The desert grew quiet last night

Lawrence of Arabia: Original Soundtrack
Lawrence of Arabia: Original Soundtrack

The brilliant and prolific Maurice Jarre passed away on Sunday. He wrote and recorded the entire score to Lawrence of Arabia in an astonishing 6 weeks – in reverse order. He achieved this by sleeping for 10 minutes every three hours for days at a time. One has to wonder if the crazed schedule and sleep deprivation added some useful DNA to the score. I have always loved the romantic, epic hugeness of this music. His aggressive use of timpani seems to perfectly convey the sudden release of trapped energy that one feels must lurk below the surface in vast, quiet spaces. The melody to the main theme is simple and instantly memorable yet it retains a fresh mystery throughout the film. Sadly, I have still only ever seen it on a wheezing 12 inch TV but I have listened to the score many times. It is definitely time to experience the real deal soon.

RIP Angela Morley

I was sad to hear of the passing this week of the gifted arranger, orchestrator and composer Angela Morley. Morley’s evocative and subtle work on many of the TV Dramas of my youth (Dallas, Dynasty, Hotel etc) still play in my head as the background music of my childhood and was often many magnitudes higher quality than the show itself. Morley composed the wonderful soundtrack to Watership Down, arranged for Mel Torme, Rosemary Clooney, Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward, Petula Clark and Dusty Springlfield and worked as orchestrator/arranger and often uncredited composer on many of John Williams’ great scores including ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ‘E.T.’ and ‘Schindlers List’.

Below is a snippet from a 2005 BBC broadcast:

Battling Butler with the BQE Project

Battling Butler with the BQE Project
Tom Nazziola conducts the BQE Project

Back when I was but a wee lad growing up in Rochester New York I used to play piano in a society orchestra called The Len Hawley Band. It was made up of a mix of local jazz musicians, down-on-their luck lounge buskers and top talent from Eastman School of Music. The band’s mission was to keep an audience dancing no matter what. We played an eclectic and often crazy mixture of styles from a vast heap of fake books that Len carted around. We did not take a lot of breaks and often did not get fed. These were not easy club date gigs for the faint of heart and the Eastman kids often had a hard time getting through them. Some would show up for their first gig, go outside for a cigarette after the first set and never return. One exception was a drummer named Tom Nazziola. He rocked those gigs. He could play anything on drums and also played a mean piano and was a very capable rock singer. He really knew how to spin gold from straw. Tom has ended up becoming a serious composer. He heads up The BQE Project – a chamber ensemble that performs original Film scores. I recently got to see them perform to Buster Keaton’s hilarious “Battling Butler” at Lincoln Center. Tom has composed a vibrant, carefully synced score that sounded both modern and thematically appropriate. It is a rare treat to watch a great old movie on a big screen accompanied by a live chamber band performing an original score. I would highly recommend checking out one of their performances if you get a chance.