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  • Thom Holmes

An Imaginary Movie in Sound

My Book/eBook: Electronic and Experimental Music, sixth edition, Routledge 2020.

My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music


For this episode, I decided to pull together some interesting tracks from different movie soundtracks that are not often heard. In a small way, this collection of soundtrack snippets spans the history of synthesizers. We have the earliest electronic music soundtrack created by filmmaker and composer John Carpenter for Dark Star in 1974, done completely with an EMS VCS3 synthesizer. From there we move to the pre-MIDI synthesis of the French film L'Ascenseur with it’s simple music created with Roland Synthesizers. Then into age of digital synthesizers with music made on the Synclavier for the movies Wargames by Anthony Marinelli and Cobra Verde by Florian Fricke. Then, more digital synthesis and sampling with music by Mike Oldfield using the Fairlight CMI for the film The Killing Fields. We will also hear composer Michael Stearns and his analog synthesizer tracks recorded for the Omnimax IMAX film Chronos on which he uses synthesizers by Serge Modular, Oberheim, Yamaha, and EMU. We will also bring home some more modern tracks conceived and composed via laptop computer by David Holmes, who did the music for the film ’71, and Cliff Martinez, former drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who provided spectacular, Eurosynth throwback sounds for the Drive in 2011. The last track is not obviously electronic—it’s one of my recent favorites from the movie The Lost City of Z, and I think you can hear why I have included this ambient, haunting piece called The Final Journey.


Rather than just play the tracks in chronological order, I decided to sequence them as a kind of movie of the imagination. There are similar themes, both instrumentally and aesthetically, that recur in this set of tracks. So, please enjoy these electronic sounds from the movies, dating from 1972 to the year 2014.


Details about each of these works can be found on the playlist of the podcast website or below in this blog.


Episode 56


An Imaginary Movie in Sound


Playlist

1. John Carpenter, “Opening sequence” from Dark Star (1980 Citadel). This record contains incidental music, sound effects and dialogue from the motion picture. Electronic music by John Carpenter. Completed in 1974, the film wasn’t released until 1979 following the success of Carpenter’s Halloween. The soundtrack followed in 1980. Early synth music from Carpenter for which he used the EMS VCS3 synthesizer. 3:30


2. Dick Maas, “Main Title” and “Out of Breath” from L'Ascenseur Bande Originale Du Film (The Lift) (1984 Milan). Composed by, Roland synthesizers, Dick Maas. 5:11


3. Mike Oldfield, “Pran's Departure,” “Worksite,” “The Year Zero,” “Blood Sucking” from The Killing Fields (1984 Virgin). Composed by, guitar, Fairlight Computer, Mike Oldfield; Choral & Orchestral Arrangements, edited by, David Bedford; Choir, Tölzer Boys Choir; Composed by David Bedford (“Worksite”), Mike Oldfield; Conductor, Eberhard Schoener; Orchestra Of The Bavarian State Opera; Asian Percussion, Preston Heyman (“The Year Zero”). 6:56


4. David Holmes, “You're Going To Belfast,” “The Hunt,” and “’71” from ’71 (2014 Touch Sensitive Records). 10:01


5. Arthur B Rubinstein, “Video Fever” plus dialogue from Wargames (1983 Polydor). Composer, Arthur B Rubinstein; Synclaver II Digital Music System; Linndrum Drum Machine; Roland System 100 Analog Synthesizer, programmed and performed, Anthony Marinelli, Brian Banks. 3:30


6. Michael Stearns, “Meditation 1” from Chronos (1984 Sonic Atmospheres). Created for the Ron Fricke film and produced for the six-channel discreet surround sound system of the OMNIMAX IMAX theaters. Stearns plays synthesizers made by Serge Modular, Oberheim, Yamaha, and EMU. Constance Demby plays “space” bass. 8:36


7. Cliff Martinez, “I Drive” from Drive (2011 Lakeshore Records). Composer, performer, Baschet Crystal, Cliff Martinez; Guitar, Mac Quayle; Lute, Sitar, Gregory Tripi. The Cristal Baschet is a contemporary musical instrument developed in 1952 by the brothers Bernard and François Baschet. To play, musicians rub the rods with wet fingertips. Martinez was also known as the drummer for the early Red Hot Chili Peppers. He uses the Baschet Cristal, a kind of glass harmonica, for many of the sustained, ambient tonalities, plus vintage synths and percussion devices to create these beautiful textures. 2:04


8. Cliff Martinez, “My Name on a Car” from Drive (2011 Lakeshore Records). Composer, performer, Baschet Crystal, Cliff Martinez; Guitar, Mac Quayle; Lute, Sitar, Gregory Tripi. 2:19


9. Cliff Martinez, “On the Beach” from Drive (2011 Lakeshore Records). Composer, performer, Baschet Crystal, Cliff Martinez; Guitar, Mac Quayle; Lute, Sitar, Gregory Tripi. 6:35


10.Cliff Martinez, “Rubber Head” from Drive (2011 Lakeshore Records). Composer, performer, Baschet Crystal, Cliff Martinez; Guitar, Mac Quayle; Lute, Sitar, Gregory Tripi. 3:09


11.Michael Stearns, “Meditation 3” from Chronos (1984 Sonic Atmospheres). Stearns plays synthesizers made by Serge Modular, Oberheim, Yamaha, and EMU. Constance Demby plays “space” bass. 5:05


12.Popol Vuh, “Sieh Nicht Überm Meer Ist's” from Cobra Verde (1987 Milan). Piano, Synclavier, vocals, Florian Fricke; Synclavier programming, recording and digital mastering by Ralph Graf; Guitar, percussion, vocals, Daniel Fichelscher; Vocals, Renate Knaup. 1:23


13.Popol Vuh, “Nachts: Schnee” and “Der Marktplatz” from Cobra Verde (1987 Milan). Piano, Synclavier, vocals, Florian Fricke; Synclavier programming, recording and digital mastering by Ralph Graf; Guitar, percussion, vocals, Daniel Fichelscher; Vocals, Renate Knaup. 4:24


14.Christopher Spelman, “The Final Journey” from The Lost City of Z (2017 Filmtrax). Composed, Arranged, Christopher Spelman; Conductors, Adam Klemens, Pejtsik Péter, Richard Hein; Drum, Jim Berenholtz; Flute, Jim Berenholtz; additional music, Kent Sparling; FILMharmonic Orchestra, The Budapest Film Orchestra, orchestrated by Daniel Halle. 7:51


Background Music, Introduction

  • Vangelis, “Blade Runner Blues” from Blade Runner (1994 EastWest). "Most of the music contained in this album originates from recordings I made in London in 1982, whilst working on the score for the film Blade Runner. Finding myself unable to release these recordings at the time, it is with great pleasure that I am able to do so now. Some of the pieces contained will be known to you from the Original Soundtrack of the film, whilst others are appearing here for the first time. Looking back to Ridley Scott's powerful and evocative pictures left me as stimulated as before, and made the recompiling of this music, today, an enjoyable experience." Vangelis (Athens, April 1994). 8:54

Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.

Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.





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NOISE AND NOTATIONS

Electronic and Experimental Music

Notes on the development and continuing history of electronic music, its creators, and the technology.