In his light music series (BBC Radio 3, Sundays 4-5pm) Brian Kay explores the close links between light music and film music in the output of William Walton and Malcolm Arnold if you consider that a large amount of the if i Happeal of what we call ‘Light Music’ is con-nected with nostalgia, then it’s fair to say that films and film composers have had a major part to play in establishing its popularity. In the early days of silent movies, the musicians who composed, arranged and performed the background music sometimes employing an orchestra of almost symphonic proportions – often went on to become expert in creating the sort of mood pieces which are the very essence of the genre, music which paints pictures in sound.
Fast forward and we find that the connections between Light Music and Movie Music become ever closer, with some of the finest of all easy-listening tunesmiths in demand in the cinema, including Richard Addinsell, Hubert Bath, and more recently Malcolm Arnold, Richard Rodney Bennett, Ron Goodwin and William Walton. The late Christopher Palmer summed up the reasons for Walton’s great success in this field. In his symphonic and choral music, he said, ‘There is an urgent ecstatic here-and-nowness, joy
of youth, a driving, firing passion, pulse and power. No wonder he took so readily to the cinema, since drama is the essence of his music.’ Walton himself admitted that ‘Doing films gave me a lot more fluency. In films you haven’t time to be choosy. You just get an idea and it’s unfortunate if it’s not a good one.’ When asked how much music he could compose in a day, Walton suggested that he’d be lucky to complete a couple of bars.
With Malcolm Arnold it could hardly have been more different. His fluency resulted in many pages of full score a day. And it’s just as well considering the enormous number of film scores he composed
– well over 100, ranging from his Oscar-winning score for Bridge on the River Kwai to the hilarious Belles of St Trinians. It’s no coincidence that the most prolific of all contemporary American film composers, John Williams, has spent so much of his performing life as the conductor of the Boston Pops, succeeding as he did the legendary Arthur Fiedler as the nation’s favourite purveyor of Light Music. ED Brian Kay will be including requests from BBC Music Magazine readers. Send to: BBC Music Magazine (Light Programme), Room A1004, 80 Wood Lane, London W12 OTT
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