We all know about the power of music in film. Many of our favourite cinematic moments are reducible to the musical scores which support them. Without John Williams’ two note theme in Jaws, would the film have sparked the terror it did amongst film goers? It’s hard to tell and really, do we even want to find out? Behind every great film, there are a number of unseen elements which come together and elevate it beyond the norm. Whilst each is important in its own right, it is the music which will concern us all today. Music in the movies is something about which we should not lose focus and whilst award ceremonies do shine a light on a select few, it is simply not enough to do the art form justice. Directors and cinematic collaborators often depend on their musical counterparts to turn their imagery from good to great and thus director/composer relationships are integral to the successful working of any cinematic machine. Increasingly, directors look to the same composers to realise their films through music. It seems that when it comes to music, directors attach like penguins, finding their “one” and never letting them go.
The relationship between directors and composers is something very special indeed. Finding another person to understand the very specific image you have of something in your head is nigh on impossible and in cinematic history, there are countless examples of collaborations gone wrong. Most famously, perhaps, is Alex North’s attempt to score Stanley Kubrick’s definitive space film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Whilst North completed his task, Kubrick eventually decided that he was looking for something altogether different and scrapped the work that North had worked on for so long. Never fear, however. Years after being unceremoniously booted out of production, North was awarded an Honourary Oscar in light of his musical achievements, the first of its kind to be handed out.
History has shown us that director composer collaborations are a thing to be held up to light, to be championed and applauded. In this light, then, let’s take a look at some of the very best, the most lasting relationships that will out couple even the most revoltingly affectionate of all of us.
Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann
If you should start anywhere, then it’s with Hitchcock and Herrmann. A collaborative relationship that has spawned some of the most memorable moments in all of cinema, the pair worked together apparently with the same mind. In the case of Psycho alone, there are countless elements created by the pair to elevate it to the halls of the film great. Pairing romance with intrigue, suspense and betrayal, Hitchcock and Herrmann are a classical pairing and in truth, it is hard to take one without the other. By the time the relationship soured, the pair had worked together on all of Hitchcock’s films throughout the 1940s and ‘50s, ceasing only after Marnie.When they’re good, they’re very very good. When they’re apart, it’s not the same.
Federico Fellini and Nino Rota
There has been no other presence in cinema who understood the mind of Fellini in quite the same way as composer Nino Rota. Rota was something of a music prodigy, known to sit down at the piano and reel of the most accomplished and detailed compositions at the drop of a hat. The pair’s finest work can be seen and heard in films like 8 ½ and La Dolce Vita. If Fellini’s imagery becomes too Baroque, Rota’s music undercuts it with wry humour. If Rota’s music becomes too jovial, Fellini’s images add a richness and warmth. The pair are made in Italian heaven; a Rota/Fellini experience is very much like a strong, smooth, hot Italian coffee.
Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone
Leone and Morricone are doubly responsibly for some of the most infectious cinema and music throughout time. Without even ever having to see the films, when we hear Morricone’s music for movies like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars, we are transported to the Wild West, image of Clint Eastwood’s renegade cowboy firmly in mind. The pair made the Western cool again and that is no mean feat. Full of life, body and vivacious energy, the works of Leone and Morricone have lasted throughout history and will continue to do so.
Joe Hisaishi and Hayao Miyazaki
Making magic in movies and music alike, the pairing of Hisaishi and Miyazaki was brought abruptly to an end earlier this year with the closing of Studio Ghibli. Working together on films like My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and The Wind Rises, the composer/director duo were responsible for opening up the eyes of an entire movie going generation. Whilst their sensitive and fantastical work will no longer be created, we can still find hope in their vast back catalogue of works.
Pino Donaggio and Brian De Palma
Whilst the works of Brian De Palma might not be to everyone’s tastes, his collaborations with Pino Donaggio have created some of the most dreamy moments in film. The clear highlight of the pair’s relationship is Carrie, a retelling of Steven King’s tragic novel. Whilst the images and narrative of the film are undeniably affecting, it is in Donaggio’s score that true beauty can be found. Somehow managing to capture the brutal pain of adolescence in his work, Donaggio’s music is some of the best created for any purpose.
Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch
A pairing even the weirdest of minds couldn’t conjure, Badalamenti and Lynch are responsible for some of the most varied and interesting work throughout cinema. Badalamenti’s ability to adopt any sort of musical voice makes him the perfect pairing to Lynch, who is equally mercurial in his filming talents. With Blue Velvet, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive secured safely under their collective belt, the pair have secured their place in film history. And with the upcoming revamp of the Twin Peaks series, the duo look set to make another go of it, 29 years later.