MICHAEL J. LEWIS, melody before anything
None better than the own welsh composer to talk us on aspects and anecdotes of his music, as presented on the stupendous double-CD recently issued. His comments were adapted from an interview realized by the english editor and critic John Williams for his magazine Music from the Movies, on his number 8 from Spring of 1995, here reproduced with his kind authorization:

JULIUS CAESAR / I really do have a great deal of affection for the Overture, because when I wrote it in 1970, it was like the end of an era; epics like Lawrence of Arabia has absolutely wonderful overtures. I fantasised about films like Exodus and Ben-Hur, so that Julius Caesar music was working out a fantasy, and there have been no opportunities since to do that type of thing. When I moved from London to Los Angeles, the original tapes were either lost or 'nicked' - I never did discover which!, so there I was in Berlin with the whole thing coming to life all over again. The recording of the Overture and Caesar's Entry were taken, in fact, from a live performance with a ninety-piece orchestra. So little film-music exists outside of the original recordings, that I hardly describe what a fabulous experience that was for me.

THE MEDUSA TOUCH / I must say that in the years since I did that, I've met so many people around the world, who say: "My God, the man who did The Medusa Touch!". I must confess that when I did it, it wasn't one of my favourite scores - it didn't have the melodic content of The Madwoman of Chaillot or of Theatre of Blood-, and now the CD is out people are ringing me, praising it, and the one score they keep zeroing in on is The Medusa Touch. When we did the original recordings, it was scored for a very large orchestra and organ, but for some reason the organ didn't get onto the score - and I'm talking about the Destruction of the Cathedral. So, the new recordings are exactly as I envisaged the score to be some 17 years ago. And that's what so exciting. I was able to go back to what was originally intended in the same way films are being re-shown as a 'director's cut' - like The Wild Bunch. It still intrigues me how large the fan-club for The Medusa Touch is; people seem to feel its energy, its throbbing vitality, and because people have been giving it so much attention I now have great affection for it also. One of the great joys for me was to do Grazioso, even though only about 20 seconds was actually used in the movie, and that was behind the newscaster after the jumbo-jet crash. Because it was done as a source cue, the original orchestration was very simple - just for organ and strings. When I came to do it this time around, I wanted to do the whole four minutes plus of it. So, I added the guitar and french horn parts and I just love the way it's turned out, which is to make it as interesting as possible to listen to, away from the movie.

THE NAKED FACE / This was the last film I did before I left London in 1985, and I was reunited with Bryan Forbes on this one, although in between that and The Madwoman of Chaillot, I had done a lovely little film with him for the BBC called Jessie, which was entirely a piano score, based on a couple of polkas, I believe. Anyway, The Naked Face was a very violent thriller, and this was an opportunity again for me to be very melodic, and I just like being melodic because it makes the job so very much easier and you can cover so much ground. Once you've got a melody going you've really cracked the score, because you're able to repeat it over and over again, and it also brings a cohesion to the score, and hence to the movie. And if it's a good melody, and I think The Naked Face is a good melody, it can add a lot of emotion to the score, which is a very important task for the composer. Anyway, in the opening sequence, Roger Moore was walking through the cemetery to go to the grave of his recently deceased wife, and these "baddies" were in the car watching him go, so the job was to try and mix emotion with tension, which needed a melody written in a minor key. Now, I had a very classical background. Before I was 21 I'd had no exposure to pop or rock or anything like that at all. I had heard saxophones in the Kings Hall in Aberystwyth, where one would occasionally go to dances, and I hated the bloody things!. I've always hated saxes, but when it came to this scene in the movie in 1985, it seemed the perfect instrument to use in this situation, and I actually got a big kick out of using an alto-sax for the first time, which I think worked very well. When it came to the re-recording I really didn't want to engage the services of a saxophonist just for two bars, as in the original, so I added a coda which was totally in keeping with the rest of the piece.

THEATRE OF BLOOD / After I had finished this score, (it was just after I had done the score for Cyrano on Broadway) that I got Anthony Burgess to write the lyrics to the Main Theme and Edwina's Theme. I rearranged them and United Artists, very kindly, put up the money and off we went to the Music Centre at Wembley. Diana Rigg, whom I already worked on Julius Caesar, sang those two themes, but they were never released. But I do have copies, and she was very seductive, actually, and I never did understand why they didn't release them.

THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT / There was a great deal of emotion attached to this movie, because it was my very first one. I'm listening to the Percussion now, and I remember after I'd written it, I told Bryan Forbes, the director, that I wasn't sure if it would work. He said "Let's record it and find out!". The logistics of actually recording it proved very difficult, remember in 1968 multi-track facilities didn't exist. Equally, hear the Musette's Theme and its accordion, it was like going into a time machine, and I really felt I was going back 25 years to when I first recorded it. It was the only time I have ever used an accordion, and I can still see all those faces in front of me at the London studio, and to me, the music still sounds as fresh and as lovely as it did all those years ago.

THE PASSAGE / The movies came and went very quickly, and the music had no time to attract any attention whatsoever. It's been very interesting just how many people already have become attached to the score from The Passage, commenting on the combination of energy and beauty, particularly Appassionata. J.Lee Thompson was the director, and one of the most eccentric men I've ever worked with!, although this music, which was done sixteen years ago, would have been lost in time if it wasn't for my interest in making sure it wasn't, because no one except me would care!.

THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES / This is one of the very few television scores I've done, and I'm sure it is another which otherwise would have been lost forever. It's too beautiful a work to receive that fate, and I wish that its director, Douglas Hickox, was still around to hear these new recordings. He thought that he hadn't put enough emotion into the picture, which was why he engaged me as the arch exponent of emotion. So when some people say "What a strange score for The Hound of the Baskervilles", I say well that's what the director wanted. He said "I've put the head into it, now you put the heart into it!". And so I did.

92 IN THE SHADE / I seemed to have become Elliot Kastner's resident composer and he felt I'd done some great work. He produced this film, and incidentally, 92 is apparently the temperature at which most murders are commited. The picture was shot at Key West, with Margot Kidder, Peter Fonda, Warren Oates and Harry Dean Stanton, with post production at Pinewood. The director, Thomas McGuane, said I might be a great composer but I wasn't a 'Red-Neck', so I became a 'Red-Neck' on Elliot's instructions, and we formed a band rather than an orchestra. It was all done as a country and western score and it worked fabulously well, and all I wrote was the top lines, chord symbols, and every eight bars I would say 'Harmonica', 'Violin' or 'Guitar' etc. When we did Key West Sundown in Los Angeles, I got Tommy Morgan on harmonica, Carl Verheyen on guitar, and again all I gave them was the top line. An they took just 25 minutes for this one take, and I think the track is an absolute classic!.

SPHINX / I've kept all my scores from the past -even the TV commercials, but one which has slipped through the net is this one. I've been onto Warner Brothers and they can't find their copy either. However, so many people wanted the main theme from Sphinx to be included, I embarked on the highly unusual, and not to be recommended, method of listening to my original London recording and transcribing my own music and my own orchestrations back onto score paper, which took me ten times longer that it ever did to do it in the first place. When I recorded it in Berlin, I was delighted to find I had got the transcription absolutely right. One drama which occured was that they didn't have an Egyptian santoor player, the santoor being the percussive string instrument which is not unlike a zither, so they tried to substitute a Hungarian zither which simply didn't work. So here was this 90-piece orchestra being held up by this guy who couldn't produce what I wanted. So, I got him to go off to lunch and the orchestra and I recorded the piece without him. Then, when I got back to Los Angeles I found this wonderful Persian santoor player, who lives only a mile from my home. And we dropped his part in.

THE RECORD / I really do want the whole of this double CD to be regarded not only as a collection of my film music, but also as an evening's entertainment in its own right. I have to say I'm 98.5% satisfied with what I have achieved with this CD. There are just one or two little things I wish I could have done a little differently, but I didn't have an inlimited budget, and some things you just have to accept. It was three years in the making with many obstacles in the way. You have to show a lot of tenacity in this business to be able to succeed. I felt I have grown, both as a musician and as a man, during this period, by sticking with it.

THE MUSIC / Let's hope that through this double CD, my music will be introduced to a whilst new generation of listeners. I realise that I'm not the first person to create a CD of his own work in this way - John Scott did it before me, believing that a lot of his work hadn't previously received the attention it deserved. And that's how I feel about my music! But if anyone reading this words detects a note of arrogance on my part, I'd like to to make it clear that I consider the musical and melodic talent I have is a divine gift, in other words I believe my music is as much an act of Godas my life is. I consider it incumbent on me as a human being to be a good custodian of my body, because the human body is a wonderful piece of apparatus. So, it's also incumbent of me to be a good custodian of God's work that happens to flow out through me. So when I say that The Madwoman of Chaillot or Theatre of Blood are wonderful tunes, it isn't arrogance but a glorification of God's abundance. And I think that all the music that ever flowed out of J.S.Bach, also came from God in the same way as it did in the cases of Beethoven, Brahms, etc. And, the other point to make is that if the artist doesn't believe on his own work, sure as hell no one else will!. A great part of my earlier career was spent on doing TV commercials all around the world, and although I had great fun doing it, it was all disposable music and I wasn't doing what I should have been doing. I certainly wasn't promoting my work as I should have done it, but I've now seen the light and will start to promote myself and my music much more vigorously than I ever did in the past. I feel very encouraged about future prospects, as I move onto the second 25 years of my career.

Orchestral Film Music - The First Twenty Five Years 1969-1994

JULIUS CAESAR (1969) - 10:53
THE MEDUSA TOUCH (1978) - 17:49
THE NAKED FACE (1985) - 4:24
THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973) - 13:45
THE PASSAGE (1979) - 12:24
92 IN THE SHADE (1975) - 5:16
SPHINX (1980) - 7:31
THE STICK-UP (1978) - 6:57
ROSE AND THE JACKAL (1990) - 2:40
THE UNSEEN (1980) - 5:39
FFOULKES (1979) - 2:45
UPON THIS ROCK (1970) - 9:46
Rundfunkorchester Berlin / Los Angeles Ensemble - Conductor: Michael J. Lewis

Ask for it at:
Pen Dinas Productions / 12525 Victory Blvd. Suite 121-NA. North Hollywood. CA 91606 / United States
Phone: 1-818-786-0844 / Fax: 1-818-781-5751

- CYRANO (Broadway Musical)
1980 - JESSIE (TV)

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