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Friday, July 30, 1999 Published at 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK


Films score Proms first

The Star Wars music by John Williams provides the grand finale

By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

Film music has come to the BBC's Promenade Concerts for the first time, in recognition of the huge cultural impact cinema has made on the century.

This season, a special concert has been devoted entirely to the film score, presented by actor and film-maker Richard Attenborough.

[ image: Peter O'Toole in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia]
Peter O'Toole in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia
Called 100 Years of Film Music, the evening, conducted by film composers Carl Davis and George Fenton, celebrates the invaluable contribution music has made to some of the most glorious moments in film history.

And starting with silent movies through to the blockbusters of the present day, the line-up takes in many magical and memorable scores, including those from Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, Schindler's List, Psycho, Star Wars and Gone with the Wind.

[ image:  ]
The organisers of this year's 105th Proms - normally devoted to classical music - realised that, over the years, the value of the film score, and its composers, may have been overlooked and decided to put on this concert.

Not surprisingly, however, choosing 14 pieces of work out of 100 years of cinema was not easy.

But if you consider the music in the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho, just one of their choices, it's not hard to understand the message of the night - that shower scene just wouldn't be the same without the high-pitched, staccato string score.

Emotional relationship

"Psycho is an example where the tension in the film is unremitting and a large part of this is due to Bernard Herrmann's score," explains Proms Administrator Stephen Maddock.

He continues: "He was one of the great film composers of the century, also writing the music for Citizen Kane. But in Psycho he wrote this very intense score only for a string orchestra, which also complemented the restricted black and white format of the film."

[ image: Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho: The score by Bernard Herrmann is an all-time great]
Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho: The score by Bernard Herrmann is an all-time great
In fact, the relationship between the music and picture in films is so vital that it can mean the difference between winning an Oscar or just remaining a nominee.

George Fenton, 49, has been a film composer for more than 20 years. He has written the music to many of Richard Attenborough's most moving box office hits, including Shadowlands and Cry Freedom - both of which he is conducting on the night.

Fenton is only too aware of the responsibility placed on those in his profession:

[ image: George Fenton says film composers hold a lot of responsibility]
George Fenton says film composers hold a lot of responsibility
"A lot of emotional film-making comes from the view of the camera and the music is there to enforce that view and provide fluidity. It is an intrinsic mechanism in film-making," he explains.

He also feels that John Williams, composer for many of director Steven Spielberg's blockbusting successes including Star Wars and Schindler's List, is a master at his art.

"I like John Williams's music, he revived the potential of using orchestral scores and has done so much for the film industry. The small way he works, like music under dialogue, is so masterful and in the case of Schindler's List, he gave a really emotional, serious score."

Social importance

Another crucial relationship in film-making is that between the composer and the director.

And, says Fenton, many of the memorable pieces featured in the Proms film night have come about due to the instant meeting of minds between the two.

[ image: Lord Attenborough: Has worked closely with George Fenton]
Lord Attenborough: Has worked closely with George Fenton
"John Williams's career wouldn't be what it is without Spielberg, and Schindler's List in particular spoke to him in a special way," he explains.

He adds: "Similarly, Maurice Zarre's career wouldn't be what it is without David Lean, nor Herrmann's without Hitchcock. And my career wouldn't be the same without Richard Attenborough."

The concert illustrates, with Carl Davis's orchestral score for the silent epic Napoleon, how music was originally used to tell the story, and that emotional impact and clever devices were a luxury.

Over the century, the film composer has had to work harder to make an impact as sophisticated movie technology has made films more realistic and graphic.

[ image: Shadowlands with actor Anthony Hopkins]
Shadowlands with actor Anthony Hopkins
Fenton points out that these advancements have helped to bring film music to a wider audience.

"As a society we are very music orientated and more and more people buy film soundtracks. There are even university courses now for those who want to write film music.

He concludes: "Music will always be vital to cinema because audiences would just never feel comfortable unless it was there."

The 100 Years of Film Music Proms concert takes place on Saturday 31 July from 20.00BST at London's Royal Albert Hall.

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