May 22nd, 2010

Egon (Ghostbusters)

"Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown!"

A few months ago, I read a discussion of Elmer Bernstein's score for Edward Norton's film Keeping the Faith. I had purchased the CD from a used bin (I remembered having liked the film) and had never gotten around to playing it, and so I was pleasantly surprised with it. The film is very much Norton's love letter to New York, and the very informative DVD commentary track with Norton and screenwriter Stuart Blumberg (who heap copious praise upon Bernstein's contribution) details their efforts to set their movie in the New York that people actually live in; indeed the very plot of the film is centered around maintaining one's cultural identity in such a kaleidescope of different peoples.

This set me thinking about Elmer Bernstein and how of all of the composers I know, he is the one whom I think most consistently captured what I like about New York City: its constant bustling energy, its stately beauty, its class… and, of course, the jadedness and chutzpah of its inhabitants. Bernstein was a native New Yorker himself, and his understanding of the city and its people came through whenever he worked on a project set here, despite the genre of the film itself. In fact, one film I think of as being a quintessential New York movie is Ghostbusters, which actually encompasses several genres (comedy, horror, adventure) for which Bernstein composed one of his best "schlub" themes which is inextricably linked in my mind to the borough of Manhattan. And so the idea for a new compilation was born; while I've used his music on many other compilations, this is the first time I've made one devoted specifically to Bernstein.

My emphasis was less on trying to represent the original scores than it was use material from them to create a specific portrait of the city. This meant that while I didn't mind the album getting dramatic, I shied away from action and tension cues, giving the album an emotionally engaging but breezy flavor. The album title was with the project right from the beginning; it isn't a reference to any of the included films, it came about because I took a walk through Central Park on a nice day a few weeks ago while listening to Keeping the Faith, and it just clicked.

And so here is my personal impression of New York City as illustrated with the music of Elmer Bernstein…

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