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albums08

Where does John Barry fit in modern cinema?

Stephen Woolston - Jan 5, 2002

John Barry was probably once the biggest name in film music. Bigger than Goldsmith. Bigger than Williams. Today he is appreciated massively but mostly in retrospect and out of affection for his first thirty years in the medium. He doesn't appear to have been the directors' choice of this or the last decade, and a rapidly decreasing body of film music listeners understands his music.

Many of the new detractors choose to disfavourably compare John Barry's scores with the grandeur and energy of such epic scores as Ben Hur, or modern actioners from Star Wars to Total Recall. They cite the excitement of the big sound and the energy of driving action cues. It's a flawed comparison. It assumes all film music aspires to the same sensibilities and all composers to the same films. Despite the Bond movies and Dances With Wolves, John Barry is not a composer of epic action and adventure scores. He never has been.

John Barry developed his style in a reactionary phase in films: the sixties. Golden age classics and old fashioned direction values were subsiding. The new generation had been disaffected by war but enjoyed their young adulthood amidst the excitement of new social and sexual values. Culture had revolutionised. There was new economic growth, new eras in world politics, new world anxieties and new cultural icons. The new directors admired the cinematic new wave of Jean Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. Production line cinema had gone out of vogue in favour of films stamped with personal style and authorship. Directors wanted to express their political views and became more interested in what they could say on a smaller, more intimate scale about the human condition.

The result was a wave of films interested in pseudo-ordinary people, intimate and rich in expressionism and stylistic freedom. The list of such films in Barry's CV are endless: The Knack, although an anarchic comedy, is still a close study of people heavily influenced by new individual expression. Bryan Forbes' films became a standard bearers of the new plain cinema in England. The list includes Petulia, The Chase, Midnight Cowboy, Follow Me, Walkabout, Dutchman, The Appointment. None of them were plain films stylistically but all favoured these pseduo-real people to the glamour icons that had gone before.

petulia
Petulia ... an archetype of the sixties character film in which John Barry established himself.

John Barry had a perfect European sensibility suited to these films. He was the English Nino Rota, not the English Rosza. By establishing and insisting on memorable melodic themes in intimate arrangements, his music brilliantly observed the humour, tears and drama of the people that had been filmed, their unusual bonds and their very different journeys through this life. It was a perfect marriage of film and music and John Barry was its undisputed master.

In 1977, one film changed the industry forever. Star Wars revived interest in fantasy in an irrevocable way. Society was emerging from its post war optimism with a new drudge of industrialism. It brought a new need for escapism. Cinema as art subsided towards cinema as the easy story telling medium, and character studies became out of vogue. The world community's taste in films shifted increasingly towards the low brow. As we stand today, by consensus and box office vote, we like our entertainment dumb, fantastic, unreal and very, very noisy. Intimacy in films has almost died, at least in America.

It would be an oversimplification to box Barry in as simply the composer who scored innovatively styled character films. After all, his music often swelled beyond character themes. I'm thinking of the defection scenes of The Tamarind Seed, and the fight music of The Ipcress File. But these cues extended out from a score whose central point was nonetheless a theme for a character or place. Bond was a form of escapism too, and he had mastered that art. Yet Bond is a remarkable exception. These worked mostly because of the scores were derivation from a song, and songwriting is a superb springboard for a melodist such as Barry. But even here Barry did not compose as for the classical epics. Bond music was hot, but that heat came from the exploration of combined jazz and Bacharachian easy listening, with mellow strings and cracking high notes in brass. Not from the jagged rhythms voiced by today's action composers.

The wonderful strokes of John Barry's intimate melodies is an intimate poetry undiscovered and unachieved by the modern purveyors of action music such as Zimmer and Elfman. Sadly, there's a declining demand for that in the modern American film. Not the mainstream film at least. There are some. American Beauty would have been an ideal Barry vehicle. Playing By Heart was another ideal vehicle that Barry did score. I rather fancy that Barry might have come up with something very interesting for Pulp Fiction too.

swept
Amy Foster ... was a character film but arguably too steeped in classical motifs. John Barry is a modernist.

In fact, it's too sad to reflect on some of the wonderful films that Barry could have really gone to town with. Imagine the wondrous score he might have written to 2001. Imagine the dark wonder he might have written in Apocalypse Now.

So where does Barry go from here? He can also fish for those few films like American Beauty that do call for a composer who can observe bittersweet humanity in music. But that's if the directors rediscover him. Could he go back into Bond to re-establish his popularity to get those assignments? A possibility, but only likely to work if he can have that song springboard back. Numb action films are not the solution. Neither The Specialist nor Mercury Rising could light the right fires, though in each case his music was strongest looking at the strange bonds of the characters again.

If Barry can't relate to something delicately emotional or explore the jazz idiom he has no place to go. It's not that Barry can't score humanly empty films with professionalism and craft. The Black Hole and Game of Death proved that. But then these scores have no special relevance in his career.

The modern trends simply do not suit Barry. Conversely, Barry does not suit them. Films like Hollow Man, Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes and Harry Potter are truly more suited to names like Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams.

Perhaps the best way to tap in to what Barry does truly well is to do what Herrmann did when his career ceased to flourish in Hollywood. Herrmann went to Europe. Not for long, but long enough to be rediscovered in a major way. Herrmann had become unpopular in Hollywood for his lack of pop scores, but he found a new vehicle for himself in films like The Bride Wore Black. Europe is still the predominant home of films about humanity made in creative styles. If John Barry could have scored Cinema Paradiso or even the difficult French film Beau Travail, he might have written something remarkable.

beau
Beau Travail ... perhaps European cinema is where Barry would flourish most.


Bottom line? It is an empty comparison to put Barry head to head with Rosza on accomplishment in biblical epics, or with Williams on accomplishment in summer blockbusters. It's like saying Steve Martin is funnier than Gregory Peck. So what? Answer this. How would Rosza do in a head to head on accomplishments in melody and intimacy?

Stephen Woolston

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PIA website

Have a look at our old "Play It Again" label website here.

Play It Again Records CD catalogue offered the discerning listener a wide choice of digitally re-mastered recordings from film and television, and rare collections of work from the likes of Don Black and Ron Grainer.

Contact the JB site

If you wish to send an email, for example with content for the website, please contact Geoff Leonard:

Email
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Location
Bristol, UK

Geoff (owner) and Ruud (webmaster) have been running the John Barry website since June 18, 2001.

This website is not endorsed by the composer's family.
Use of copyrighted materials and logos are for promotional purposes only.

All files on this website are for personal use only and cannot be bought or sold.

 

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John Barry related Events or Concerts


Submit your Event or Concert, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. We will not be responsible for any errors or inaccuracies.


 The Music of Bond RPO 11 April 2017

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra presents
The Music of Bond
Tuesday 11 April 2017
Doors: 6:45pm
Starts: 7:30pm

Website

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra returns to London’s Royal Albert Hall to perform The Music of Bond, following its sensational sell-out performance in October 2015.

Presented by A View to a Kill’s ‘Bond girl’ Fiona Fullerton, we celebrate over fifty years of timeless James Bond theme songs with hits from Goldfinger, Casino Royale, From Russia With Love, Diamonds Are Forever, Skyfall, Spectre and many more, all sung by outstanding vocalists Alison Jiear and Simon Bowman.

Gareth Hudson conductor
Alison Jiear vocalist
Simon Bowman vocalist
Fiona Fullerton presenter

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra


Sheffield City Hall
Irwin Mitchell Oval Hall
James Bond: The Music of 007

from £22.50

Booking Fees May Apply
Friday, 30 Jun 2017
Start Time: 19:30
Doors Open: 19:00

Website

The music that capture a world of pulse-pumping action, glamorous femmes fatales, villainous arch enemies and, of course, unforgettable tunes. With roaring brass, lush orchestrations and sensuous songs, these movies have produced hit after hit all over the world. The list of credits includes the thrumming James Bond theme itself, 'Diamonds are Forever', 'Moonraker', 'Thunderball', 'From Russia with Love', 'Goldfinger', 'For Your Eyes Only', 'Skyfall' and many more.

Smooth as a vodka martini, elegant as a tuxedo and cool as a cucumber sandwich, Stephen Bell, the Hallé's suave, sophisticated maestro leads the world-renowned Hallé Orchestra as they celebrate the ultimate British hero – James Bond. Immerse yourself in the spine-tingling sounds that gave musical voice to the films in catchy title sequences and haunting songs performed here by star vocalists Alison Jiear and Matthew Ford.

An evening packed with some of cinema's most iconic themes, come dressed as your favourite Bond character, knock back a Vodka Martini and be prepared to be shaken and stirred!

Tickets for The Music of James Bond with The Hallé' (subject to booking fees) at Sheffield City Hall are available online at www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk through the ticket hotline on 0114 2 789 789 and in person at the Sheffield City Hall Box Office.


A lot more James Bond concerts collected on the link below, I have put them all in this news item. So check it out from there!

http://www.moviesinconcert.nl/index.php?page=concertlist


31 Mar 2017

   Germany   Nürnberg A Night with James Bond (Jagd auf James Bond)

31 Mar 2017

 31 Mar 2017  USA Texas Fort Worth 007: The Music of James Bond
01 Apr 2017  USA Texas Fort Worth 007: The Music of James Bond

01 Apr 2017

   Germany   Stuttgart A Night with James Bond (Jagd auf James Bond)

02 Apr 2017

   USA Texas Fort Worth 007: The Music of James Bond

 02 Apr 2017

   United Kingdom   Leeds

Shaken & Stirred: The Music of James Bond

Shaken & Stirred: The Music of James Bond

02 April 2017

Tickets: £30, £27, £24, £19, £14, £10 (discounts available).

Website

Featuring Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever and Skyfall.

Leeds Town Hall

Concert begins at 4pm

Orchestra of Opera North
Gareth Hudson - conductor
Mary Carewe - voice
Simon Bowman - voice

The ultimate Bond concert with excerpts from all 24 films from Dr No to Spectre. With classic songs made famous by great artists such as Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Matt Monro, Paul McCartney, Duran Duran, Tina Turner, Adele, Sam Smith and more, this evening is dedicated to the world’s most famous spy.

Led by Gareth Hudson and joined by two of the leading vocal artists of the Bond repertoire, Mary Carewe and Simon Bowman, from the moment the Orchestra of Opera North strike up the iconic James Bond Theme you will realise that Nobody does it better as you’re immersed in an evening of classic Bond music which will leave you shaken AND stirred. 

Channel your inner spy or become a Bond-girl for the evening as we encourage bookers to dress to impress.

Norman/Raine - James Bond theme
Barry/Raine - Thunderball
Barry/Raine - Goldfinger
Barry/Raine - You only live twice
Barry/Raine - From Russia With Love: Title Song
Barry/Raine - Moonraker
Barry/Raine - Diamonds Are Forever
David & Bacharach/Raine - Casino Royale
Hamlisch/Raine - The Spy Who Loved Me: Nobody Does It Better
Barry/Raine - The Man With The Golden Gun: Title Song
Barry/Raine - On Her Majesty's Secret Service: We Have All The Time In The World
Barry/Raine - Suite: A View to a Kill
Walden & Cohen/Raine Licence to Kill: Title Song

Interval

Barry/Raine - A View to a Kill
Conti/Raine - For Your Eyes Only
Barry/Raine - Octopussy: All Time High
Barry & Waaktaar/Raine - The Living Daylights: Title Song
Bono & The Edge/Raine - Goldeneye
Arnold & Black/Raine - Tomorrow Never Dies: Surrender
Arnold - Die Another Day: Welcome to Cuba
Arnold & Black/Raine -The World Is Not Enough: Title Song
Cornell & Arnold/Raine Casino Royale: You Know My Name
White/Raine Quantum Of Solace: Another Way To Die
McCartney/Raine - Live And Let Die: Title Song
Atkins & Epworth/Raine - Skyfall
Smith/Raine - Spectre: Writing’s on the Wall


 08 Apr 2017

   United Kingdom   Belfast Goldfinger! The Best of James Bond

08 April 2017
Belfast
(United Kingdom)         
Goldfinger! The Best of James Bond
Ulster Orchestra conducted by Stephen Bell - Ulster Hall

Website

Program Info:
An explosive evening of the very best themes from the James Bond series. Stephen Bell will be the man with the golden baton, leading the Ulster Orchestra through classics from across the decades, from early films such as Goldfinger, right through to the present day and hits such as the Oscar-winning theme to Skyfall. Favourites such as Live and Let Die, Diamonds are Forever and Licence to Kill will leave you shaken and stirred at this fabulous concert!


External links:
Details & tickets


 11 Apr 2017

   United Kingdom   London The Music of Bond

13 Apr 2017

13 Apr 2017  USA Mississippi Kansas City Bond and beyond: 50 years of 007
14 Apr 2017  USA Mississippi Kansas City Bond and beyond: 50 years of 007
15 Apr 2017  USA Mississippi Kansas City Bond and beyond: 50 years of 007

  30 Jun 2017

   United Kingdom   Sheffield James Bond: The Music of 007

*

James Bond Spectacular
August 18, 2017
Time: 19:30

The Harlington Theatre
236 Fleet Road
Fleet
Hants
GU51 4BY

Website

Back by popular demand, popular Q The Music Show is coming back to The Harlington, Fleet bringing their fabulous and iconic music of James Bond to you in a stunning concert. This show has been a huge success at other theatres with its energetic and exciting performance by some of the UK’s leading musicians.

Featuring all the songs from the 007 movies, you can hear the greats like Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Skyfall, Thunderball, Live And Let Die, Goldeneye and Licence To Kill amongst all the others. With top musicians, dancers, and an informative and highly amusing compere, this show as everything you could want for a fabulous night out – and one that you will be talking about for years to come.

Formed in 2004, Q The Music Show have established a worldwide reputation for their authentic covers, orchestral sound and fabulous hair-raising vocalists. The show has been popular abroad at events in Monte Carlo, Germany, Italy, Guernsey, Prague and many others.

Don’t miss this superb evening as…Nobody Does It Better!


*

James Bond Spectacular
August 20, 2017
Time: 19:30

Buxton Opera House,
Water Street
Buxton
Derbyshire SK17 6XN

Website

The popular Q The Music Show brings its James Bond Concert Spectacular to Buxton Opera House. The 13-piece band will be bringing the fabulous and iconic music of James Bond to you in a stunning concert. This show has been a huge success all around the world with its energetic and exciting performance by some of the UK’s leading musicians.

Featuring all the songs from the 007 movies, you can hear the greats like Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Skyfall, Thunderball, Live And Let Die, Goldeneye and Licence To Kill amongst all the others. With top musicians and an informative and highly amusing compere, this show as everything you could want for a fabulous night out – and one that you will be talking about for years to come.

Formed in 2004, Q The Music Show have established a worldwide reputation for their authentic covers, orchestral sound and fabulous hair-raising vocalists. The show has been popular abroad at events in Monte Carlo, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Guernsey, Prague and many others.


19 Nov 2017

   Canada   Thunder Bay Shaken Not Stirred – The Music of James Bond

*

James Bond Spectacular
December 1, 2017
Time: 19:30

Camberley Theatre,
Knoll Road,
Camberley,
Surrey, GU15 3SY,
GB

Website

The popular James Bond Concert Spectacular by Q The Music Show is coming to Camberley Theatre. They will be bringing the fabulous and iconic music of James Bond to you in a stunning concert.  This show has been a huge success all around the World with its energetic and exciting performance by some of the UK’s leading musicians.
 
Featuring all the songs from the 007 movies...