This gem of a film is the opening credits for To Kill a Mockingbird -- introducing the innocence, the place, the time -- it is a miraculous, legendary moment in cinema. And Elmer Bernstein's music propels the viewer into the private, personal life of a child (girl or boy?) and we are inside that life.
Excellent commentary is available here quoting the meticulously crafted opening title director Stephen Frankfurt. I also recommend taking a moment to listen to the sound design without looking at the images - a snatch of Bernstein's theme plays and then we hear an un-selfconscious child's lilting voice humming a tune with the sound of a crayon scraping across paper. A ticking pocket watch, presumably, of Atticus Finch, fades in and out and in and out. And then, the music begins by putting you into that child's world without suggesting the violence and racism that follows in the story. The implication of innocence and better times mask what is to come and I find myself embracing that. time and place and innocence. It is abruptly torn open as the chid seemingly tears the crayon drawing revealing a black background. There is a chuckle as the camera pans downward and cross-fades to tree branches moving at the same speed in the same direction.
Return again to the images and see how extreme close-ups put you on the scale of tiny, beautiful objects kept and protected in an old cigar box. This opening music unfolds into the movie and transforms it into something timeless and exquisite. This little 5:45 scene is a memorable masterpiece. Many lessons reside here.
There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.
Composers Institute alumnus, Max Friedman, had a premiere at Brandeis University recently. I love the slow, subtle, relentless, penetrating musicality of the composition. Watch carefully to see the performers hovering in the darkness over the piano.
A graduate of Brown University in music and political science, Max is currently pursuing a Masters in Music Composition and Theory at Brandeis University. He studies composition with Yu-Hui Chang, David Rakowski, and Erin Gee; Yiddish with Ellen Kellman; and is a former student of Eric Nathan, Wang Lu, and Shawn Jaeger at Brown. In addition, Max was a 2021 Steiner Program Fellow at the Yiddish Book Center, and in 2022 he plans to attend the YIVO-Bard Uriel Weinreich Yiddish Summer Program.
It's always fun to listen to music while watching a video. What is often forgotten is the art of synchronizing a visual to an already-existing score (whether moving images or in a game). Here is a fascinating example of animation following music -- less common than you'd think. (Thank you, Disney!)
SLAVA UKRAINI! The Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov whispers in times of great chaos and commotion. That is the radical quality of his music when war is raging. Taking the time to let this music enter into your mind is also radical, not easy-listening. Take the time to listen to his whispering melodies.
Composer Randall Davidson creates music, and performs, produces, and promotes music of others. This blog is an annotated, virtual playlist of the music that he loves and that he calls "sticky" (aka memorable).