Sunday, August 31, 2003

A Good Film Composer

I found a new film composer that I like a lot: Jan K.P. Kaczmarek. He's a Polish lawyer-turned-composer who has written the scores for films such as Unfaithful, Washington Square,1 and The Third Miracle. My wife and I just rented the latter -- an excellent movie, by the way -- which is how we discovered Kaczmarek.

He has a well-put-together website, and each page plays a clip from one of his scores. My favorite clip so far is "Farewell" from The Third Miracle, which can be heard on both this page and this page. It's a straightforward piano piece -- lots of block chords with seconds and sixths thrown in -- and is quite lovely.

In fact, I just spent a couple of hours transcribing the entire piece onto some staff paper so that my wife or I can play it on the piano. (For all I can tell, you can't buy Kaczmarek's sheet music anywhere.) The melody and bass weren't too hard to transcribe, but it took quite a few hearings to get all the inner voices.

Anyway, check out Kaczmarek's oeuvre. As Aaron Copland once said, "Sometimes in the middle of a concert of new works in New York, I say to myself, 'What's all the fuss about? The boys in Hollywood do this better every day in the week and think nothing of it.'"2

1 Washington Square is a remake of William Wyler's classic film The Heiress, for which Aaron Copland wrote an excellent score. In fact, he won the 1949 Oscar for "Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture," despite the fact that the studio had replaced Copland's title music with a sappy French love song. In describing this ignominious replacement, Andre Previn writes: "It begins with music under the credits; music that is slick, pretty, and utterly vapid. Then, suddenly, approximately two minutes along, there is a gear shift, and Copland's music takes over, spare and angular and gorgeous. It's like suddenly finding a diamond in a can of Heinz beans." Yes, indeed.

2 The Copland quote comes from David Raksin, "Talking Back: A Hollywood Composer States Case for His Craft," New York Times, Feb. 20, 1949; reprinted in the New York Times Encyclopedia of Film, vol. 5 (New York: Times Press, 1984).


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home