Sound Of Cinema

Confirmed for BBC Four on 19 September at 9.00pm to 10.00pm

Ep 2/3

Thursday 19 September



In Pop Goes The Soundtrack, the second of three programmes celebrating the history of film music for BBC Four as part of a wider Sound Of Cinema Season on the BBC, Neil Brand explores how a new generation of composers and filmmakers embraced jazz, pop and rock to bring new energy and relevance to the film score.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) was the first Hollywood drama with a full-length jazz soundtrack, and Neil turns his attention to how the film's composer, Alex North, used jazz to capture the sexual undercurrents of the story. He moves on to discuss how, in Britain, pop arranger and performer John Barry was brought in to arrange the theme for the first James Bond film, Dr No. Neil explains how this seemingly modest assignment led to Barry creating some of the most popular and distinctive soundtracks of modern times.

British cinema's most ambitious attempt to capitalise on the pop music phenomenon was The Beatles’ A Hard Day's Night (1964), and the film’s director, Richard Lester, tells Neil about the challenges of trying to build a story around a set of pre-existing songs. Hollywood, too, was keen to bring a pop sensibility to its films in the 1960s. Richard Sherman, who together with his brother Robert, composed some of Disney's best-loved songs, reveals how he created the music for Mary Poppins.

At the same time in Italy, another pop arranger, Ennio Morricone, was bringing unusual and experimental sounds to Spaghetti Westerns. Neil analyses Morricone’s score for A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) and shows the extraordinary degree to which the action and music work hand in hand. Travelling to San Francisco, Neil recounts how jazz-trained composer Lalo Schifrin brought a cool, contemporary sound to gritty West Coast thrillers like Bullitt and Dirty Harry.

A new generation of directors chose to bypass composers altogether, and Martin Scorsese justifies why the soundtrack of Mean Streets (1973) consists entirely of the records he grew up with in the 1960s. Canny film producers now realised they could profitably surf the musical booms of the 1970s, and composer David Shire tells Neil how he brought a disco style to his score for Saturday Night Fever. But as popular music became increasingly ubiquitous on soundtracks in the 1980s, director David Lynch was one of the few directors to use it in an imaginative way. Lynch’s long-time collaborator, composer Angelo Badalamenti, talks about their unique working relationship on Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, and demonstrates their idiosyncratic method of creating original songs.

Quentin Tarantino is perhaps one of the most influential directors working today who prefers pre-existing music over specially composed scores. His music supervisor talks exclusively to Neil about how she rose to the challenge of finding exactly the right tracks for Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Today, popular music is as much a part of the sound of cinema as the orchestral tradition, and early soundtracks by the likes of John Barry are landmarks of cinema’s musical heritage. The programme concludes with Bond composer David Arnold talking to Neil about how he rebooted the classic Barry sound for Daniel Craig's debut in Casino Royale.