Something There To Remind Me
I didn’t wear it out. I did listen to it more than a few times. And, I got to know it pretty well.
It would be years before I finally saw the film that went along with the soundtrack. That didn’t bother me. I simply enjoyed the pieces on the record as a collection of musical episodes. Some were charming and some were zany. There were all sorts of musical influences and memorable melodies, not just variations on a single theme, as in some soundtracks. I couldn’t begin to imagine how the pieces fit into the story suggested by the pictures on the LP cover.
A song on the recording was a big hit on the radio at the time. That’s what prompted someone to get the album for me. The film was drawing huge crowds too. But by the time I finally saw it, it was a “classic film” that featured a hit “oldie.” And I was let down because so little of the music, which I had gotten to know, made it into the movie. I’m guessing there weren’t a lot of others who felt that way.
I was reminded of that last week, when I heard that Burt Bacharach died at age 94. Even with the amazing number of hit songs that he wrote, many with lyricist Hal David, it was the soundtrack from the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid that came to mind.
I was all smiles when I read a 2016 review of the film score at Movie Music UK, in which Craig Lysy was disappointed that only 12 of the 26 minutes of music on the album were heard in the film. It turned out to be just enough for Bacharach to win two Oscars: Best Original Score and, with David’s lyrics, Best Original Song (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”).
During the years that I’ve hosted classical music programs, I’ve been reminded that Bacharach and jazz legend Dave Brubeck were the best known students of the 20th century French-born composer Darius Milhaud (1892-1974). I always enjoy hearing the story about Bacharach feeling apologetic for having written a nice tune as a part of a serious composition, since dissonance seemed to be in fashion at the time. But Milhaud told him not to be afraid of writing something that people can remember or whistle.
Milhaud borrowed lots of tunes for his compositions. His most popular works, Le boeuf sur le toit and Scaramouche, made use of Brazilian melodies, though the opening tune in “Le boeuf” was his own. Milhaud seemed to know a good tune when he heard one. And he didn’t dissuade Bacharach from writing them.
With or without that green light, Bacharach wrote hit tunes for decades. Just reading a handful of tributes and being reminded of all the song titles, my head became a juke box for days. Eventually, things quieted down, and those melodies took their place alongside all the classical music that’s up there.
You probably guessed that I’ve noticed “Bach” at the beginning of “Bacharach.“ In the New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Bacharach’s three-quarter page entry follows the 130 pages devoted to members of the Bach family and related Bach topics. In 2019, Maureen Lee Lenker, in Entertainment Weekly, shared a story told by Bacharach at the 10th TCM Festival. The composer said that when he met George Roy Hill to discuss the “Butch Cassidy” project, the director was playing the music of Bach at the piano. Even then, Bacharach would come right after Bach.
This past week, I learned, just by chance, that two ensembles which specialize in music from the time of Bach are celebrating major anniversaries. Accademia Bizantina celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. At the group’s home page, music director Ottavio Dantone sums up the ensemble’s approach to music: “Every time we set out to study a music score, we are aware of the commitment and responsibility ahead of us: to free the music, to breathe new life into it, to give it the chance to move us once again.” And he adds: “we explore together the musical secret that hides in the score.”
I also noticed that The Taverner Players, along with the Taverner Choir and Consort, were founded 50 years ago by music director Andrew Parrott. One of their recordings, which I feature quite often on the program (Virgin Classics 61304), was released 35 years ago, even though we acquired it nearly a decade later as a re-release. Among other works, it includes the Harp Concerto of George Frideric Handel with Andrew Lawrence King the soloist.
Whether your musical tastes are closer to Bach or to Bacharach, join us for Classic Mornings. Tune in Monday through Friday from 9-noon on FM 90.9 or online at will.illinois.edu.