Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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"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…

33 Tracks • 79:49

    Side One
  1. PARANORMAL INVESTIGATORS (Ghostbusters) 1:50
    Orchestrations: Peter Bernstein, David Spear • Ondes Martenot: Cynthia Millar

  2. OFFICE (Keeping the Faith) 2:16
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein, Patrick Russ

  3. GEORGE AND HELEN (The Babe) 3:28
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein • Trumpet: Malcolm McNab

  4. WALL STREET (From the Terrace) 1:30
    Orchestrations: Edward B. Powell • 20th Century Fox Studio Orchestra

  5. THE THREE (Keeping the Faith) 2:30
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein, Patrick Russ

  6. PROLOGUE (Hoodlum) 5:08
    Orchestrations: Patrick Russ • Ondes Martenot: Cynthia Millar

  7. WINGER (Stripes) 1:25
    Orchestrations: Peter Bernstein

  8. YANKEE STADIUM (The Babe) 2:27
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein • Trumpet: Malcolm McNab

  9. JACKSON (A Rage in Harlem) 2:29
    Orchestrations: Christopher Palmer • Saxophone: Kenneth Edge

  10. AWAKENING (From the Terrace) 4:52
    Orchestrations: Edward B. Powell • 20th Century Fox Studio Orchestra

  11. CLOISTER (Keeping the Faith) 2:07
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein, Patrick Russ

  12. HARRY AND THE GIRL (Heavy Metal: Harry Canyon) 3:03
    Orchestrations: Christopher Palmer, David Spear, Peter Bernstein • Royal Philharmonic Orchestra • London Voices

  13. FIRST CLIENT (Ghostbusters) 1:47
    Orchestrations: Peter Bernstein, David Spear • Ondes Martenot: Cynthia Millar

  14. NEW YORK (Gangs of New York) 1:48
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein, Patrick Russ

  15. Side Two
  16. MANHATTAN SKYLINE (Keeping the Faith) 2:38
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein, Patrick Russ

  17. FROM THE WOMB TO THE TOMB (Hoodlum) 3:27
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein • Ondes Martenot: Cynthia Millar

  18. IMABELLE (A Rage in Harlem) 1:48
    Orchestrations: Christopher Palmer • Saxophone: Kenneth Edge

  19. BASEBALL AND FREEDOM (The Babe) 2:00
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein • Trumpet: Malcolm McNab

  20. FRANCINE (Hoodlum) 1:51
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein • Ondes Martenot: Cynthia Millar

  21. DEPRESSION (Stripes) 0:40
    Orchestrations: Peter Bernstein

  22. TROLLEY (Gangs of New York) 0:56
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein, Patrick Russ

  23. TENDER WORDS (A Rage in Harlem) 1:36
    Orchestrations: Christopher Palmer • Saxophone: Kenneth Edge

  24. PICTURES (Keeping the Faith) 2:58
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein, Patrick Russ

  25. LINCOLN CENTER (Ghostbusters) 1:29
    Orchestrations: Peter Bernstein, David Spear • Ondes Martenot: Cynthia Millar

  26. BABY (The Babe) 2:06
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein • Trumpet: Malcolm McNab

  27. BUMPY AND THE QUEEN (Hoodlum) 2:36
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein • Ondes Martenot: Cynthia Millar

  28. CLANDESTINE MEETING (From the Terrace) 4:02
    Orchestrations: Edward B. Powell • 20th Century Fox Studio Orchestra

  29. FAITH (Keeping the Faith) 1:36
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein, Patrick Russ

  30. FIRST PAGODA (Gangs of New York) 1:41
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein, Patrick Russ • Ondes Martenot: Cynthia Millar

  31. CRYING AND FRIENDS (The Babe) 4:24
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein • Trumpet: Malcolm McNab

  32. HAPPY TRAIN (A Rage in Harlem) 2:46
    Orchestrations: Christopher Palmer • Saxophone: Kenneth Edge

  33. ALL'S WELL (Keeping the Faith) 0:58
    Orchestrations: Emilie A. Bernstein, Patrick Russ

  34. FINALE (Ghostbusters) 3:16
    Orchestrations: Peter Bernstein, David Spear • Ondes Martenot: Cynthia Millar
Music Composed and Conducted by

Original Soundtrack Recordings from the Motion Pictures

From the Terrace (1960) Film Score Monthly Vol. 3, No. 8
Stripes (1981) Varese Sarabande 302 066 663 2
Heavy Metal (1981) Film Score Monthly Vol. 11, No. 2
Ghostbusters (1984) Varese Sarabande Club VCL 0306 1046
The Babe (1991) MCA MCAD-10576
A Rage In Harlem (1991) Varese Sarabande VSD-5325
Hoodlum (1997) RCA Victor 09026-68837-2
Keeping the Faith (2000) Hollywood HR622752
Gangs of New York (2002) Varese Sarabande Club VCL 0608 1076

I made my selections from the scores and worked out a general structure I wanted to follow. That structure actually ended up becoming very fluid as I started actually working with the music because I experimented with having all of my edits in the master file, rather than making my micro-edits in separate project sessions. I had previously avoided doing that to prevent the timeline from getting too cluttered, but I really wasn't expecting this to be a very edit-heavy album. I miscalculated: there are a lot of edits throughout the album, but I also found that with proper care having everything in one place was actually quite advantageous, because I could smooth out issues immediately instead of toggling back to another session. Furthermore, I was able to make some pretty large changes to the program and its structure very quickly. As a result, the rough draft of the album was much more polished than my first drafts usually are. In fact, it was so not rough that it actually became the final draft of the album.

The opportunity to work with the Ghostbusters score was one that I relished. Despite the prevalence of songs throughout that film, Bernstein's score with its infectious main theme is nevertheless quite a presence in the movie. While I loved that theme, I never liked Bernstein's album arrangement of it, which had a goofy bridge that never appeared in the score. The theme tends to only appear in the score in very short quotes, so I knew I would have to find matching variations on it to edit together. The opening track of this album represents the first of two instances where this was done; it opens with the inspirational strains of "Plan," but right where that cue would naturally succeed into the main Ghostbusters theme, I segued to the original main title version of the theme (replaced in the film by the first appearance of Ray Parker Jr.'s iconic theme song), which I was able to dovetail into a subsequent cue "Walk" to extend the presentation of the theme; I then cut back to the finale of the main title to close off the track. While I had originally planned to open the album with the original main title from Keeping the Faith, once I had this track assembled, I realized that it was the beginning of the album.

Three more tracks appear from Ghostbusters, all of them combined from shorter cues. "First Client" is a suite that opens with a sparkling rendition of the main theme that leads into a droll arrangement in the "Sign" cue; I segued into "Client" to introduce Dana's theme and a few fun variations on the main theme, which continues into the "Apartment" scene. "Lincoln Center" is the variations on Dana's theme heard in "Meeting" and "I Respect You" with its triumphant crescendo (the title is actually from an old footwarmer I had of this title from way back).

As I mentioned earlier, one of the major inspirations for this album was Keeping the Faith, and it is represented here by several selections. I had originally intended to open the album with Bernstein's main title which was replaced in the film by the Tom Waits song "Please Call Me Baby." While I agreed with Norton's decision to open the film with the Waits song (it's perfect), I felt that the main title was a worthy piece in its own right, with a soaring version of the film's love theme that would have been heard during the film's opening helicopter shots of the city; I therefore chose to rename the main title "Manhattan Skyline." While I was assembling the album, I realized that I really did need to open it with Ghostbusters, but I wanted to include this piece. It became the opening to the album's "Side Two." I did want to introduce the love theme early on, and so I chose the breezy "Office," which not only was a better follow-up to the "Paranormal Investigators" edit, but is also chock full of trademark Bernstein sound, which is exactly what I wanted at that stage of the album.

The love theme is also heard further developed in "Cloister" and in the pleasing swing variation that closes the film, which was one of the last additions to the album after I decided that the finale needed a piece of music that assured everybody that "All's Well." In addition to the love theme, Bernstein also composed a serene motif for the lead characters' respective faiths, which is heard in "Cloister" and "Faith," a sprightly descending motif for the the "God Squad" heard in "The Trio" and "Pictures" and is given a series of jazzy variations at the conclusion of "Faith."

While most of these scores are from the 80s on, I wasn't opposed to dipping into Bernstein's past catalogue and discovered his outstanding score for the melodrama From the Terrace. While the masters had some damage on them, I felt that the music was so good that they were worth including despite the sound quality. I applied a minor bit of additional reverb to these tracks so that they would be a slightly better sonic match to the surrounding material, although I didn't really do much beyond that because I didn't want to muddy the sound. "Awakening" and "Clandestine Meeting" both feature hopeful renditions of Bernstein's Gershwinesque love theme, while "Wall Street" is great bit of Americana writing.

The nostalgia-bathed biopic The Babe, starring John Goodman as El Bambino, yielded a rather bright and sunny score from Bernstein. The film opens with a Coplandesque depiction of "Yankee Stadium" (with a little nod to Gerswhin in there too for good measure), which is reprised on a slow build amongst flourishes reflecting Babe Ruth's prowess at the game in "Baseball and Freedom." There is also a more sentimental side to the story, and this is reflected in the emotive cues "Baby" and "Crying and Friends," the latter of which closes off the main body of the album before the endgame. For this score's first appearance, however, I chose to graft the first portion of "Courting Helen" onto "Proposal," which allowed me to introduce some more expressive music while still maintaining the jovial tone I wanted for the opening sequence of the album.

Two of these scores were from Bill Duke's period Harlem gangster movies, though while they shared a setting, they were very different films and required very different scores. One thing they both have in common, however, is that the music for both is prime Bernstein. A Rage In Harlem is more of an action-comedy, and so the score is appropriately lighter in tone, with a bouncy theme for Forrest Whitaker's naïve character "Jackson" that will also return in "Happy Train" to announce this album's endgame. Also featured is "Imabelle," an assault of sexuality for Robin Givens and the soulful "Tender Words." Hoodlum is by contrast a much more operatic score with a gorgeous central theme laid out in full in the "Prologue," but referenced throughout the included tracks. I was careful when selecting material from this score that it not veer too far into the darker areas, as that would have been a bit too off-mission for this compilation. As a result, "From the Womb to the Tomb," "Francine" (which features a beautiful passage for Ondes Martenot) and "Bumpy and the Queen" all bear minor nips and tucks to concentrate more on the elements in those album tracks that fit in with the album as a whole.

I knew I wanted to include music from the Harry Canyon sequence from Heavy Metal. After careful consideration, I decided to recreate Bernstein's album edit for the original LP because while this track appears on the Film Score Monthly CD, the individual score tracks "The Next Morning" and "The End of Baby" had slightly better dynamic than the album master. While set in the future, the story itself draws very much from noir genre, and this is reflected in Bernstein's scoring for the massive alien gangster. Harry himself is represented by a lazy saxophone and a syncopated equestrian melody for his cab that recalls the composer's classic work on The Magnificent Seven.

Bernstein's final collaboration with Martin Scorsese was on Gangs of New York, but unfortunately his score for the film didn't survive the troubled post-production process, and what appeared in the film was an unbalanced mishmash that was somewhat surprising coming from the normally music-savvy Scorsese. The music Bernstein provided is mostly pretty dark and low-key, but there were a few moments that stood out as being perfect for this mix. "Trolley" is a wonderfully buoyant piece while "First Pagoda" features a mesmerizing Ondes Martenot passage. Bernstein himself was quite proud of "New York,", a tribute to the grandeur of the city that would have accompanied the montage that closed the film, and provided for me the finale to the "Side One" of the album.

I had always intended on closing this disc with Ghostbusters, but my original plan was to use the wrap-up cue "Finish." I started listening critically to "Finish" and the end credits, and felt that I preferred the performance on the end credits both because of the expanded presentation of Dana's theme, but also because the main Ghostbusters theme seemed jauntier. In order to get a clean opening, I started this track off with the album arrangement of Dana's theme, segueing to the end credits once the accompaniment begins. As with the opening track of the album, I wanted to extend the theme; luckily, the solution was in the very same track, the first appearance of the main Ghostbusters theme in the end credits (although most of Bernstein's credit sequence was dropped in favor of the songs, this segment does actually appear sandwiched between two songs in the film's titles) fit cleanly in the track. The fact that changed this last piece of music means that a really bad idea that I had was averted — since I was going to close with the "Finish" cue, I was considering tracking in Ernie Hudson delivering the final line of the film into the appropriate place in the crescendo. The line that certainly reflects the sentiment that led to the creation of this album, but the dialogue would have been inappropriate for the album. So in the end, the music speaks for itself.

But since you can't hear it right now:

Tags: elmer bernstein, film music, ghostbusters, my mixes, new york
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