Sound Of Cinema - British Film Music


01The Early British Sound Film: Bliss, Britten And Walton20130923

Donald Macleod explores film music by Bliss and Walton, and the influence of Muir Matheson

Donald Macleod celebrates a quintessentially British legacy of film music - from Vaughan Williams to Nitin Sawhney, via Walton, The Beatles, Nyman, Britten, John Dankworth, Malcolm Arnold, Elisabeth Lutyens, John Barry...and many more...

Thought film music was all about the glitz and glamour of Hollywood? Think again. Ever since the dawn of the sound film, some of the greatest film scores have been created on this side of the Atlantic - by composers who often juggled brilliant careers in the concert hall with the demands of writing for the silver screen.

This week, writer and film music expert David Huckvale joins Donald Macleod for a journey through more than eight decades of uniquely British film music - blending a host of the most iconic movie music of the 20th century (including "Scott of the Antarctic", "Henry V", "A Hard Day's Night" and "Dr No") with ghoulish treats from Hammer Horror, comic escapades from Ealing Studios, and genre-bending jazz, rock and electronic-influenced scores by John Barry, Michael Nyman and Nitin Sawhney.

Beginning with the grandees of the 20th century British concert hall - Vaughan Williams, Bliss and Walton - David Huckvale and Donald Macleod examine how they translated their unique musical gifts to the craft of writing for the movies, whilst exploring the unique collaboration between WH Auden, Benjamin Britten and John Grierson's GPO Film Unit in "Night Mail's" lesser-known, but no less remarkable, sibling: the social history documentary "Coal Face".

But there's plenty of opportunity to hear from many less well-known names whose genius was expressed on the big screen, with music by the two most prolific film composers of the mid 20th century - William Alwyn and Malcolm Arnold; the 'forgotten hero' of British film music, Oscar-winner Brian Easdale; and a celebration of Ealing Studios' composers, including John Ireland, Gerrard Schurmann and Benjamin Frankel.

As pop looms on the horizon in the 1960s, with new sounds from John Barry, The Beatles and even Cliff Richard (!), Donald and David take a spooky turn to explore how Hammer Horror catalysed uniquely a uniquely British avant-garde...with electronic experiments by Tristram Cary, and creepy atonal sounds from Elisabeth Lutyens and James Bernard.

Lastly, in the week's final episode, we explore the unique, exciting cross-fertilisation in British film music over the last few decades, with scores drawing equally from classical, jazz, rock and world music genres by Richard Rodney Bennett, Michael Nyman, Patrick Doyle and Nitin Sawhney.


In this first programme, Donald is joined in the studio by film music expert and writer David Huckvale to explore film works by two grandees of the British concert hall, Sirs Arthur Bliss and William Walton, and discuss the hugely important influence of the conductor and musical svengali James Muir Matheson.

Walter Leigh's pioneering score for the 1934 documentary "Song Of Ceylon" provides the backdrop to a unique complete performance of WH Auden and Benjamin Britten's score to the 1935 social history documentary "Coal Face" - a portrayal of the 1930s coal industry, complete with highly original sound effects and musical experiments. There's also space for one of the most popular and enduring examples of early British film music: Richard Addinsell's heartstring-tugging "Warsaw Concerto", and the programme ends with Walton's famous music to Laurence Olivier's wartime adaptation of Shakespeare's "Henry V".

02The 1940s: Alwyn, Easdale And Vaughan Williams20130924

Donald Macleod is joined in the studio by film music expert David Huckvale to explore the legacy of one of the most prolific film composers of the mid-20th century: William Alwyn, who juggled writing over a hundred film scores with a distinguished career in the concert hall.

The pair introduce an excerpt from Vaughan Williams's Sinfonia Antarctica - drawn from his music to the 1948 film Scott Of The Antarctic - plus a famous lollipop, Charles Williams's The Dream of Olwen, performed fabulously by Liberace...

And there's a rare chance to hear from the first score ever to win an Oscar for Best Original Score - written not by Vaughan Williams, Bliss, Walton or Alwyn - but by the "lost hero" of British film music, Brian Easdale; a man seemingly written out of British musical history.

Donald Macleod explores the legacy of prolific film composer William Alwyn.

03The 1950s: Ealing Comedy, Arnold And Winds Of Change20130925

Works by Malcolm Arnold, plus a celebration of Ealing Studios' musical legacy.

Donald Macleod and film music expert David Huckvale introduce music by one of British film's most versatile and industrious composers, as we hear excerpts from Malcolm Arnold's famous score to David Lean's "Bridge On The River Kwai" and "Hobson's Choice".

The pair also explore the musical legacy of one of British film's most famous producers - Ealing Studios - and the huge array of composers they commissioned, from elder statesmen like Vaughan Williams, Frankel and Ireland, to budding young voices like Gerrard Schurmann. We end with the winds of change, as popular music begins to challenge the classical status quo - with John Dankworth's sultry jazz score to "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning".

04The 1960s: Hammer Horror, Bond And The Beatles20130926

Donald Macleod is joined once more by film music expert David Huckvale to explore two completely different musical genres that dominated 1960s British film. On one hand, jazz and pop were beginning to infuse some of the most innovative and popular movies of the decade ? from The Beatles' "Hard Day's Night" to Monty Norman's famous "Bond Theme" and John Barry's music to "The Ipcress File".

And yet in a studio just off Regent Street, ghoulish forces were stirring... Hammer Horror provided a unique environment for British composers to experiment with the latest ideas from the European avant-garde, safe in the knowledge that audiences would accept their harsh dissonances and bizarre soundworlds in the context of terror. David Huckvale discusses the legacy of musical scarers-in-chief Elisabeth Lutyens, Tristram Cary, Benjamin Frankel ? and the 'godfather' of British horror music, James Bernard.

Donald Macleod focuses on British film scores of the 1960s.

05 LASTRemixes And Reimaginings: Rr Bennett, Nyman And Sawhney20130927

The last few decades have seen a previously unimaginable diversity of styles in British film music - with award-winning rock, dance and electronica scores by Pink Floyd, Massive Attack and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood - and music that increasingly blurs lines between genres by figures such as Michael Nyman and Nitin Sawhney.

Amidst all of this, Richard Rodney Bennett's extraordinary ability across a vast array of styles, from avant-garde modernism to jazz to quintessential British classicism, made him one of the most sought-after British composers in film.

Film music expert David Huckvale joins Donald Macleod for a final time to discuss his legacy - and the extraordinary crosspollination of musical genres in British film music at the beginning of the 21st century.

Exploring the mix of classical, rock, jazz and world music in modern British film scores.