Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde by David Huckvale

4959eaa4bc461f3-261x361.jpg Author David Huckvale
Isbn 786434562
File size 4.5MB
Year 2008
Pages 235
Language English
File format PDF
Category cinema


Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde ALSO BY DAVID HUCKVALE James Bernard, Composer to Count Dracula: A Critical Biography (McFarland, 2006) Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde DAVID HUCKVALE McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Jefferson, North Carolina, and London LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGUING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA Huckvale, David. Hammer film scores and the musical avant-garde / David Huckvale. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references, discography, and index. ISBN 978-0-7864-3456-5 softcover : 50# alkaline paper 1. Motion picture music — History and criticism. 2. Avant-garde (Music) 3. Horror films— History and criticism. 4. Hammer Film Productions. I. Title. ML2075.H83 2008 781.5'42 — dc22 2008016260 British Library cataloguing data are available ©2008 David Huckvale. All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. On the cover: Oliver Reed and Yvonne Romain in The Curse of the Werewolf, ¡96¡; (background) Benjamin Frankel’s manuscript score for the film (courtesy of Xenia Frankel) Manufactured in the United States of America McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640 www.mcfarlandpub.com To Andrew McMillan This page intentionally left blank Acknowledgments I’m happy to confess from the start that it was really through film in general — and Hammer Films in particular — that the emotive power of orchestral music made its first significant impact on me. Film, like society, has changed a great deal since the time of Hammer’s heyday — and not necessarily for the better. Bigger budgets, digital technology and changing tastes have brought much but taken even more away. Low budgets force those who suffer under them to be even more ingenious, and nowhere is that ingenuity more apparent than in the astonishing succession of scores that Hammer and its rival, Amicus, commissioned from leading British composers of the day. I therefore owe these films a great debt of gratitude for making my life so much more interesting (especially from a musical point of view) than it would have been without them. I also owe many thanks to the following individuals who have so generously helped me with this tribute to Hammer’s adventurous music policy: Hammer’s late, great musical supervisor, Philip Martell, who opened so many doors for me; the composers— David Bedford, the late James Bernard, John Cacavas, Tristram Cary, Paul Glass, John McCabe, the late Buxton Orr, the late Harry Robinson, Gerard Schurmann, and Mike Vickers; Max Charles Davies, who worked on the musical examples; and all those who have so generously helped me with illustrations and other matters of copyright: Lionel Cummings, Katie van Dyke, Eike Fess of the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna, Xenia Frankel, Geraldine Haese of the University of Adelaide, Marcus Hearn, Christopher Hughes, Dimitri Kennaway, Jeremy Lees, Lady Mary Lees, Anthony Lustigman, F.C.A., Lewis Mitchell of Josef Weinberger Ltd., Lesley Reid, Phillipa Saraceno, Fiona Searle, Victoria Small of Chester Music/Novello & Co., Philip Venables of the University of York Music Press, Ltd., and Samuel Wilcock of Novello and Co., Ltd. I’d also like to thank my parents, Iris and John, Gail-Nina Anderson, Anthony Sellors and Ian Spiby for their continuing support and friendship. vii This page intentionally left blank Table of Contents Acknowledgments Introduction vii 1 O N E . Maestros (John Hollingsworth, Marcus Dodds and Philip Martell) T W O . The Horror from Vienna (Arnold Schoenberg) T H R E E . Serial Killer (Benjamin Frankel) F O U R . Modified Modernism (Humphrey Searle and Elisabeth Lutyens) F I V E . The Uncanny (Richard Rodney Bennett) S I X . Romantics (Harry Robinson and James Bernard) S E V E N . Prehistoric Modernism (Mario Nascimbene and Tristram Cary) E I G H T . Australian Menace (Don Banks and Malcolm Williamson) N I N E . Modern Gothic (Mike Vickers and John Cacavas) T E N . Catching Up with the Future (Paul Glass) E L E V E N . Television Terror (John McCabe, Paul Patterson and David Bedford) 189 Conclusion Glossary of Musical Terms Select Discography Select Bibliography Index 204 207 211 213 215 ix 7 25 38 54 71 88 115 133 154 178 This page intentionally left blank Introduction Hammer films have been interpreted in a variety of ways over the years since their remarkable success in the late 1950s, throughout the 1960s and up to the early 1970s, but their relation to the musical avant-garde has attracted much less critical attention. The release of several CDs in the 1990s, and, more recently, the first complete recording of Benjamin Frankel’s serial score for The Curse of the Werewolf (dir. Terence Fisher, 1961), have begun to reveal the full richness of the music that Hammer commissioned from composers at the cutting edge of musical modernism. My biography of James Bernard,1 Hammer’s most celebrated and prolific composer, pointed out the many innovative musical effects he incorporated into his predominantly Romantic style, and I will return to some of them in chapter six, alongside the music of Harry Robinson, but what particularly concerns me in this book is how Hammer films in particular encouraged an interaction between popular culture and composers who were also active in the world of avant-garde concert music. The horror film is one of the most popular and certainly the most persistent of all film genres, and Hammer’s contribution to this genre was of international importance, not simply because of the company’s innovative approach to filmmaking, but also because Hammer commissioned a group of leading British composers to write music for its films at a time when the European avant-garde was changing the language and style of music as a whole. The tensions between high and popular art, in some circles no longer so important as they were before postmodernism shook up traditional categorizations of culture, were nonetheless very apparent at the time that Hammer and its principal competitor, Amicus, scored their horror film successes in the 1960s, and it would be fair to argue that it is on the soundtracks of these companies’ hugely popular films that some of the most significant interfaces between avantgarde musical developments and popular culture are to be found. In this respect they were extremely influential —far more so than any more overtly “intellectual” platform — not only in disseminating a new musical aesthetic, but also, as we shall see, in simultaneously undermining it. Popular film, particularly the popular Romanticism that was a staple of Hammer’s output, certainly 1 2 Introduction absorbed aspects of the musical avant-garde, but by contextualizing it in such a way, one could either claim Hammer as a champion of musical modernism or as one of the forces that helped to derail it. Possibly both. It’s certainly the case that the vast majority of people who experienced the music of such films as The Curse of the Werewolf, Paranoiac (dir. Freddie Francis, 1963), The Nanny (dir. Seth Holt, 1965) and even the TV episodes that Hammer made in the 1980s would hardly have been attracted to spending an evening listening to the concert music of Benjamin Frankel, Elisabeth Lutyens, Richard Rodney Bennett or Paul Patterson; and yet people with no particular interest in contemporary music were nonetheless experiencing it, often without being fully aware of its impact. For my own part, even though I experienced these films first on television in the mid–1970s, I too am indebted to those composers for introducing me to a wide variety of musical styles. Hammer, particularly in its later films, also blended elements of pop and jazz with both avant-garde and nineteenthcentury Romantic musical idioms. The horror film soundtrack was indeed a melting pot of opposing musical cultures, and could be claimed as part of what the American composer Gunther Schuller in 1957 termed the Third Stream (the fusion of jazz and classical style), of which later Hammer composer Don Banks was also an advocate in his concert works. Dates are always helpful. In 1954, Pierre Boulez, then leader of the European musical avant-garde, premiered his cantata for mezzo-soprano and six instruments setting for René Char’s surrealist poetry collection, Le Marteau sans Maître (“The Hammer without a Master”). Boulez’ total or integral serial style, in which not only the pitches follow a preordained order but also all the dynamic markings, aimed to remove personal emotion from music and make it a totally cerebral affair. By these means, Boulez hoped to overthrow the past and create a brave new anti-emotional, anti–Romantic world. Boulez’ music is consequently of extreme complexity, being not only notoriously difficult to perform but also very challenging to listen to. Many avant-garde composers applied Boulez’ techniques to their own music, priding themselves on composing without being personally involved in the process. However, as the composer and academic Reginald Smith-Brindle has pointed out, creating a new system of composition and a new set of aesthetic criteria doesn’t necessarily result in the creation of great art.2 New systems alone are not enough. They must be mastered and used for musical rather than merely cerebral means, and even then they may fail to attract a significant audience. In December 1954, roughly two months after the premiere of Boulez’ Le Marteau sans Maître, at the Donaueschingen Festival of Contemporary Music, the Master of Hammer Films, Sir James Carreras, gave the go-ahead for filming to begin on a feature-length adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s television serial The Quatermass Experiment (dir. Val Guest, 1955). Instead of embracing the brave new world of the future as Boulez wanted, this film followed the path of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and concentrated, instead, on popular anxieties Introduction 3 about science in the post-war, atomic age. Hammer went on to make two more science fiction films before turning its attention to Mary Shelley’s novel in earnest, with the first of what eventually became a series of seven Frankenstein films, the last of which appeared in 1973. Boulez, in stark contrast, was still reiterating his position in 1972, insisting that he wanted most of all to change the attitude of audiences to music and culture in general. He believed that musical life had become a museum culture, preserving the past at the expense of the present. His metaphor was that of a deadening shadow cast by the huge tree of the past. For him, as for the forward-looking Frankenstein so criticized by Mary Shelley, modern society had become more interested in preserving the old than creating the new. He drew comparisons with the decadence of the Romans in the third and fourth centuries B.C., and went on to suggest that it wasn’t enough to merely add a moustache to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, as the Dada artist Marcel Duchamp had once famously shocked the establishment by so doing. Boulez wanted to go one step further; he argued that the contemporary artist should destroy the Mona Lisa altogether. He later defended this really rather silly and immature incitement to hooliganism by explaining that what he had really meant was that audiences should stop revering the past. Such reverence, he believed, stifled what was new.3 But it’s arguable if any culture can completely sever the umbilical cord that connects it to the past and still communicate meaningfully without a shared tradition and vocabulary. Popular culture has never done that, and this is perhaps why film music, which absorbs so many different styles, reaches a much larger audience than so much contemporary concert music. The Quatermass Experiment was the first film score by James Bernard, and with only strings and percussion at his disposal he brought some remarkably avant-garde sounds of his own to the audiences who sat, terrified, in their cinema seats. Though Bernard was not an advocate or an admirer of serialism, let alone Boulez’ particular variety, his score for Quatermass nonetheless anticipated another trend that would become very fashionable in contemporary music circles in the 1960s. This was the tone cluster, a technique eventually made famous by Polish composer Krzystof Penderecki. As Bernard himself explained: I give full marks to Hammer and to Anthony Hinds [producer of The Quatermass Experiment], because he encouraged this. They never raised their eyebrows at the comparative weirdness of the sounds. I’d never even heard of Penderecki at that stage. In fact, I’ve always found atonal and twelve-note music to be unappealing. I have a thing against it, but then I found myself doing the same kind of thing — it was the sort of sound I needed for the film — all from nobody’s influence.4 From a purely cinematic point of view, Bernard’s approach anticipated Bernard Herrmann’s music for Psycho (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1960). For that film, 4 Introduction Herrmann exploited the clash of false relations and major and minor seconds just as Bernard had done before him. In The Quatermass Experiment Bernard also created considerably advanced tone clusters out of superimposed sevenths on tremolo strings, an effect that makes a great impression when the astronaut Victor Carroon (played by Richard Wordsworth) reaches out for a vase of flowers while lying in a hospital bed during the fourth reel of the film. And for the death of the giant half-man, half-vegetable monster Carroon eventually becomes at the end of the film, Bernard instructed his string players to play on the wrong side of the bridge of their instruments. His marking, grottesco, sums up the effect of the sound they created — a sound that he would go on to use for the immolation of so many Hammer monsters in the future. Bernard later tried his hand at a serial concert piece in the form of a Passacaglia for saxophone, which was played, with success, by Sigurd Rascher, but he never used Schoenberg’s system in his film music. One composer who worked for Hammer did. This was Benjamin Frankel, who created the first British serial film score in his music for The Curse of the Werewolf, starring Oliver Reed in the hirsute and bloody title role; but Frankel’s approach to serialism was very different from the anti–Romantic, intellectual approach of Pierre Boulez. Rather, it followed, in some ways, the serial path down which Igor Stravinsky had also wandered in his later years. Indeed, in 1959, only the year before The Curse of the Werewolf had been unleashed on a horror-hungry public, Stravinsky had completed his first totally serial score, Threni; but Stravinsky’s setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah for six soloists, choir and orchestra also permits elements of tonality to exist within it. For example, by transposing into different pitches the various forms of the series (its retrograde, inverted and retrograde-inversions— terms that will be explained in more detail in chapter three), Stravinsky was even able to bring the whole thing to a close in what could be mistaken for the key of A minor. Frankel’s Curse of the Werewolf score resembled even more the general approach of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto, the note row of which also contains elements of tonality. Berg’s Concerto consequently became one of the most popular of all serial works— much more so, it has to be said, than any of the serial works of his teacher, Schoenberg, who invented his radical system in 1924. To this day, standard dictionaries of music, while reverentially listing the concert works of contemporary composers, still pass over their film music with a somewhat embarrassed or dismissively vague reference at best. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, for example, omits none of Elisabeth Lutyens’ operas and symphonic works, but merely mentions, non-specifically, that she also wrote many film, theater and radio scores. Of course, social forces are at work here that have nothing to do with music and much more to do with the snobbery of genre classification. To some, no doubt, the title of a film such as Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors sits uncomfortably next to that of Lutyens’ lyric opera, Isis and Osiris. Meirion and Susan Harries’ biography of Lutyens, A Introduction 5 Pilgrim Soul, takes a distinctly aloof approach to Lutyens’ film music. While mentioning (if only briefly) her music for horror films, they mockingly describe The Skull as a “deathless” work, and then blunder into a plain error of fact when they absurdly claim that Hammer’s musical supervisor, Philip Martell, “did not read music.”5 Quite how they expected him to conduct so many complex scores without this essential ability they do not explain. Such an error reveals the lack of real interest, understanding and concern for film music (particularly of the horror film variety) among the biographers of concert composers who have worked in the field. Music in film is still too often dismissed as though it had no real cultural significance. Of course, not all composers regard their own film music as highly as their concert works. (Lutyens was one of these, though, naturally outrageous as she was, with her penchant for green nail polish, she nonetheless enjoyed being known as a “Horror Queen.”) However, it is unwise for those who write about such composers to take their film music any less seriously than their concert works, for, as the Harries correctly point out, Lutyens was quite aware that “the audience for horror films accepted without a murmur shrill atonal music which they would have rejected with irritation in the concert hall.”6 Undoubtedly far more people have heard Lutyens’ film music than anything else she wrote. More have heard Benjamin Frankel’s music for The Curse of the Werewolf than have bought a CD of Frankel’s own concert works, let alone attended a performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto. More have experienced the frisson of James Bernard’s tone clusters in The Quatermass Experiment than have experienced Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. Could it really be that the popular horror film has been the salvation of contemporary music? Could one make the claim that Hammer and Amicus were, in fact, among the greatest patrons of contemporary music in the twentieth century? Were werewolves, vampires, psychopaths and the other colorful monsters, so cruelly derided by films critics at the time, actually responsible for pulling contemporary music out of its avant-garde ghetto and into the mainstream of popular culture? And if so, what effect did such music have on the original intentions of the composers who had pioneered these new techniques? These are the questions this book will attempt to answer; but first we need to know a little more about Hammer’s musical supervisors, who were largely responsible for bringing so much of this novel and challenging music to the screen. Notes 1. David Huckvale, James Bernard, Composer to Count Dracula: A Critical Biography (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006). 2. Reginald Smith-Brindle, The New Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 41. 6 Introduction 3. Pierre Boulez, “Freeing Music,” in Orientations (trans. Martin Cooper) (London: Faber and Faber, 1986), pp. 481–23. 4. James Bernard, in conversation with the author, November 1999. 5. Meirion and Susan Harries, Elisabeth Lutyens, A Pilgrim Soul (London: Michael Joseph, 1989), p. 152. 6. Ibid., p.228. O NE Maestros John Hollingsworth, Marcus Dodds and Philip Martell Hammer’s first musical supervisor was John Hollingsworth, but before he became involved with films he had been associate conductor of the Royal Air Force Symphony Orchestra during the Second World War. After the war, he even performed in the presence of Winston Churchill, President Roosevelt and Stalin at the Potsdam peace conference. During a tour of America with this orchestra his future path in movies was suggested when he had the opportunity to observe how films were scored in Hollywood, and before long he became the assistant of Muir Mathieson, the leading British film music conductor. At the same time, he assisted Sir Malcolm Sargent at the BBC Proms, and fulfilled his duties as one of the two chief conductors of the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House in London. James Bernard, whose early films for Hammer were all conducted by Hollingsworth, recalled: He was a bit of a loner. John was quite a strange, very dear character. All the time I knew him he lived alone in a flat in a big, modernish, sort of ’30s block in Hammersmith called Latimer Court. His flat was very characterless, with box-like rooms. It wasn’t very roomy or cozy. He was a tall, good-looking man with a very pleasant face — tall and imposing. I think he was a bit insecure, but when he realized he could trust Paul1 and me, we were allowed to become chums. I used to take a taxi over from our little house in Chelsea in Bramerton Street on the morning of a recording at the crack of dawn because we were starting at nine or something hideous, and would arrive outside John’s flat in Latimer Court, ring the bell and either go up or he’d come down and then we would embark in his little red MG. He liked little dashing, low sports cars. On the way home we’d always stop off at a particular pub and have some drinks with great relief that all had gone well. He was a great giggler and such fun. I never actually questioned John about his association with Hammer. I 7 8 Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde think he was quite happy. Otherwise he’d never have stayed as long as he did. When people have died you think, “Oh, I wish I’d asked him more about that,” but he wasn’t a person who exactly invited heart-to-heart chats. John had a charming sense of humor. The old Gainsborough films used to be introduced by a lady in lovely period dress with a big hat. She would turn and smile; that was the logo of Gainsborough films. John called it a “picture hat.” So, when we’d come to a bit in the middle of all this dramatic Dracula stuff or Frankenstein stuff where I got a chance to have my little romantic bit, he would turn to me and say, “What? Have you got your picture hat on, dear?” before he started conducting. So we always had nice little jokes like that. In the last few months of his life, he began to get terribly breathless— I remember that. And I also remember once taking him to Verdi’s Atilla at Sadler’s Wells opera house.2 Paul was working or couldn’t come so I took John, and I always remember thinking, “What a fool I am!” because I’d booked seats at the front of the dress circle, and I remember poor John puffing and blowing as we went up the stairs. He was very uncomplaining and just said, “Do you mind if I take it slowly?”— which we did and we enjoyed the evening, but I realized that he wasn’t very well. He had a very good friend who lived in the same block of flats called Terry Earle, and John let Terry have a key to his flat. Because John lived alone, I suppose it’s always good to have a neighbor or a chum who’s got a key. Terry often used to call by and say, “Hi, John,” or tap on the door. Then, one morning, he tapped on his door several times and there was no reply. So finally he went into the flat and found poor John lying dead, sprawled across the bed. It seems he’d died all alone in the night while trying to reach the telephone.3 Outside his film work, it’s still possible to hear Hollingsworth’s delightful interpretations of various standard classics on the series of recordings he made with the Covent Garden Orchestra for EMI, and the Sinfonia of London for the World Record Club, of suites from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. His EMI recordings with the Covent Garden Orchestra also include a representative selection of Scandinavian classics by Sibelius, Svendsen and Nielsen, along with fine interpretations of Alf vén’s Swedish Rhapsody No. 1 and Grieg’s Elegiac Melodies. His recording, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, of that prolific film composer Sir Malcolm Arnold’s grotesquely comic Tam O’Shanter concert overture is also characteristic of his lively and dramatic style. After Hollingsworth’s death, Marcus Dodds took temporary control of Hammer’s baton. Dodds, a graduate of Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Music, was born in Edinburgh in 1918. Between 1947 and 1951 he was assistant music director to the Rank Organization, and then chorus-master with the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company (1952–56). Other posts followed: principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra and musical director of the One: Maestros (Hollingsworth, Dodds and Martell) 9 London Concert Orchestra. He also conducted many West End musicals and made a recording, with the Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields, of future Hammer composer Malcolm Williamson’s opera The Happy Prince. His time at Hammer was short-lived, however,4 and he soon handed over the baton to Philip Martell, who continued to bring some astonishingly adventurous film music to the soundtracks of Hammer’s varied output from the mid–1960s right up to the end of Hammer’s life as a production company in the 1980s. Martell started his musical career at the age of five when he first took up the violin. His family lived in the east end of London and were not well-off. When he learned that a neighbor played the violin in the theater, young Philip let it be known that this was what he wanted to do as well, so his father bought him a violin and found him a teacher. (Many years later he was lucky enough to own a genuine Stradivarius, which he described, not surprisingly, as “sensational.”) After studies at the Guildhall School of Music with his teacher, Benoit Hollander, he started earning money not in the theater as he had originally planned but by accompanying “silent” films. It was only later that he found work in the theater, which was how he encountered the director Val Guest; and it was through Guest that he found his eventual route into film music for the sound cinema. I got to know Philip well in his later years. When I first met him, in 1988, he was living in a rather solemn Edwardian terraced house in London’s Highgate district. Highgate seemed to me at the time a very suitable location for the home of Hammer’s musical supervisor. After all, was not this the location of the famous Highgate Cemetery, that amazing Victorian Valhalla of elaborate tombs and even more celebrated corpses? Hammer itself had filmed there (only once, surprisingly) for one of the graveyard scenes in Taste the Blood of Dracula (dir. Peter Sasdy, 1970), while Hammer’s rival company, Amicus, had taken full advantage of the picturesque solemnity of the place in the main title sequence of its portmanteau horror film Tales from the Crypt (Freddie Francis, 1972). Even Philip’s surname was appropriate, as Martell resembled the Italian musical term martellato, which means “hammered.” As I emerged from Highgate Underground Station and made my way along Muswell Hill Road I wondered what I would find when I eventually arrived at No. 23 Woodland Gardens. At long last, after watching so many of the films in which his name had appeared on the credits, I stood on the doorstep of this legendary figure. I rang the bell and waited, full of expectation. “I’ve always wanted to meet you!” I exclaimed, as Philip opened the door. “So have the police,” he replied, with what I soon learnt to be his characteristically wry sense of humor. He led me through to his little study at the front of the house, the first room on the left of the narrow hallway. This proved to be a rather untidy but nonetheless cozy treasure trove containing the master tapes for the music of all the Hammer films Philip had ever been involved with, stacked rather chaotically on shelves built into the right-hand alcove of the fire-

Author David Huckvale Isbn 0786434562 File size 4.5MB Year 2008 Pages 235 Language English File format PDF Category Cinema Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Music in film is often dismissed as having little cultural significance. While Hammer Film Productions is famous for such classic films as Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein, few observers have noted the innovative music that Hammer distinctively incorporated into its horror films. This book tells how Hammer commissioned composers at the cutting edge of European musical modernism to write their movie scores, introducing the avant-garde into popular culture via the enormously successful venue of horror film. Each chapter addresses a specific category of the avant-garde musical movement. According to these categories, chapters elaborate upon the visionary composers who made the horror film soundtrack a melting pot of opposing musical cultures.     Download (4.5MB) Classic Horror Films And The Literature That Inspired Them Cult Horror Movies (Cult Movies) Horror Films (Pocket Essentials) House of Horror: The Complete History of Hammer Films A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series Load more posts

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