The Third Man (Score)

Posted by AJ Harbison at 5:52 pm

My lovely wife and I watched the 1949 movie The Third Man last week. It was a good movie, with an interesting mystery plot and featuring Orson Welles in what he called a “star role” (where people talk about his character for 45 minutes before he actually shows up). I was disappointed in the score, though. It was comprised entirely of zither music; the zither is a stringed instrument common in Eastern Europe, and since the movie was set in Vienna I suppose it made sense, as it would have been a style of music native to the movie’s time and place, and the carefree, happy folk music it played provided a nice artistic contrast to the film noir elements of the movie. But it did get annoying pretty quickly.

But it also set me thinking about the interesting challenge of setting the whole score of a movie for one instrument. I’ve written before of how I like the idea of a self-imposed limit on one’s palette of colors, and this seems like a great example. What would be a good instrument for such a challenge? (Solo piano doesn’t count.) Stringed instruments suggested themselves immediately; a violin or viola could certainly be used to striking effect, although a cello would have a richer tone and range. It’s hard to think of another instrument that could be used as effectively by itself throughout the course of a whole film (whether short or not). What do you think?


John Adams’ Blog

Posted by AJ Harbison at 3:40 pm

A fellow CFAMC composer recently shared a link to this post, called “I didn’t realize I was sitting next to the composer!” on the blog of John Adams, one of the most successful and widely-known of contemporary American composers. I liked the post and read through several others; Adams has a very entertaining and engaging writing style, and has a number of insightful comments on various musical and non-musical topics. I’ve added the blog, which is called “Hellmouth,” to my RSS feed, and I thought I’d share it with you, my loyal readers. Even if you don’t read the blog, though, you should definitely check out this post, entitled “Anger Builds at Dudamel’s Mishandling of Oil Leak” (some of the best work on the blog are these type of satire posts).

Hell Mouth is a blog about music (mostly contemporary), literature (mostly good), politics (mostly pernicious) and culture (mostly American). It is written by John Adams with the help of several “friends” who live in the redwoods of coastal Northern California.


Pastor Doug Wilson on the Arts in Culture

Posted by AJ Harbison at 1:21 pm

I don’t normally post things that don’t have to do with music in particular (this is The Listening Blog, after all), but Doug Wilson says some great things in this video that more people in our culture need to hear. He rightly describes how artists in former times were considered craftsmen rather than “lonely isolated artistes” in “capes and berets;” the lofty ideal of the artist as a human being living on some higher plane is a recent idea from the Romanticism of the 19th century (and many “artistes” would do well to realize it). And his illustration of Tolkien’s “leaf-mold of the mind,” and how great art can only come from a good education in the grounding of history, is another excellent point. Enjoy!

Ask Doug: Peter Hitchens and Art as Evangelism from Canon Wired on Vimeo.