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Peter Knight, the Great British Orchestrator-Arranger

I generally find that fans make too much of an orchestrator’s contribution to a film score. The really great, A-list composers either orchestrated their own work (Herrmann, Delerue, Morricone) or wrote such detailed sketches that the orchestrator was definitely making a technical contribution (ensuring that the music had the proper orchestral balance) but not really acting as any kind of “co-composer” as we would understand it. (It’s a complicated subject and there are tons of exceptions.)

Can anybody tell the difference in a Jerry Goldsmith recording that was orchestrated by David Tamkin vs. Arthur Morton vs. Alexander Courage? I sure can’t.

I was once at a Basil Poledouris session (not going to say which one) where Basil was not able to use his preferred orchestrator (for scheduling reasons), so he worked with somebody else at first. Later in the schedule, his preferred collaborator became available, so he redid a cue. To me, the new and old versions sounded alike. I asked, “What’s the difference?” and Basil pointed out a number of extremely fine, subtle changes—like having a percussion instrument enhance a sting, the use of harp...these incredibly nuanced details of which instruments are playing and when. That’s what an orchestrator does.

And then there’s Peter Knight. He was an English arranger, orchestrator, composer and conductor best known by us film score geeks for his work with Trevor Jones (The Dark Crystal, Nate and Hayes) and Philippe Sarde (Tess, Ghost Story) from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Knight died in 1985, so that was the cut-off.

Listen to the lush orchestrations of these pieces, particularly the strings and woodwinds.

The fan-favorite Trevor Jones score to The Dark Crystal:

And Tess for Philippe Sarde:

Now check out this famous 1967 Moody Blues album, Days of Future Passed, for which Peter Knight did the orchestral arrangements and interludes:

Yeah, it seems pretty obvious that it’s the same hand here!

Here’s a song he arranged for the Carpenters (more pop, less symphonic):

So I’ve always been a huge fan.

If anybody knows other albums with his gorgeous symphonic work, please post in the comments. Thanks!

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