; timing could be minutely adjusted, the orchestration subtly changed and the players asked for a seemingly endless range of colours and tone.
Sometimes the same few seconds of music could be chewed over for hours. This was a real eye-opener for me. I must have been struggling at the time to get used to the torrent of music in the orchestra’s symphonic repertoire and yet here was music that presented no real technical difficulties yet took nearly a week to record. I don’t think I really knew then just how wonderful Morricones’s music was. The fact that today I can instantly recall the main melody form the score is one thing; quite another is how the music functions with the movie, crystallising one’s emotions without ever seeming to impose itself over what one is seeing.
Since that induction into the film world I’ve been lucky to work closely with many eminent film composers, contributing to a wide variety of scores and films.