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Dialogue - Frank Griffith talks to Sir John Dankworth Print
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Dialogue - Frank Griffith talks to Sir John Dankworth
2. Initial involvement in scoring for films.
3. Working with Joseph Losey.
3. Defining the requirements of the score.
4. Potential for creative freedom.
5. Notes and References.

3. Defining the requirements of the score.

  • In Cleo and John, Dankworth describes Schlesinger's desire for a wide palette of musical sounds:

    'Darling (1965) was the most varied score I have ever written and it was an immensely rewarding experience.   The difficult part of the score was not only in the recording but also in the conception.   Director John Schlesinger thought of the actual sound he wanted often by playing records for me at his home, with the result that almost every section of music had a different combination.   One was a choir, one a pop group, one a banjo player, one a solo singer, one a symphony orchestra and another an organ.   I also had to transpose some sections to other instruments to change the sound for Schlesinger, and I was glad of my experience as a jazz musician when making last-minute alterations.' (quoted in Collier 1976: 109).

FG - You mentioned in your memoirs that Reisz would have like to have written the scores himself, whereas Losey trusted you for the several movies you did with him.

JD - Well, I think that might have been a little unkind to Karel.   I think it was just that he felt that with his knowledge of music he could explain to me better what he wanted than if he expressed it in abstract terms like 'exciting' or 'dreamy' or whatever.   He had little wisps of music that he knew in his head, so he would suggest a Debussy4ike thing, a Wagnerian fanfare or a bit of Bach, and all that.   Which, of course, was only his way of trying to explain, it didn't mean a series of pastiches of all these composers by any means.

Losey, on the other hand, was someone who picked people for their ability, and unless he felt very strongly that they were on the wrong track, he would just let them get on with it.   He respected their specialised skills and powers of discernment, and only on one occasion did I see him step in.   I remember with James Fox in The Servant that, at one point, Losey felt that on the earlier takes his voice was too highly pitched and should have been a bit more in the lower register.   So Fox had to redo all those passages.

  • Dankworth emphasises this point further in Cleo and John:

  • 'Directors like Losey, who gave me a completely free hand, never even wanted to know, in most cases, what instrument I was using.   I find that I respond to that treatment much better.   Probably part of the trouble with Karel's films is that they both happened at a time when I was very busy - the Saturday Night and Sunday Morning score was done at the same time as The Criminal - I was dashing from one to the other.   I'd never done a film score before in my life and I was given two in the same month' (quoted in Collier 1976:72).
  • Elsewhere in the same book he also makes an interesting point about scoring Accident (1987):

  • z_accident.jpg'I discussed the instrumentation (with Losey) for a long time.   It's sometimes the only way you can communicate...   you can't really discuss music with a non-musical person without playing examples, which I'm terrible at, so one discusses instrumentation.   Somehow, I came up with the idea of two harps, and he agreed to that - I don't know why - and I wasn't sure that I could pull it off, but in fact it worked quite well'. (quoted in ibid.: 108)

  • .
  • In fact, the music was actually commented upon by the film's reviewer in New Society, who noted that:

  • 'John Dankworth's harp theme represents the peace of the environment in the college library as well as in the meadows and on the river.   Against the heavenly harps, his throating saxophone tells us of the anguished feelings of the characters in that peaceful environment (quoted in ibid.: 109).

FG - I read that you turned down the score to Blow Up (1966).   You said that you weren't keen initially because it was not the sort of film you would normally do, or were not comfortable with in some way.

JD - It's not quite true to say that I turned it down.   I was phoned and asked if I was interested in doing it, and I said I wasn't; anyway they might not have chosen me even if I'd gone to the interview.   At that time I was doing a lot of film scoring and I think they really would have liked to have used me if I'd wanted to do it.   So, I never really got into the subject matter or whether it was a suitable film for me at all.   I just felt that I was doing a few too many films at that time and that I'd better turn down something and make life a bit easier.

z_mod_blaise_2.jpgz_boom.jpgz_last_safari.jpg 'next', at right, to read on.....

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