Boy on a Dolphin

Regarding film music in general, one might say that it is not in the nature of a film score to be wholly autonomous. In this respect it differs from music written for concert hall presentation in much the same way that a design for a stage setting differs from an easel painting. For example, a film score conceived with as much detail, or as richly textured as the Fourth Symphony of Brahms (we should live so long) would not be a good film score, regardless of its supreme merits as music. Being inherently self-sufficient, it would be constantly drawing attention to itself at the expense of the drama it was intended to enhance. I do not mean to imply that music for a film should be as consistently bland and unobtrusive as the so-called “mood music” which accompanies the rattle of dishes and the buzz of small talk in a coffee shop. To the contrary, it is my belief that the ideal film score is one which, while at all times maintaining its own integrity of line, manages at the same time to coalesce with all the other filmic elements involved; sometimes as a frame, at other times as a sort of connective tissue, and in still another (although naturally rarer) instances, as the chief actor in the drama. Other than this, it would be foolhardy to make any sort of sweeping statement as to what film music should or should not be. The problems confronting the film composer are never twice the same, and require in every instance another solution. The first commercially successful sound-film made its debut about thirty years ago. Ever since that time, composers of film music all over the world have been working at these problems, and one might venture to say that the ever-increasing demand on the part of the record buying public for music drawn from the sound-track of this or that film, may safely be considered as a testimonial to the success of their collective effort.

There are some films which lean more heavily on the musical element, than do others. “Boy on a Dolphin” is of this persuasion. Take a romantic love story, an exotic setting, a producer and a director both of whom are highly music-conscious; the sum total of these ingredients adds up to what might well be called a composer’s field day. Then too, the extraordinarily large amount of footage in which music plays a prominent part (to the exclusion of every other element, excepting the visual) has resulted in a sound-track which has more pure aural interest than almost any other of the sixty-five or seventy film scores I have written in the past.

The elements which constitute the score to “Boy on a Dolphin” are relatively few, and comparatively simple. I might almost say that they are even quite conventional. The nature of the film calls for music written in an idiom which has been current for approximately fifty years, in other words it is music essentially romantic, exotic, and impressionistic in style. Anything in the nature of avant-garde experimentation would have been a shocking intrusion, completely out of harmony with the film itself. Some austere souls might even call it “lush”, with no intention of using that adjective in a complimentary sense. I won’t waste my time, or the reader’s, in vehement protestations. Southern Europe, and particularly the Mediterranean area, is hardly an arctic wilderness. The little islands in the Agaean Sea have an almost unbelievable physical beauty, which has been faithfully brought to the screen by cinematographer Milton Krasner. If I have been as successful with the delineation of the aural image, as he has been with the visual, anyone so inclined can call it “lush”, if they want to. As a matter of fact, I hope that they will.

The listener will note that considerable use of the folk music of Greece has been made in the score. Although I devoted considerable time to research along these lines, I will not vouch for its complete authenticity. To do so, would be to open the door to a horde of angry specialists in the field, who wouldn’t fail to clobber me soundly (and not without provocation, either) for my presumption. The countries bordering the Mediterranean have been swapping cultures for centuries now, and to determine what is purely regional, and what has been borrowed, would take years of delving into the subject. With only ten weeks in which to write the music for “Boy on a Dolphin”, the best I could hope to achieve was a stylization which would be theatrically effective, rather than a completely truthful recreation, which might very well have turned out to be dull, no matter how authentic.

In closing, I should like to toss a few random bouquets to the people responsible for the transformation of what was an abstraction on paper, to a reality in sound. To Mary Kaye, whose voice is heard singing the “theme song” in the first and last bands of this album; to Paul Francis Webster, who wrote the lyric for “Boy on a Dolphin”; to Marni Nixon, whose out-of-this-world vocalise may be heard on side one, band two; also side two, band three; to Lionel Newman, conductor; to Edward Powell, who so faithfully carried out all my orchestral intentions; to Doug Williams, music recorder; to George Adams, music cutter; and to the 20th Century-Fox staff orchestra, – my gratitude, and my appreciation.

Leave a Reply