Hot Potato John Barry Homage
I only recently discovered a 2012 Guy Farley score to a 1960s-era caper comedy, The Hot Potato.
I was listening to it cold (long story) and thought it was an actual piece of vintage 1960s film music. I had not heard of Guy Farley and thought, “Wow, this guy was really doing a John Barry act back then—why had I never heard of him?” (Is there not a more perfect 1960s English composer name than “Guy Farley”?)
If you listen to the above—yeah, it’s The Ipcress File. (And The Knack. And Bond, etc.)
When I learned, oh, it was a modern-day case of “Can you copy this old film score for us?” it all made sense.
Here are two more cues:
I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, it’s really a terrific, accurately, beautifully arranged and recorded homage. So that’s cool.
On the other...what exactly is the point?
I know the point for the composer is to give the filmmakers what they want...but beyond that?
Star Wars was famously an homage to the old serials and a symphonic age of yesteryear—but snippets of Korngold and Holst and Stravinsky aside, it’s really its own thing. The harmonic language is much more modern and angular than actual 1940s scores.
I remember being on the scoring stage for Rush Hour, where Brett Ratner hired Lalo Schifrin to emulate his own Enter the Dragon—and that was, at least, a case of the composer hired to do himself.
So that was great, and I was happy for Lalo, but I still had a bit of a feeling of, “Is this really adding to the conversation?” (I guess on Rush Hour, it’s not much of a conversation.)
I am catching up on The Orville and last night, within the first five minutes of the season 3, episode 3 score by Joel McNeely, I am pretty sure I heard the Amazing Stories/“The Mission” theme, a piece of The Empire Strikes Back and the shuttle landing music from Star Trek V.
I understand that all of the Orville scores are deliberate homages to Seth MacFarlane’s record collection—it’s basically their raison d’être. And they truly sound magnificent.
But the McNeely scores in particular, you know what the temp was because little pieces of it stick out.
So again...I don’t get it. You have all that money and a really good show—why not work from the drama out, not from the temp score in?
Because that’s what temp love does: it forces the composer to go through a subtractive process. Make it sound like this, but remove enough of it so that we don’t get in trouble.
Whereas the great film scores, and composers, they tend to be inspired by other works, but not film works. They are additive: they find other things in the culture and remix them to be a unique cinematic expression of the film.
You’re always using models in film scoring—trying orchestration, colors, chords, textures and idioms against the picture to see what “sticks.”
But falling in love with the temp...it’s just dunking your brain in concrete.
So, there you go. News flash—temp love makes film scores less creative.