In Cleo and John, Dankworth describes Schlesinger's desire for a wide
Darling (1965) was the most varied score I have ever written and it was an
immensely rewarding experience. The difficult part of the score was not only
the recording but also in the conception. Director John Schlesinger thought
the actual sound he wanted often by playing records for me at his home, with
the result that almost every section of music had a different combination.
was a choir, one a pop group, one a banjo player, one a solo singer, one a
symphony orchestra and another an organ. I also had to transpose some
to other instruments to change the sound for Schlesinger, and I was glad of
experience as a jazz musician when making last-minute alterations (quoted in
Collier 1976: 109).
FG You mentioned in your memoirs that Reisz would have like to have written
scores himself, whereas Losey trusted you for the several movies you did
JD Well, I think that might have been a little unkind to Karel. I think it
was just that
he felt that with his knowledge of music he could explain to me better what
than if he expressed it in abstract terms like 'exciting' or 'dreamy' or
had little wisps of music that he knew in his head, so he would suggest a
like thing, a Wagnerian fanfare or a bit of Bach, and all that. Which, of
only his way of trying to explain, it didn't mean a series of pastiches of
composers by any means. Losey, on the other hand, was someone who picked
for their ability, and unless he felt very strongly that they were on the
wrong track, he
would just let them get on with it. He respected their specialised skills
and powers of
discernment, and only on one occasion did I see him step in. I remember with
Fox in The Servant that at one point Losey felt that on the earlier takes
his voice was
too highly pitched and should have been a bit more in the lower register. So
to redo all those passages.
Dankworth emphasises this point further in Cleo and John:
Directors like Losey, who gave me a completely free hand never even wanted
to know, in most cases, what instrument I was using. I find that I respond
treatment much better. Probably part of the trouble with Karel's films is
they both happened at a time when I was very busy - the Saturday Night and
Sunday Morning score was done at the same time as The Criminal - I was
dashing from one to the other. I'd never done a film score before in my life
I was given two in the same month (quoted in Collier 1976: 72).
Elsewhere in the same book he also makes an interesting point about scoring
I discussed the instrumentation [with Losey] for a long time. It's sometimes
only way you can communicate . you can't really discuss music with a non-
musical person without playing examples which I'm terrible at, so one
instrumentation. Somehow, I came up with the idea of two harps, and he
to that - I don't know why - and I wasn't sure that I could pull it off, but
it worked quite well (quoted in ibid: 108).
In fact, the music was actually commented upon by the film's reviewer in New
Society, who noted that:
John Dankworth's harp theme represents the peace of the environment in the
college library as well as in the meadows and on the river. Against the
harps his throating saxophone tells us of the anguished feelings of the
in that peaceful environment (quoted in ibid: 109).
FG I read that you turned down the score to Blow Up (1966). You said that
weren't keen initially because it was not the sort of film you would
normally do, or
were not comfortable with in some way.
JD It's not quite true to say that I turned it down. I was phoned and asked
if I was
interested in doing it, and I said I wasn't; anyway they might not have
even if I'd gone to the interview. At that time I was doing a lot of film
scoring and I
think they really would have liked to have used me if I'd wanted to do it.
So, I never
really got into the subject matter or whether it was a suitable film for me
at all. I just
felt that I was doing a few too many films at that time and that I'd better
something and make life a bit easier.
FG Yes you've said that after The Servant, the offers started coming in.
Servant established you as a film composer, did that enable you to exercise
creative freedom as a composer, as someone who could do your own thing
context of the movie?
JD I think that if you are approached, rather than you approaching them,
must have some sort of standing in their eyes, so you do get a certain
freedom in any movie, but any film composer has to remember that he is one
team. You've got to do what's best for the team rather than display your own
the expense of everything else in the film. But obviously, if they want to
cut out a
piece of music because they think that the scene doesn't need it, or to cut
out a whole
scene that's got a bit of music that you love, you can't exercise any
control over that.
FG- You have said that jazz composers work well in the film context because
versatility and their ability to make last-minute adjustments. Do you think
maybe one of the reasons why so many jazz composers flourished in writing
in Hollywood and London during the 1960s?
JD- Well maybe. It could be the fact that when you are hired to do a film as
composer, you inevitably come to certain portions of the film where jazz
do; maybe it's just source music - you see a violin and cello and piano
playing in a
café, and you have to adapt. There's always something there that isn't jazz,
a very good learning process for jazz composers who were a bit more
when they started. In the same way you very quickly find that the technical
requirements of writing for films are to work to a stopwatch. People make
that out to
be some sort of mystique that only a few chosen people can ever understand,
course, we all know it's as easy as hell, isn't it? Particularly in jazz, if
you select a
metronome speed and you've got cues of say 12.8 seconds and you fit it at
per minute, so you know that every bar line and so on. People say: 'I wonder
you ever get those things together', and you pretend that's it very
you don't want too many jazz composers coming in and being competitors.
FG Are there any current plans to do any more film scores?
JD At the moment, no. I've not been considered for anything since Gangster
[Dankworth's most recent score of 2001]
FG If you were invited to score again, are there any particular directors or
that you would like to work with?
JD Well, I can't say that there are, really, because I don't really want to
do any more,
unless they came out with a very strong case and said that they wouldn't go
without me, or flattered me enough to make me feel that the music was going
a very big part in the film, and said that they wanted me ahead of anybody
than that, I must admit that I cast my mind back to the pleasures of doing
it but also
the headaches that are often caused by internal politics, where people
involved in a
film are manoeuvring and countering each other. I felt I couldn't go through
again. I much prefer to be in as total control as possible of music, and
there are lots of
ways of doing that without having to go into the movies.
FG If you look back at the scores that you've done, do you have a particular
favourite, one that really stands out?
JD I think that the one that hangs together the best is The Servant. I
thought it did the
best service to the film and worked very well with it. But I'm also quite
proud of in
isolation, so to speak.
FG- It has been said that since the 1970s many movie scores have been bitten
Graduate bug, which is to say that they consist of popular songs
for the movie or that they use existing popular songs. Thus movie scores
started incorporating more popular music as opposed to original music.
JD- That's right, and it still applies a lot today when you see a list in
the credits as
long as your arm of 25 other pieces of music. That's the one thing that
about the way film music was going. Maybe the reason why I like The Servant
because I don't think that there's one example of that in the film. I had to
whatever had to be the music for the film. I think that what it amounts to
is that you
get rather offended when they want to use a record of someone else. You
doubt unreasonably, that you might be able to do something that would work
1. The other British feature films which Dankworth scored are: Return from
(1965), Sands of the Kalahari (1965), Scruggs (1965), Morgan: A Suitable
Treatment (1966), Modesty Blaise (1966), The Idol (1966), Accident (1967),
Safari (1967), Fathom (1967), Boom (songs only) (1968), Salt and Pepper
The Other People (1968), The Magus (1968), The Last Grenade (1970), The
Engagement (1970), Perfect Friday (1970), 10 Rillington Place (1971), Kiss
(Bang Bang) (2000), Gangster No. 1 (2000). His British television work
scores for The Voodoo Factor (ATV 1959), Survival - various episodes (Anglia
1961 till?), The Avengers - various episodes (ATV 1961-4), Monitor - 'What
Dickens' episode (BBC 1963), Tomorrow's World (1967-81), From a Bird's Eye
View (ATV 1971), The World of Survival - various episodes (Anglia 1971-7),
La! (BBC 1973), Telford's Change (BBC 1979), Mitch (LWT 1984), No Strings
(Yorkshire 1989), Money for Nothing (BBC 1993).
2. Look Back in Anger (1959) had jazz in the background, but it was by Chris
and the music was largely unrelated to the movie. The protest and rebellion
trumpet may have been a metaphor for the anger that the Richard Burton
felt, but it was not convincingly intertwined with the drama itself.
Barber also features in the youth club in We Are the Lambeth Boys.
Collier, Graham (1976), Cleo and John, London: Quartet Books.
Dankworth, John (1998), Jazz in Revolution, London: Constable.
Harris, Selwyn (2004), Jazzwise, pages?
Prendergast, Roy (1977), Film Music- A Neglected Art, New York