The Hollywood Bowl is one of the largest natural amphitheaters in the world, with seating for 18,000 people. The first concert season was held in 1922 and since that time, some of the greatest performers have appeared in this venue, including such diverse artists as Jascha Heifetz, Otto Klemperer, Leonard Bernstein, Judy Garland, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Beatles, The Doors, The Who, Ben Harper, and Halsey.
The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was founded by Leopold Stokowski in 1945 and gained immediate recognition for its distinctive sound and exciting programs. In the 1950’s the orchestra was conducted by Carmen Dragon, who introduced the popular evening concerts. In 1991, John Mauceri took over the orchestra and greatly enhanced its proud tradition. The repertoire of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra is quite diverse, ranging from Mozart to Motown. Each season, the orchestra can be heard performing Broadway favorites, film music, pop, jazz, classical music, and premieres by living composers. The specialty of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, however, has been the live performance of film music that previously had been heard only on original soundtracks. Beginning in the early 1990s, the Hollywood Bowl (and Los Angeles Philharmonic) have restored and performed a number of neglected or lost film scores. Some of this repertoire has been performed live by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra including the theme to Gone with the wind, the Dream ballet sequence from Oklahoma!, the Born in a trunk sequence from A star is born (1954), and many others.
Learn more in Conductors and composers of popular orchestral music: A biographical and discographical sourcebook (2013). Find it in RILM Music Encyclopedias.
Below is a medley of music from well-known movies performed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
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Ryūichi Sakamoto was one of Japan’s most internationally influential musicians. Sakamoto’s career began in electronic pop music as a keyboardist with the band Yellow Magic Orchestra, which he co-founded in 1978, and which triggered a boom for this genre in Japan. At the same time he released his first solo album Thousand Knives. His understanding of music, which transcended genres, became evident on numerous other albums combining pop music, ambient, jazz, and electro-acoustic music, ranging to early forms of house and techno. His works in addition include the operas Life (1999) and Time (2021). Sakamoto studied composition and ethnomusicology at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music from 1970 onward, where he first came into contact with synthesizers.
He is also known for his music for films by Nagisa Ōshima (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, 1983), Bernardo Bertolucci (The Last Emperor, 1987; The Sheltering Sky, 1990; Little Buddha, 1993), Pedro Almodóvar (High Heels, 1991), and Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant, 2015), as well as for his music for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. Sakamoto’s final studio album 12–comprising 12 miniatures for piano accompanied by synthesizer sounds–was released in January 2023. He died in Tokyo on 28 March 2023 at the age of 71.
Look out for a full article on Ryūichi Sakamoto’s life and musical activities coming soon to MGG online (www.mgg-online.com).
Below is a video of Sakamota performing his composition Blu with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
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Let’s celebrate this historic event by visiting an odd corner of the album’s reception history: a meticulous and complex theory claiming that it was conceived, constructed, and produced as a deliberate and calculated musical accompaniment to the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, and that its sounds and silences will, if correctly decoded, reveal explicit and specific congruences with key scenes in the movie.
The theory’s origins can be traced to the mid-1990s, when fans began excitedly posting on Pink Floyd websites about synchronicities that result from simultaneously watching the film and listening to the album. Soon these fansites provided detailed instructions for experiencing these audio-visual parallels. Typically viewers are told to start the film and begin playing the album at the MGM trademark lion’s third roar; if the music begins at the moment that the words “Produced by Mervin Leroy” appear on the screen the synchronization is on track, and the coincidences begin:
Just after the words “look around” in Breathe, Dorothy turns around;
The words “balanced on the biggest wave” accompany Dorothy balancing on a fence;
At the words “no one told you when to run” Dorothy breaks into a trot;
Many aspects of the Munchkin scene are coordinated with Money;
The chimes in Time coincide with the appearance of the Wicked Witch of the West;
and so on, with different websites claiming as many as 70 to 100 moments of synchronicity.
Although the band members have dismissively refuted any association between the album and the film, enthusiasm for the theory continues unabated. On one level, this phenomenon may be an example of an urban myth. On another level, it may reveal much about how texts can generate multiple meanings that dispel the tyranny of the imposed explanation—one of the principal tenets underlying the relocation of the consumer as active rather than passive.
This according to “‘We’re not in Kansas any more’: Music, myth and narrative structure in The dark side of the moon” by Lee Barron and Ian Inglis, an essay included in “Speak to me”: The legacy of Pink Floyd’s “The dark side of the moon” (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005, 56–66; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2005-6807).
Below, we invite you to see how many coincidences you can discover!
Soon after the Cinematograph Act came into force in 1909, small orchestras became more common in London cinemas than the lone pianist that some previous histories have identified.
Rather than responding moment-to-moment to the images on screen in the manner that an improvising pianist might, these orchestras played through a number of well-regarded musical pieces in their entirety, which might or might not have had a direct correspondence to some aspect of the film or its theme.
Despite exhortations in the trade press for a more logical relationship between music and film, this does not seem to have happened in practice regularly until at least the mid-1910s.
This according to “The art of not playing to pictures in British cinemas, 1906–1914” by Jon Burrows, an essay included in The sounds of the silents in Britain (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, 111–125; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2013-482).
Below, we invite you to experiment with random film accompaniment using your own favorite recordings.
Martin Scorsese’s Casino is structured around a compiled score of nearly 60 popular music recordings. Scorsese himself, working with the editor Thelma Schoonmaker and using digital editing tools for the first time, assembled and arranged a diverse body of preexisting music into a unified score that plays for more than two of the film’s three hours.
A close analysis of Scorsese crafting Casino’s compiled score in the manner of a DJ—and, in reciprocal fashion, editing film images and narrative to recorded music—demonstrates highly varied, multivalent relationships between musical form and film form. Indeed, musical form proves a constituent element of Casino’s construction at multiple levels of magnification.
The large-scale form of the score as a whole articulates the larger arc of Casino’s dual narrative. The strategic deployment of musical styles (from jazz to rock to pop) and the targeted use of lyrics as voiceover (often subtly deploying aspects of racial performance in popular styles) serve to differentiate narrative strands and fill out otherwise unspoken characterization.
Scorsese builds several sequences in Casino on a direct, often audible relationship between song forms and narrative unfolding, creating song scenes in which compiled tracks heard as musical wholes grant a musical shape to discrete narrative units. Casino’s complex use of music does not, however, penetrate the inner lives of the film’s three primary characters, who seem unaware of the musical flow Scorsese employs to set their story dancing.
This according to “The filmmaker as DJ: Martin Scorsese’s compiled score for Casino (1995)” by Todd Decker (The journal of musicology XXXIV/2 [spring 2017] 281–317; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2017-866).
A five-note motive in Rahmaninov’s Ostrov mërtvyh (The isle of the dead, op. 29), which evokes the opening of the Dies irae melody used by Berlioz and Liszt, is strikingly similar to what Bernard Herrmann referred to as the motive of power or fate in his score for Citizen Kane.
Rahmaninov’s work was inspired by Arnold Böcklin’s painting Die Toteninsel (above; click to enlarge), and Herrmann’s statements about his creative process suggest that the opening images of the film might have unconsciously reminded him of the painting, which in turn could have aroused an association with Rahmaninov’s work.
This according to “The Dies irae in Citizen Kane: Musical hermeneutics applied to film music” by William H. Rosar, an essay included in Film music: Critical approaches (New York: Continuum, 2001, pp. 103–116). Below, the first minutes of Citizen Kane, followed by Rahmaninov’s symphonic poem.
Voices can make our hair stand on end or send shudders down our spine more easily and more powerfully than anything else.
The classic evolutionary and philosophical writings tended to downplay the role of music in human partner selection; but popular culture indicates otherwise, particularly where the voice is involved.
Still, the enchantment that audiences experience when they listen to their favorite singers is highly subjective. For example, while critics of Lata Mangeshkar’s little-girl sound view her popularity in terms of a desire to keep women immature and vulnerable, her millions of admirers hear in her voice a timeless and idealized lover.
This according to “Enchanting voices” by Wim van der Meer, an article included in Music, dance, and the art of seduction (Delft: Eburon, 2013, 49-70; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2013-28812).
Above and below, Mangeshkar enacts her enchantment.
Spontaneously recorded music and natural noise, once they are chosen and ordered in a film’s soundtrack, acquire a dignity that was at first unexpected, entering into harmony, rivalry, and sometimes even conflict with the score composed for the film.
Between fake bad music created by a competent composer and real bad music appropriated in its raw state from the popular muse, between an impressionist nocturne for large orchestra and the authentic concerto of crickets and frogs, artificial music does not necessarily win out over the natural kind.
This according to “La musique prise dans le sujet, élement materiel du film et la musique composée pour le film, élément formel de l’œuvre d’art” by Roland Alexis Manuel Lévy, an essay included in Atti del secondo Congresso internazionale di musica (Firenze: Le Monniere, 1940, pp. 253–256; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 1940-1).
Below, two short films present an opportunity to test Lévy’s hypothesis.
For his main title music for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Bernard Herrmann used alternately ascending and descending arpeggiated chords in contrary motion in the treble and bass voices; no clear direction, up or down, is established, nor is a harmonic center confirmed.
With its almost uninterrupted, destabilizing undulation, the music provides a musical evocation of vertigo that is reinforced by Hitchcock’s spiraling geometric images.
This according to “The language of music: A brief analysis of Vertigo” by Kathryn Kalinak, an essay included in her Settling the score: Music and the classical Hollywood film (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992) and reprinted in Movie music: The film reader (London: Routledge, 2003).
Today is Bernard Herrmann’s 110th birthday! Below, the virtiginous title sequence in question.
The 2005 film U-Carmen eKhayelitsha is a South African adaptation and reconceptualization of Bizet’s Carmen. The change in culture and context affects the interpretation of the character of Carmen, who emerges as a strong black woman striving for autonomy within a patriarchal and sexist postcolonial South African society.
The film involves an interpretation of identity as a social construct dependent on the interaction between character and place within a specific period of time–in this case, Khayelitsha, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, at the beginning of the 21st century. Its portrayal of the modern Carmen as an emancipated woman within a postcolonial and postmodernist context can be traced by interpreting semiotic signs and specific narrative strategies.
The re-encoding of Carmen’s identity questions intransigent or stereotypical perceptions of Carmen as the iconic femme fatale to which audiences have become accustomed; the indigenized production offers recourse to alternative perceptions of Carmen’s identity. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha does not deny the sensuality and femininity attributed to Carmen in the precursory texts, but it depicts her as an even more complex character than the one in Bizet’s opera.
This according to “The same, yet different: Re-encoding identity in U-Carmen eKhayelitsha” by Santisa Viljoen and Marita Wenzel (Journal of the musical arts in Africa XIII/1–2  53–70; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2016-49747).
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