Alex North (1910-1991)
fear is a problem with film music and films; people want to be conventional, and there’s more commercialism today. If you are not daring in your art, you’re bankrupt.
Two scores of film composer Alex North’s have had a strong influence on me: Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960) and Joseph Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra (1963).
Watch the battle sequence in Spartacus and the way North synchronises percussion attacks with edits in the film. A director would have been forgiven for thinking such an approach might come across as crude, but in North’s hands, it has a compelling and musically devastating effect.
In Cleopatra, cleverly, North invents and uses a style of music for the film that is simultaneously ancient Roman and avant-garde 60s. Experience for example the cue for Cleopatra’s Entry into Rome. The music in this extended sequence is powerful and utterly original. North also combines diatonic with quartal harmony in this score, to hair-raising effect.
Other scores to discover are The Bad Seed (1955), The Agony & the Ecstasy (1965) and his original score for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 (1968) which was thrown out in favour of an (effective) temp score.