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Intrada releasing Leonard Bernstein's On The Waterfront


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Doug Fake posted today:

http://www.intrada.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=5709


On The Waterfront is certainly an American landmark in film, particularly due Brando's performance... and Leonard Bernstein's triumphant score. One of the most compelling ever composed, it also offers what might be the most powerful fortissimo ending to a film score of all time. Scored as if it were a symphony itself, the final bars develop the main theme into a crashing powerhouse of orchestral might. It's especially powerful in the context that this theme originally starts as a lonely, unaccompanied melody for just ONE French horn. Wow! And also of note: the love theme, a truly expressive major key idea, makes an appearance AGAINST this crashing orchestral finale - on ONE solo trumpet, piercing through in opposition to all that orchestral might! The instrument reaches up, through, in and about the thundering main theme, doing its own thing completely against it, all alone while the entire rest of the orchestra pounds away. The love theme and the main theme. Two completely different themes with nothing in common, playing at the same time. And it works magnificently. Another wow! All just in the finale no less. One could spend oodles of time talking about the brilliance of this masterpiece of film scoring.

Sadly, some misinformation is going around with respect to the newly discovered masters and the Criterion Blu-ray. So people, here are the facts... straight from the vaults.

Yes, the complete elements have been located and are being readied for release. But EVERYTHING is in mono. Superb mono, but still mono. There are NO stereo masters. I repeat - no stereo masters. None. Nada. The Criterion video in fact is a new 5.1 remix of the MONO music and effects tracks. Because the score includes so many solo colors and has a lot of exposed solos for tympani, the reverb and stereo-izing of the mono elements - combined with the panning of the mono sound effects - does indeed have a nice aural sense of space. But it is still derived from MONO elements. Yes, mono. This was all done with the expertise of the good folks at Chace, who literally lead the industry in audio restoration for home video. And it does make a wonderful listening experience combined with the effects and all that unforgettable dialog. But that is for the film.

Those original music and effects elements have been around for a while - albeit only recently worked into a 5.1 mix by Chace. They are NOT suitable for an album release, however, because they have the abrupt edits and trims that are in the film itself as well as the dips in volume to accommodate the dialog. They always did. They always will. And... they have the sound effects. Here again, they always did. They always will.

BUT - the GOOD news is... recently, in their exhaustive searching, the COMPLETE actual scoring session masters with the music intact exactly as recorded by Leonard Bernstein HAVE been located. These were made directly onto acetate for safety checks during the recording sessions and happily survived intact. Yes, complete. Every note of this masterful score survives, albeit in mono and from acetate discs. These are the ONLY scoring session elements in existence, preserving the complete cues without any edits, trims, volume dips and other anomalies of the film's M&E tracks used by Chace to enhance the audio for the film itself. These mono safety discs are the only sources for the true, unedited music cues Bernstein recorded. And it is dream come true that they were located.

These original session discs have been cleaned up as much as is practical without any attempts to pretend they are from anything but discs. An overuse of noise reduction and other gimmicks that remove not only the clicks but also the very life of the music itself have not been employed. Some may prefer the noise to be completely squished, no matter that important string harmonics and other instrumental timbres are heavily damaged, while others prefer to hear the orchestral colors as genuine as is possible with requisite de-noising kept to a minimum. That is our camp. Some restoration, of course, is necessary with 1950's acetates, including using state-of-the-art Sonic Solutions software to reduce clicks and pops, but digitizing everything into the 21st century CD sonic realm, while perhaps quieter, is not particularly musical in our opinion.

So, yes, this masterpiece of film scoring is finally coming to you at last, complete, in mono audio from discs, with all of the string harmonics and delicate colors playing crisply against the most powerful orchestral crescendos you could ever hope to hear... everything from that lonely opening solo French horn to that final thundering full orchestral coda.

A historic soundtrack event if there ever was one. icon_biggrin.gif
--Doug
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I have mixed feelings about the score, or at least the score in context of the film. The love theme, the dirge and main theme (the one associated with Brando) are both superb and never feel to pull at

Fantastic news! Such a brilliant score from Mr. Bernstein full of pathos and lyricism and drama. What luck that they found intact and good condition session tapes for this. Not only is this a wonderful release but a chance to preserve the music itself.

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It'll be great indeed to finally have the great original film recording of this fabulous score.

This is Lenny's solely contribution to the art of film scoring and it's too bad that, even though the music is sublime, the actual scoring experience wasn't an ideal one for him. As he told in one of his books, Bernstein was so fed up about how the score ended up in the final mix that he decided he had enough of Hollywood and all the rest. He blamed Kazan and the sound mixers for the unfair treatment of the score. Some people said that Bernstein's approach was too heavy-handed (esp. in the dialogue scenes) so the score had to be toned down no matter what and blamed him about not being able to adapt the scoring style to the film's needs. Indeed when you see the film it almost seems sometimes that Bernstein's score is more about the story and characters than musical accompaniment to them.

It's interesting (and also sad somehow) to see that Lenny's sensibility and theatrical flair didn't match well to Hollywood's film music aesthetics of that era. I wonder what he could have done if he continued to score movies.

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  • 1 year later...

I got this because Bernstein is one of my favorite composers (probably my second favorite after JW), and I was curious to see how he would approach film underscore. I didn't expect it to be musically anything special, given the fact that we already have a wonderful suite for orchestra, and I figured it covered the important parts of the score.

Just listened to the intrada release, and I was mistaken! There's a fair amount of noteworthy material that never made it into the suite. Would highly encourage LB fans to check this one out.

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Just listened to the intrada release, and I was mistaken! There's a fair amount of noteworthy material that never made it into the suite. Would highly encourage LB fans to check this one out.

On two background listens, I didn't pick up on much that I wasn't familiar with from the suite. But it's certainly a great score.

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This is Lenny's solely contribution to the art of film scoring and it's too bad that, even though the music is sublime, the actual scoring experience wasn't an ideal one for him. As he told in one of his books, Bernstein was so fed up about how the score ended up in the final mix that he decided he had enough of Hollywood and all the rest. He blamed Kazan and the sound mixers for the unfair treatment of the score. Some people said that Bernstein's approach was too heavy-handed (esp. in the dialogue scenes) so the score had to be toned down no matter what and blamed him about not being able to adapt the scoring style to the film's needs. Indeed when you see the film it almost seems sometimes that Bernstein's score is more about the story and characters than musical accompaniment to them.

I have mixed feelings about the score, or at least the score in context of the film. The love theme, the dirge and main theme (the one associated with Brando) are both superb and never feel to pull at one's heartstrings, but I'd say the 'action' material (i.e. the barbaric mambo with the lurching timpani/piano rhythm) hurts the drama rather rather illuminating it. Those cues are balletic, hokey and quite frankly arch, and feel like Lenny warming up for WEST SIDE STORY. It has nothing to do with the characters, only the spectacle at large. A case of objective rather than subjective writing, which is what the picture required in those moments.

Another bit of scoring that rings fable is the Rosenman-lite bitonal tone pyramid for when Brando meets up with Karl Malden's priest, blasting with all of the subtly of an atomic bomb ... Completely unnecessary, and makes me believe it could've been tracked from another part of the score.

Skip the score, just listen to the suite.

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Skip the score, just listen to the suite.

But the action music and the Rosenman pyramid are both in the suite...

True, but outside of the film, they're not too bad... even enjoyable, almost.

A case of objective rather than subjective writing, which is what the picture required in those moments.

Could you expand on this a little?

It's an expression borrowed from Alex North. Basically, objective scoring is where the composer is not writing from the perspective of any characters, but purely his own--derived from the setting, the atmosphere and the collective movement of the actors. It owes more to ballet than anything. The Main Titles for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE are a great example, as are Herrmann's for PSYCHO. They're musical tableaux that depict a certain mood but aren't pushing or pulling at the drama in the subtle way than subjective writing can.

As you can guess, subjective scoring is more indebted to Italian opera, particularly the arias and recitatives - where the composer is extremely sensitive to the language and performance of the libretto, and the internal psychology of the characters. In film this also involves staying out the frequency ranges of vocal registers of the actors and actresses, and finding ways to intimate aspects of drama that the director couldn't quite achieve.

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The action music is mostly enhancing the sheer physical violence on-screen. It is not exactly beat-for-beat but does have some of that balletic quality Sharky mentioned.

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As you can guess, subjective scoring is more indebted to Italian opera, particularly the arias and recitatives - where the composer is extremely sensitive to the language and performance of the libretto, and the internal psychology of the characters. In film this also involves staying out the frequency ranges of vocal registers of the actors and actresses, and finding ways to intimate aspects of drama that the director couldn't quite achieve.

What are some examples of this in John Williams's œuvre?

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As you can guess, subjective scoring is more indebted to Italian opera, particularly the arias and recitatives - where the composer is extremely sensitive to the language and performance of the libretto, and the internal psychology of the characters. In film this also involves staying out the frequency ranges of vocal registers of the actors and actresses, and finding ways to intimate aspects of drama that the director couldn't quite achieve.

What are some examples of this in John Williams's œuvre?

I think Empire of the Sun, Nixon and Presumed Innocent are good examples. He goes surprisingly deep into the various subtexts of the story with Nixon even though the music can just be extrovert and big for purely objective point of view but even in the grandest moments it has something else to say than just grandstanding.

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As you can guess, subjective scoring is more indebted to Italian opera, particularly the arias and recitatives - where the composer is extremely sensitive to the language and performance of the libretto, and the internal psychology of the characters. In film this also involves staying out the frequency ranges of vocal registers of the actors and actresses, and finding ways to intimate aspects of drama that the director couldn't quite achieve.

What are some examples of this in John Williams's œuvre?

The Cadillac of the Skies sequence in EOTS for one.

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  • 6 years later...

So everyone got excited about this release some six years ago, but then...had no further thoughts on it? :huh:

 

I do...it's a fine score. The Silver Age is not my main area of interest, and I know too little about the other Bernstein's oeuvre and standing (other than he has it) to put the music into context. It reminds me a lot of North's sparse "internal scoring", only less, heh, sparse, and I'll grant Doug Fake that the finale is a most powerful piece of film scoring.

 

Sound is generally fine, as I never had too many problems with mono releases if that is all that there is to work with (just like with On Dangerous Ground). In some cases, I value authenticity more highly than another go at it with present-day technology or a re-recording.

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3 minutes ago, Kühni said:

So everyone got excited about this release some six years ago, but then...had no further thoughts on it? :huh:

 

 

That's what happens here a lot. A film or score gets a pressure cooker level build-up including discussions and speculation, the item is released, and... light is green, trap is clean. Just goes to show a significant portion of folks here favour online film score culture and satisfying their collecting bugs over the tedious process of listening to the scores themselves.

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Just now, The Big Man said:

their collecting bugs over the tedious process of listening to the scores themselves.

 

The only collecting bug I never understood is the posting of order numbers.

 

I'm inclined to agree with your second assessment, and I'm probably guilty of it myself inasfar that for me, the tedious process is corralling my thoughts about any piece of music in as straight-forward and succinct language as possible. Which is sometimes hindered by my not being musically educated, or being cognizant of pertinent pieces of information on the film, the scoring process etc. I react to music on a visceral level, and to put that into words is often a time-consuming and frustrating affair.

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