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
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'