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Sunday, December 14, 2008


Grand Prix
Music by Maurice Jarre
Film Score Monthly Vol.11 No.9 (US)
30 Tracks 71:38 mins

John Frankenheimer's 1966 film Grand Prix stars James Garner, Yves Montand, Antonio Sabato and Brian Bedford as Formula 1 drivers and follows them through the season, being shot at the actual real-life races for authenticity.
Jerry Goldsmith had been originally engaged to write the score, but scheduling conflicts forced him to bow out and Frenchman Maurcice Jarre, arriving on the back of such successes as Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia, and having scored Frankenheimer's The Train, stepped in, which perhaps was appropriate with much of the film shot in Europe and some of the more dramatic moments reserved for the Monte Carlo leg of the tour. Of course, with Jarre at his peak, you know pretty much what to expect and his flowing themes are almost interchangeable throughout various assignments of this period. Indeed, his Lara's Theme from Doctor Zhivago is even included in the bonus source tracks on the album, though this specially recorded version wasn't ultimately used in the final film.
Jarre wisely chose to leave much of the actual racing footage unscored as the director was keen to present the most authentic engine sounds possible to accompany the scenes, and so Jarre's music just wouldn't have been able to compete. This wasn't always the case though, as in "The Clermont-Ferrand Race," where the effects were dialed down to allow Jarre to provide some particularly dreamy scoring for this fairy-tale like take on proceedings.
What we're left with are the thrilling and adventurous main theme, though sometimes delivered more subtly, first heard in the "Overture," after the composer's opening trumpets and trombones simulation of speeding cars.; a low-key, melancholy acoustic guitar-lead theme for Bedford's character; and a more optimistic and romantic piano-lead theme for Montand's character. All these themes are weaved in and out of the subsequent score, often flowing from one to another. The main theme also appears as a source waltz in "In the Garden" and arrangements for marching band in "Entr'acte," "Marche du Grand Prix," "Brands Hatch Finish" and the bolder "Starting Grid of Monza." Jarre also provides moments of tension, utilising his main theme in short, incomplete excerpts here and there, and a rather desperate and trippy version in "Brands Hatch I & II." After a reflective rendition of the doomed Montand character's theme, the composer brings the final score cue, "Pete on Empty Stands," to a triumphant close with his main theme.
The original soundtrack LP was a lavish gatefold presentation, with numerous stills and plenty of notes but, disappointingly, engine sounds intruded on the music in 2 of the 10 tracks presented. Thankfully, these tracks have been included here free of effects. FSM's presentation is much expanded from the original, featuring the 48 minute score, as well as 23 minutes of the aforementioned source material and alternate tracks, including those album tracks not included in the main body of the score. All this, and the always excellent accompanying booklet, featuring Paul Andrew MacLean's detailed notes on film and score, as well as the indispensable cue-by-cue guide to the music, and plenty of colour stills.
Amazingly, despite enjoying many of Jarre's albums for many years, I've never actually owned a copy of Grand Prix until now, so I am personally indebted to FSM for allowing me to catch up -and how - on what I've been missing. For your copy go to, where you can also find sound clips.

The Transcenders score Gossip Girl

The hit TV show Gossip Girl, about "a group of East Side Manhattan socialite teens who attend elite prep schools," has I am afraid passed me by thus far, but apparently the theme song, written by the Transcenders, a group consisting of Terence Yoshiaki, Brian Lapin and Mike Frantantuno, has become quite popular. What viewers may not realise is that the group have also written the incidental music which, of course, in this kind of show mostly consists of short transitional pieces, or pieces that work around the non-original song choices for the shows' soundtracks. They also write the music for the on-screen band "Lincoln Hawk," and the song "Everytime," performed on the season 1 finale, has also become popular, and is available on the iTunes release of OMFGG - Original Music From Gossip Girl.
The group's publicists, Costa Communications, have kindly sent me a CD sampling of some of their work and, although there are 17 tracks, the total running time is just 17:09 minutes, with all of the tracks under 2 minutes in length, which perfectly illustrates the nature of their underscoring. The music is often bright and bouncy, largely featuring guitars, keyboards and drumkit, though there are of course softer, sentimental and poignant moments. It all passes one by quite easily and pleasantly, and is certainly preferable to a lot of the synths-based scoring for TV these days.


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