The week in radio: A magic mix of music and movies in the BBC's Sound of Cinema

 

I love music and I love film. You might say they are my main passions in life if you don't count disco nail varnish and the pulled-pork sandwiches served in the pub opposite my house. So several weeks ago when the BBC announced a season of programmes called Sound of Cinema to be rolled out across both TV and radio, I let out a little cheer and blocked out a large chunk of my September diary with the reminders: "comfy clothes", "snacks" and "Radio 3".

It's hardly been a chore. What could have been a thin idea dealt with over a scattering of programmes in a single weekend has proved a meaty and compelling theme handled with style and depth over several weeks.

Over the last fortnight I've been catapulted, moist-eyed, back to early childhood by the sound of "Fat Sam's Grand Slam" from the film Bugsy Malone, played by Sean Rafferty on In Tune as he talked to its director Alan Parker.

I've come over all clammy as the film historian and Night Waves presenter Matthew Sweet exhumed the sounds of Jack Clayton's horror The Innocents alongside two of its stars, Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessop. (If you're in the mood to have your nerves shredded, listen to the opening lullaby "O Willow Waly" sung by Isla Cameron. You may never sleep again). I have shuddered as the dancer Deborah Bull, one of the contributors to The Essay series Praising Powell and Pressburger, recalled the grisly fate that met Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes when asked to choose between her husband and her career.

I got the heebie-jeebies all over again as the journalist Jonathan Coffey opened Radio 3's Sunday Feature with a few bars of Bernard Herrmann's score for Hitchcock's Vertigo, triggering an instant mental picture of James Stewart hanging off a building by his fingernails. Such is the power of music, storing film stills in your mind and then dusting them off years later with a mere five seconds of sound.

Coffey's subsequent investigation into the business of film-scoring in contemporary Hollywood took a surprising turn as one of his interviewees, the composer James Horner, lamented the lack of artistic vision at today's film studios. Horner talked with audible disgust about the homogenisation of the blockbuster and the teams of people fiddling away at films with copycat scores to boost focus group ratings and pull in greater profits. These people, he said, are "part of the panic process... I'm not being told 'Go with your heart', I'm being told 'Go with the flow'." None of what he had to say was that startling; the surprising part was that it was Horner – the man behind the music for God-awful, money-spinning beasts like Titanic, Troy and Avatar – was saying it.

A whole different sort of working relationship was presented in Twenty Minutes – Conversations with Directors and Film Composers in which Tom Service was joined by Ken Loach and the composer George Fenton. Having previous written big, blustering scores for Gandhi and Dangerous Liaisons, Fenton had to learn a new way of operating when he began working with Loach. He explained that Hollywood tends to use music as an emotional shorthand, but in Loach's films there is no such thing. The music is there to reinforce the reality of a picture rather than the artifice.

"Finding the music's voice that makes it implicit in the film rather than an addition is very difficult," said Loach. It occurred to me as I listened that, watching Loach films, I had never consciously heard music any at all, which is probably exactly what both composer and director were aiming for.

twitter.com/FionaSturges

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test