Gramophone Presents … Film Music

Martin Cullingford
Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Our Editor introduces a special edition of Gramophone, out now, celebrating music for the movies

When you go to the cinema,’ wrote the French composer Maurice Jaubert, ‘it is not to hear music; we require it to deepen and prolong in us the screen’s visual impressions.’ Dying in action in the Second World War, Jaubert would only have experienced the early emergence of the art form, and yet his comment captures so well what film scores seek to do.

You don’t go to the cinema to hear the music, that’s true. But the reason it’s almost impossible to imagine any of the finest films of the past century without their soundtracks is because the music does exactly what Jaubert says: it elevates the experience – dramatically, emotionally – into something so much more powerful than images alone could possibly make it. And, as he also suggests, long after we’ve left the cinema, or turned off the television, the music becomes a crucial part of how we remember a film, and the way it made us feel when we watched it. Close your eyes and try and recall a scene from Star Wars without also hearing John Williams’s epic music racing through your head … well, I can’t do it.

John Williams’s music has been such a dominant part of cinema’s sound for so long now that it feels only fitting that our special edition of Gramophone begins with an in-depth focus on the composer, including a new interview with him, and an exploration of another facet of his work, his lesser-known concertos for the concert hall. But for all his brilliance, there are other, very different approaches to be taken to movie music, and across our magazine’s history we’ve covered the genre, profiling or interviewing many of its leading names.

What makes a great film score; who were, and indeed are, the greatest composers for cinema; where is movie music heading? We’ve tackled these questions, exploring topics ranging from silent cinema’s genius Buster Keaton to how today’s technology is transforming the art form – via articles on William Walton, Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone, John Barry, Philip Glass and many more. To conclude, we offer a guide to some of the finest soundtracks, starting in 1933 with Max Steiner’s King Kong and finishing with Hildur Gunadóttir’s score for Joker from our own era. My hope is that you’ll finish this special edition with a renewed respect for film music at its finest. 

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