The Musics for Legend

Originally published in CinemaScore #15 (Spring/Summer 1987)
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor and publisher, Randall D. Larson

Movie poster by Christopher King

Few film scores have aroused such controversy among moviegoers as that of Ridley Scott’s 1986 fantasy, LEGEND. Originally, Jerry Goldsmith provided a lush symphonic score utilizing strings, woodwinds and a striking use of choir, a score that the composer, and not a few of his colleagues including Ridley Scott himself, felt was among Goldsmith’s best work. The film was released by 20th Century Fox in England and Europe with the Goldsmith score, but audiences in America and Japan, where the film was distributed by Universal, heard a completely different score, by the German electronic band, Tangerine Dream. One source close to the film claimed the Goldsmith score was removed and replaced with Tangerine Dream in order to make the film more “accessible” to the teenage movie-going audience.

Film music fans were outraged, and Goldsmith himself was none too pleased about it. It was one more textbook case of studio commercial-minded heavy-handedness interfering with the artistic representation of a filmmaker, rein-forcing a disturbing trend toward blatant commercialism that has become all-too prevalent in contemporary moviemaking. Most moviegoers will probably never know these things, or care. The films will yield bountifully and the records will sell mightily, and the executives will rest upon the wisdom of their decisions and the practice will continue everlastingly. And what may have been lost, cinematically, will matter to really only a small few.

Among the few are the hardcore film music fans, many of whom approached the rescored LEGEND with a strong prejudice against the Tangerine Dream score. Happily the music this group provided for the film was highly effective, per-haps their best work for films thus far, even though the visual style of the film seemed much more suited to the airiness of Goldsmith’s score. Both scores are available on record, Tangerine Dream’s on MCA and Goldsmith’s on an independent British label named Filmtrax (and already out of print).

CinemaScore decided to investigate the LEGEND score and the developments leading to Goldsmith’s evisceration, yet keeping an open-minded interest in the approach taken by Tangerine Dream to create their own musical expression. Edgar Froese was interviewed by our editor via telephone from his studio in Berlin. Ridley Scott was queried by our British correspondent, David Stoner. Goldsmith declined our invitation for an interview, apparently out of an understandable mixture of displeasure regarding the whole incident and a desire to move onto further projects. However, Hollywood correspondent David Kraft brought to our attention an interview with Goldsmith about the LEGEND score in the Los Angeles Reader, which author Jonathan Benair has kindly allowed us to reprint.

What follows, then, is a look at and behind the scoring of LEGEND, from the perspective of all three primary participants. In a sense, it’s an old story, the struggle between the artists and the businessmen who run the movie industry; the plight of those whose vision has inspired and crafted a motion picture and the heavy-handed interference of those whose interests deal only with profit margins and maximum yield; the conflict between artistic integrity and the business-sense the movie industry needs in order to maintain itself. It’s a constant struggle, and quite probably an undying and even necessary one.
Randall D. Larson, 1987.

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Legend Part 1: The Jerry Goldsmith Score
Interviewed by Jonathan Benair

The following interview took place in the studio of Goldsmith’s Beverly Hills home on the day that LEGEND opened in Los Angeles.
When you scored LEGEND originally, how long was it? It’s about 93 minutes now.
When I scored it, it was two hours and 20 minutes. The first scene with the unicorn was six minutes long and I spent three hours recording the music for it.

Did you have a good working relationship with Ridley Scott before LEGEND?
No.

A friend of mine, who was one of the editors on UNDER FIRE, told me you didn’t have a happy time on ALIEN.
Ridley was somewhat surprised when they called me to do LEGEND. I flipped over the script, and you know the pity is the writer [William Hjorts-berg] is taking such a rap on this picture. They’re all blaming him, and he wrote a beautiful script. I wanted to do it because of the script. I told Ridley that working on ALIEN was one of the most miserable experiences I’ve ever had in this profession. Personally it was a really trying time for me. And he said, “What was the problem?” I said, “Ridley, you can’t communicate. I was on the picture for four months and I talked to you three times. All during the recording you didn’t say a word to me, and I need some feedback.” So on LEGEND we communicated like crazy and the score went right out the window.

I read somewhere that he said, “I hope Jerry forgives me.” Do you?
I read that. No, I don’t forgive him. Why should I forgive him?

I was told that the problem on ALIEN was that for the temporary soundtrack they used some music that you’d written for other pictures. When that kind of thing happens, they tend to fall in love with it and want the exact same thing for the original score.
Ridley uses an editor who fancies himself a real music maven. They all think he has great taste and knowledge of music because he has a big record collection – that somehow makes him an authority. Well, this guy can’t cut a damn thing without putting track to it. As soon as he’s got a piece of film, he’s got a track going on and the picture’s scored up the kazoo right from the beginning to the end. Then he’s going around the studio saying “How do you like my track job?”
On ALIEN they thought they were giving me a compliment by using my stuff. I didn’t like it. I’d rather they had used somebody else’s music. There’s a piece from FREUD used in ALIEN in the pod-opening scene. They bought the record and they fell in love with it. “Isn’t this wonderful?” they said. And I said, “No, it’s terrible.” And I wrote something for them that was absolutely right-on; it was beautiful – but no, they put that piece of shit in instead. And the same thing happened in LEGEND. In the version that was released in England, you can hear two pieces from PSYCHO II.

How did the album of your original LEGEND score come about?
The only places where the score is not in the film is in the United States and Canada. Europe’s a big market and the record company over there thought they could make some money on it. I felt that score was one of the best things I’ve done.

The writer who reviewed it in Variety from London felt it was one of your “best ever scores.”
[Laughing] What does he know? What do the critics know? Pauline Kael fried me for 20 years until UNDER FIRE. John Simon’s never given me a decent review and never will.

Is the album doing well?
I’ve heard the import is doing incredibly well. It’s interesting because Varese Sarabande wanted to distribute it in the United States but they couldn’t make a distribution deal with the English label. I guess they make more money by exporting it themselves. We knew going in, from the posi-tive reviews from the foreign press, that we would sell records.

Is it possible that on a Japanese or European videodisc, LEGEND will be available with your score?
You know on cable they’re going to do what they did with ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and HEAVEN’S GATE – show both versions. I’m curious -I haven’t seen either version. It’s too painful. I spent six months of my life on that film.

Has this ever happened to you before?
No. I’ve re-scored a lot of films, CHINATOWN being the most memorable one.

The story I heard on CHINATOWN was that you had three weeks to score it.
Ten days. It was the work of a composer named Philip Lambro. I heard a little of his score bleeding over the end credits. I couldn’t believe it – it was Chinese sounding.

In spite of all this, do you still get a kick out of composing for the movies?
Yes. Of course I do, or I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s what I really wanted to do ever since I was a kid, and I’m lucky enough to be doing the job I always wanted to do. And there aren’t too many people who can say that.
Reprinted from the Los Angeles Reader, May 2, 1986, with permission of the author

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Legend Part 2: Ridley Scott on the Music for LEGEND
by David Stoner

At CinemaScore’s request I contacted Ridley Scott to inquire his views about the musical situation on his film, LEGEND. Although he was very nice about it, he declined to go into details about his thoughts on the film and its score(s). Scott had nothing but praise for Goldsmith’s work, however, and said that the music was exactly what was required for his vision of the film. (Here, I suspect he was referring more to the complete 2-hour version that played in France rather than the 90-minute film we had here in England.) But he felt that it would not be a particularly constructive things for him to praise the score and then explain why he’s replaced it with another score in the same breath.

Scott did not want to go into the reasons behind the change other than to say that the powers-that-be had decided the film needed a more aggressive sound to it. However, he was directly instrumental in the placing of the new score. “I don’t want to talk too much about it or go into the reasons behind it,” Scott said. “It wouldn’t be fair on Jerry because it would imply that what he did wasn’t right or wasn’t good enough, which was certainly not the case. I still have to make my peace with Jerry. I want to work with him again.”

I received the impression from our conversation that he felt that he had been given the best score it was possible to have and that he was being forced to change it in an attempt to save the film from anticipated financial disaster.

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Legend Part 3: The Tangerine Dream Score
Edgar Froese interviewed by Randall D. Larson

Edgar Froese is the creator, leader and spokesperson for the German electron-ic band Tangerine Dream. Emerging in the early 70’s with a unique kind of sound – now alternately and inexactly called Space Music, New Age Music or New Music – the group’s style of ambient, improvisational and atonal music gathered a close-knit band of followers. Inevitably, they became to provide their own brand of music for films, starting with William Friedkin’s SORCERER in 1977 and including scores for WAVELENGTH, FLASHPOINT, FIRESTARTER and, most recently, HEARTBREAKERS.

Tangerine Dream’s initial membership included Froese, Peter Baumann and Chris Franke; through the years others have come and gone, and the group is currently comprised of Froese, Franke and Johanness Schmoelling, all of whom take an active hand in composing and performing the group’s material.

Tangerine Dream has created and developed a unique form of music, both in terms of sounds, electronic instruments and musical form. How do you incorporate this sound into a score for a movie?
What we’ve tried with each film we’ve worked on, and of course we’ve worked the same way with LEGEND, was to figure out what the writer wanted to say and what the director really wanted to put into the picture. Quite often that is not just what you see on the screen, it underlies much more in the subconscious area, especially with LEGEND. There is a chance of seeing the film as a sort of fairy tale on one hand, but you can then see the film as a more esoteric story, or you can just take it as pure entertainment. The whole film is produced on different levels, and that’s what we’ve tried to follow in creating the music. There are parts of music which could be called pure entertainment, parts of music which follow a more spiritual line, and there is some music which has just a few nice melodies in it which relate a bit more to other sequences which could be called part of a fairy tale.

How do you feel your particular brand of electronics fits into film scoring?
We don’t see ourselves as a pure electronic band. We use mainly electronic machineries and computers and synthesizers but we see ourselves mainly as composers. The fact that we use electronics is helpful, specifically on film scoring because you can be very fast, you can translate and transform your thoughts immediately into whatever you like, and it makes it quite helpful for us as composers.

How did you initially become involved in the LEGEND film?
That was a quite strange and funny story for us. I mean, not funny for Mr. Jerry Goldsmith who originally scored the film, whose score, by the way, we did respect. The first time we saw the film it still had the Goldsmith score. There was sort of misunderstanding, or whatever, between Universal and 20th Century Fox. Fox wanted to release it over here and in Europe with the Goldsmith score because they were already under pressure to have it at the Venice Festival, some other releases in France and elsewhere. But Universal, who had the right to release the film in the States, Japan and Australia, were not under so much pressure because they had no specific deadlines. Universal didn’t like the music, so they asked for someone who could do a more or less “extra-ordinary” score, whatever they thought “extra-ordinary” should be. Someone came up with the name Tangerine Dream, and Ridley Scott already had the experience of working with electronics by using Vangelis on BLADE RUNNER, so he went to our agent in L.A., and that’s how it came all about.

When you were first brought in what kind of instructions did Ridley Scott give to you as far as the kind of music he wanted, and how closely did he work with you as you composed the score?
Ridley Scott, to describe his knowledge about music, which is quite interesting, is one of the few non-musicians who can describe what he wants in musical terms. He knows the language, he can talk about a quad or an interval of a crescendo or an accelerando or whatever, which makes it quite easy to work with him. He is a bit like Michael Mann, the director we worked with on THIEF and THE KEEP. Those people are quite easy to handle because they explain what they want in musical terms and you can translate it more and try to give them what they want.

Tangerine Dream

Was Ridley Scott caught in the middle between Universal and the European distributors as far as who was going to score the final thing?
Everything was pretty much mixed up. There was at least a question for us if we should do it, because we’ve known it’s a big film, and if we for some reason fail then it’s maybe not good for our reputation, and everybody was very much under pressure. We flew into London and were talking to Ridley for a day or so just to sort out psychologically what he wanted, which is the way we always work. I mean, there’s no chance of doing a proper job if you don’t care what a director has to say, if you just go your own way, so we always listen quite carefully to other people. We figured out what he didn’t like on the Goldsmith track, first, and then we moved on from there.

What was your basic approach to scoring the film? What elements of the film were you trying to accentuate in your music?
We liked the story a lot, and we just loved the visual images. There are some wonderful pictures, and if you are really a composer you just have to watch the picture and you get some ideas right away. The opening is very mysterious, the whole film is placed in the middle of nowhere, in this forest that is part of Hell, and it’s part of Heaven, it’s part of everything. It’s whatever people imagine about good and evil, like Jung’s collective unconsciousness. If you think about the evil, evil is described in forms of different characters who appear in the film and whatever you can describe of the good side of life, that appears with a different character. I would see the aim of the film as the fight of good against the evil, or the other way around, and the way the human being can survive.

It seems your music is appropriate to that because you’ve always dealt in those kinds of spiritual terms in your music. Rather than just writing music that’s music there’s always been a lot of depth there..
That’s one thing you can easily do by using electronic instruments. You can go much further by creating specific sounds for a certain character or for a certain mood, the sort of sound you can’t get with a simple orchestra. You don’t necessarily have to use a huge big crescendo to explain things, you can use a thin line; one with, for instance, a very rich overtone scale, or a very unusual overtone scale which lies between maybe ten violins or a hundred flutes or whatever, or even a new sound which hasn’t been heard before. It’s a bit like being a sculptor or a painter, you’re starting from zero and building things in a very unusual way, and to follow pictures which were very unusual made it quite easy for us to compose the score.

How long did you have to produce the music for the film?
It was much longer than usual. Normally we can produce a soundtrack within two or three weeks, and but on that film it took us over two months. That was simply because the entire film runs approximately 85 minutes, and there is about 80 minutes of music — so there are just five minutes in the entire film that has no music! You can imagine composing 80 minutes of music, and cueing each second. That was the most difficult part of the entire work, because there is so much motion within the film and the mood is changing, sometimes from one second to the other, and it was Ridley’s idea that the music should follow all these emotional changes. That was the hardest thing to do, because you start, for instance, in a very aggressive mood and then within five or six seconds you have to break down everything and become very quiet, very symphonic; then you go into a sort of bubblegum rhythm, and after you get that going you move into a beautiful melody line, everything within maybe half a minute. That did cost a lot of time and a lot of energy, and we were pretty much exhausted after the final recording.

Some people may criticize the use of high-tech electronic scores in a film that seems to be a delicate, classical fairy tale. How would you respond to their objections?
Going back to the Goldsmith score, I would say, for instance, the opening he did was wonderful. We really loved the opening Goldsmith did. But, what can we say? I mean, if you get asked to do a second score for a film, you don’t go back to the first composer and say, “Hi, how do you feel about that?” No, you just sit down and start doing it.
But, to answer your question regarding electronics, the electronics just help to create things. We are not fanatic about electronics, it’s just better help, for instance, than trying to figure out which mood fifty percent of the orchestra is playing, or if they can transform it into what the composer had in mind. With electronic instruments you are your own creator, you can do whatever you like and if you don’t like it you can stop it, run the tape back, synchronize it again with other electronic devices, and go for another color, go for another mood.
We have also found them to be a big advantage when working through the years with Hollywood people. They are always quite nervous about what they get – sure, they want to get the best thing, and we appreciate that, but what happens if the first score is laid down and they rush into the studio and they don’t like it? If you are working with an orchestra then you just have to throw it away and start from zero again, or you get angry and they’re hiring another composer. But regarding the electronic side, you have everything stored into a computer and you go back to the original material and you work again from there. You do not have to erase the whole score, you can do a new mix, you can add new colors using the same rhythm. You can have the melody line stored on a floppy disc, and you could give it for another sound, another color, making it a violin instead of a flute, or use the same rhythm with a noise-type of sound instead of a drum set. That’s a quite comfortable way of satisfying people who cannot describe one hundred percent what they want but have got some aim in mind they want to reach. So you go on and work with them quite slowly until you really get what they want, and it’s helpful to do this with the new tech type of instruments.

It seems the composer himself would have a lot more control over the eventual outcome of the music, because he doesn’t have to rely on somebody else orchestrating it or conducting it or playing it. You can do all these things on your own and have a lot tighter control.
That’s absolutely right.

At least up until it’s recorded.
Yeah. It’s a real big advantage. If you’ve got a director or producer right behind you and they don’t agree to some sequences you go back and just change it, and that takes five or ten minutes. Think about doing the same procedure with an orchestra. That’s impossible.

Being a collaborative trio, and at one point, a quartet, how do the three of you work together in the composing and performing of your music? What benefits and challenges does this entail?
I think the best thing about the three of us is that we are, more or less, classically trained, so we know all the terms of music, we know where to start, where to build up things, and finally, where to end a piece of music, and so that makes it quite easy. There is no fighting, no ego tripping. I would say the way we work is a totally ego-less way of composing and producing music. The music stands first and if there is some space left for developing your very personal and individual thinking about a piece, okay, you put it in, but you put it in while you respect the thoughts and the feelings of your colleagues. I think that’s the only way to survive as a band. The good thing for us is that we don’t live just out of the film industry, we are a record producing band, we are a touring band — for instance we start the beginning of June [1986] a month-long American tour, and hopefully we can see a lot of people over there who like the music. We’ve got a few flags on different areas which keeps us going.

When you are composing the music, do you work on paper or directly at the musical keyboard?
We don’t work on paper at all, we compose directly into the machine, mainly using an alpha-numeric keyboard. That’s our main composing equipment. We store it on floppy discs and on megabyte discs, and that gives us a lot of freedom to go back and change things. We just create the music in a different form than just writing it down on paper. I think that’s a very old fashioned thing which is not necessary to do anymore, and even if you want to compose a piece for an orchestra you can switch on your printer on your computer and it prints out everything you’ve created, so that’s no problem anymore.

How many different electronic instruments were used in the LEGEND score?
On the LEGEND score we used 35 different types of synthesizers including bigger computers like the Synclavier and Fairlight and PPG System. There were a lot of specifically-designed sequencers used which created very irregular patterns and so it was more or less a pure high-tech production.

Tangerine Dream has been at the forefront of what has been a whole movement in electronic music, which has also seen development by others (predominantly Europeans), such as Klaus Schulze, Brian Eno, Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre and Japan’s Kitaro. What do you feel about some of the developments made in this field? What do you think of the future of this type of music?
I would say we more or less started the whole thing in ’69-’70, by using the first modular moog system, from Bob Moog, and without stepping very deep into the old analog machinery I would say that the slow development of electronic music on a more or less popular field has just started. If someone would say “it already has reached a point where music has become very cold and artificial”, I don’t agree at all. If you can’t play a violin very well, it sounds horrifying — the same for electronics. I would say if you just consider the high tech development in musical instruments as a way of helping the composer create more immediately what he feels and what he thinks then it can be the most advanced equipment of all time. But if it will be used in the way that it has been by pop and bubblegum bands, whatever style they created or whatever they wanted to say, then it can become a killer too. If you create a very beautiful and extraordinary sound which is a quite good to explain a certain mood, and you want to use it in a symphonic way, but the same sound is used by a disco band to produce a commercial then the sound is gone, it’s over used. You can’t put it on to your music anymore. That’s what happens quite often nowadays. So we are sometimes depressed because there are so many chances of creating new music and some of them are already gone because the sounds are overused.

That seems to happen a lot these days, what with the conflict between the commercial and the artistic. That even goes back to what Universal was wanting to do as far as getting a new score for LEGEND. Somebody at Universal apparently wanted to make the film more appealing to America’s teen-age audience which is why they wanted to look for someone a little more commercially appealing. How do you feel about those kinds of commercial considerations, particularly in relation with your own group’s commitment to artistry?
What Universal did, for instance, they gave us a free hand of doing what we thought was right for the film in connection with the director, so there was no one who said “That’s not commercial enough.” What they did do to make the whole thing go into a more commercial direction, the way you just explained, was to put a Brian Ferry song on, and then they had one of our compositions sung by John Anderson. By doing that they wanted to make sure they reached some type of young audience, so they made it as commercial as possible. To be honest, we are not totally enthusiastic about that, but that’s just a part of their policy.

There seems to be a continual change in Tangerine Dream’s music, from the largely ambient and improvisational Phaedra and Rubycon to the more rhythmic and nearly rock-and-roll style of Poland and Le Park. Would you comment on these changes and indicate where they may lead the group in the future?
When we started off using electronic instruments we were, to be honest, not so experienced in how to use them. So a lot of our earlier pieces are very long and we had to demonstrate things while we were learning the technique of the equipment. Through the years we learned to handle the equipment much better and so that’s why it became more flexible. That’s the first explanation that could be given to the change in music. But secondly, we have now been in the business about eighteen years, and through eighteen years you are not just sitting in one place. Its eighteen years of your lifetime and eighteen years of ups and downs and changes in your personal life, your philosophy, or maybe your way of thinking, your way of creating, or the way you look at certain things around yourself. That’s what makes it very different from the style you were into years ago. It’s a quite simple and natural process.

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Comments

  • rumtytum on said:

    As a film composer I found this story very sad and very funny. Sad because the film industry has more than its fair share of swine and funny because the events described are all too familiar. An industry run by phillistines who only care about a fast buck is one in which anybody with more sensitivity than Nero’s pit bulls will all too often experience serious heartbreak. The main thing in unravelling sagas like LEGEND is to follow the money. A score is usually replaced because the money men don’t think it will sell enough CDs, not because it doesn’t do justice to the film. And the money men are generally speaking ignorant fools for whom the safest bet is to do something that’s been done before, so anything brave or challenging will send them scurrying for cover. And poor old Tangerine Dream, who have to justify the fact that they agreed to replace Jerry Goldsmith’s score, sound so uncomfortable, so full of shit. You get to score a big Hollywood picture and you’re jumping for joy, not cringing in guilt. It’s neither Tangerine Dream’s nor Jerry Goldsmith’s fault that the producers had no brains, no taste and no respect. That’s what the industry’s like. If you can picture the owners of Chelsea football team choosing the team on the basis of the colour of their eyes, or the hobbies they confess to having, or how well they sing the club song you’re pretty close to the way the film industry functions.

  • pstone on said:

    Tangerine Dream’s Interview:

    “How many different electronic instruments were used in the LEGEND score?
    On the LEGEND score we used 35 different types of synthesizers including bigger computers like the Synclavier and Fairlight and PBG System.”

    Oh dear… what an embarrassing typo… “PPG System”. Considering the PPG Wave and Waveterm system is pretty much one of the dominant sounds within the entire film, I’m surprised this went to print wrong.

    • Randall D. Larson on said:

      Thanks for pointing this out. When I did the interview back in 1987 I was not as versed in these electronic systems and thought I had transcribed Mr. Froese’s statement correctly. The two acronyms do sound very similar. At the time we didn’t have tools like google or wikipedia to cross-check esoteric terms like this, and when we converted the original 1987 text for archival online I did not notice the error. I would call this an honest mistake rather than an embarrassing typo! In any case I will have it corrected forthwith – thanks for letting us know about it! – rdl

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