Music and cinema seem to have been made for each other, from the days when we watched black and white pictures to the sound of a pianola. Even then, music accompanied the pictures and set the right mood, be it during suspenseful moments, sad scenes or even during a brawl. The empathy between the two forms of artistic expression is so strong that our memories of a movie are often the memory of its soundtrack or, at least, one of its tunes. The best directors realized early on, the importance of music and hired the best composers for their movies. Some of these actually specialized in music for cinema.
The partnership between director Sergio Leone and composer Ennio Morricone, for instance, was one of the most fruitful. Several actors took part in the movie Once upon a time in America, in which the music, previously composed, based on the script, echoed during the filming, helping the actors a great deal - an extraordinary experience! Furthermore, Morricone was skilled at suggesting atmospheres through musical arrangements and phrasings.
However, Morricone didn't work with just Leone (check out the wonderful soundtrack in Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, by Giuseppe Tornatore) and he wasn't the only one to attain such an empathy. The name John Barry might not be as well known, but is instantly recognizable if you know he was the author of the famous James Bond theme song, as well as many soundtracks for the movies about the suave secret agent. Barry also composed dozens of unforgetable soundtracks for other movies, such as Out of Africa, Dances with Wolves, Cotton Club and the beautiful theme for Midnight Cowboy, immortalised be Toots Thielemans harmonica.
Hundreds of compositions for movies, television series and theater plays are part of Michel Legrand's impressive resumé. The French musician's work is very close to Jazz, as a result of his collaborations with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Phill Woods, Stephane Grappelli, among other famous jazz musicians. Some of his themes have even become standards. Legrand showed a special talent to innovate and pave new ways. He was the creator of a number of themes for movies of directors of the Nouvelle Vague, like Claude Lelouch, Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Demy. For the latter, he composed Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, which made him famous. Let's recall the crystalline The Summer Knows (from the movie Summer of '42) and You Must Believe in Spring.
Another great name is Nino Rota. His music brought life to the movies of Fellini, Visconti and Francis Coppola, especially the Godfather trilogy. Fellini once said that Rota didn't need images, because, in his mind, the stories appeared directly in the shape of music. Perhaps it's this immaterial and abstract ability that few people have that creates this empathy between music and cinema.
Here are the excerpts from a few theme songs. Can you recognize them?