Ever since Al Jolson famously said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet, folks!” during 1927’s “The Jazz Singer,” movie audiences have been wowed and astounded at the sounds a movie makes, especially the music. The two, ominous notes that signal the approaching shark in “Jaws,” the strong, yet tragic, minor-key theme of Obi-Wan Kenobi intoned by the brass, and the agitated, discordant string tremolos underlying the clock in “High Noon” are all examples of how movie music can scare or inspire us.
Recently, a fresh approach to movie music is making the rounds: live music. Orchestras all over the world have begun playing while a movie appears on the screen above them. Not only does this shed a new light on movie music itself, but it also provides cash-strapped orchestras, whose ticket sales have been hurt by the global recession, with an additional audience draw. The website “Movies in Concert” collects information on such concerts and lists them chronologically. The rules of the website indicate that qualifying concerts must include at least one item composed explicitly for either the big or small screen. The site also states that pieces composed only for musicals do not qualify.
Although there are far too many such concerts occurring throughout the world to list here, movie and music fans should explore these five noteworthy examples:
1. Gladiator: Hans Zimmer’s memorable score for “Gladiator” comes to life on the concert stage of the Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Justin Freer, transforms the iconic venue into the Colosseum for its thrilling performance. Above the orchestra’s heads, the film unfolds in high-definition glory.
2. The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra: Andris Poga and the Orchestre de Paris present Benjamin Britten’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra at the Salle Pleyel.” Britten’s charming score, intended to introduce students to the unique sounds and capabilities of each member of the orchestra, is enhanced by the showing of the original educational film produced by the British government in 1946.
3. Computer games: Computer games have put music to good use in evoking certain moods, highlighting certain game-play milestones and enhancing the general gaming experience. In an upcoming event, the Metropole Orkest, which specializes in popular and jazz music, will present an evening of computer-game music under the baton of Jules Buckley. Gamers from around the world will help choose what is played on the stage of the Royal Theatre Carré.
4. Fantasia: Presenting selections from both versions of Disney’s “Fantasia” live in concert, the Ron Spiegelman and the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra bring them to glorious life with live music as the films play out in high definition above the stage of Meymandi Concert Hall.
5. Raiders of the Lost Ark: Featuring such exciting scores as “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” “The Godfather,” and “The Untouchables,” the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra will, under conductor Nic Raine, accompany a montage of great moments from each film.