BOND: Live And Let Write (Music): MICHAEL KAMEN - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

BOND: Live And Let Write (Music): MICHAEL KAMEN

Chris Morley's got a licence to write...

As we continue our look back at the composers who have worked on the James Bond film series, we turn now to a one-shot 007 composer with more of a rock background than any of his predecessors or indeed successors in the shape of the late Michael Kamen who took on the role for Licence To Kill.

Kamen's career began in earnest while studying the oboe at New York's High School Of Music & Art, where he formed a friendship with Mark Snow who would go on to compose the theme for The X-Files. The two would later become part of the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble, an attempt to bring together the worlds of rock & classical music, the five piece band performing in white tie & tails during later studies at Juilliard.

Their first performance came at a Halloween dance at the famous music school in 1967, signed by Atlantic Records the following year in time to release a debut self-titled album...

Atlantic president Ahmet Ertegun was suitably impressed, telling them...
"You play all the right notes on all the wrong instruments!”
Four more records of doing exactly that would follow. Faithful Friends came within a year & quickly caught the ear of no less than Leonard Bernstein, the man behind the music of West Side Story impressed enough to offer them a guest spot as part of his Young People's Concerts in partnership with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra off the back of Brandenburg, itself based off Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concert.

As the Seventies dawned, Kamen would in a way get his first experience of film scoring thanks to the third Ensemble album Reflections which was intended as the soundtrack to a film which never actually saw the light of day. One of his songs, Gravedigger from the Roll Over album, released in 1971, would at least appear on the soundtrack of the musical western Zachariah........

By the time Roll Over hit the shelves, the Ensemble was trading under the shortened moniker of New York Rock Ensemble & releasing its music through Columbia Records - though this arrangement wouldn't last as they split following 1972's bite of the Freedomburger. After initially dabbling in ballet Michael Kamen's first opportunity to score for film solo arrived with The Next Man, starring former Bond Sean Connery in something of a tenuous link!

The first of his many orchestrations in collaboration with rock bands soon followed, hooking up with Pink Floyd to lend his talents to both the album & subsequent film adaptation of The Wall. Kamen also achieved quite the feat in being able to work with both Roger Waters & David Gilmour solo following the Floyd's acrimonious split, lending a hand in Waters' own take on what for many is one of their greatest rock operas for a 1990 performance in Berlin. Gilmour would also later dedicate his On An Island album to Kamen's memory three years after his untimely 2003 death from a heart attack at the age of just 55, having also been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Towards the end of 1988, the usual James Bond composer John Barry (who had scored almost every film from From Russia with Love onwards) was not available at the time to score Licence to Kill, the 16th Eon Productions James Bond film, as he was undergoing throat surgery, so the producers reached out to Micheal Kamen who had by then already successfully provided the scores for many other cinematic hits from the 1980s including; The Dead Zone, For Queen and Country, Polyester, Brazil, Someone To Watch Over Me, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Highlander and The Lethal Weapon film series.

Kamen's soundtrack is a more upbeat and suspenseful score than the Bond film series had previously had, and included a call back to the track "Jump Up" from the first Bond film, Dr. No within "Wedding Party", the music used during the wedding of Felix Leiter to Della Churchill.

After completing his work on Licence To Kill, Kamen added thrash metal to his CV as he worked with Metallica on the orchestral flourishes for Nothing Else Matters from 1991's The Black Album. He would reconvene with James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Jason Newsted & Lars Ulrich for their S & M concerts as conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

As Kerrang magazine pointed out in a piece marking the twentieth anniversary of the concerts,
“To both the band and the orchestra, this was blind territory. It was actually Michael Kamen who approached them with the suggestion of doing something like this, with the band admitting it wasn’t exactly on their to-do list before the opportunity came up.

“I wouldn’t say that I was completely ignorant to classical music but I wouldn’t say it was knocking on the back door of my Deep Purple records,” admitted Lars.”
Kamen as master of puppets you could say! And he would offer a simple...
“I say let Metallica be Metallica, and let the symphony be the symphony.

The two have more in common than not. Metallica’s music has often had elements of composers like Wagner and Brahms.” 
His instincts paid off handsomely with a shared Grammy win for their arrangement of The Call Of Ktulu, which Kamen added to his two other Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes, two Ivor Novello Awards, his Annie Award, and his Emmy.

For his cinematic work Kamen was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Original Song, for 1991s Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and 1994s Don Juan DeMarco. Missing out on both, its perhaps surprising that arguably his most profoundly affecting work on film was never nominated. His score for Mr Holland's Opus, the 1995 tale of a disaffected composer who eventually finds fulfillment as a music teacher (with Richard Dreyfus portraying the talented Mr Holland) receving much critical acclaim nonetheless.

Within a year of the film's release Kamen had founded the Mr Holland's Opus Foundation, supplying musical education & indeed the required instruments across America to those who wouldn't otherwise be able to experience them, the composer of the original film so moved by it he did something to give back to his community - a perfect note on which to end.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad