Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Who would have guessed that Aaron Copland's last film score would receive its first commercial release 42 years after it was recorded?

Something Wild, a 1961 film starring Carroll Baker, was a box-office flop, so distributor United Artists nixed a proposed soundtrack album despite its composer's fame.

New York film-music buff Mark Leneker, doing research into Copland's music four years ago, discovered that Copland had assembled a 35-minute album mockup and that a handful of copies were privately pressed and given to friends.

Leneker contacted the film's director, Jack Garfein, who now lives in Paris (and who, at the time of the film, was Carroll Baker's husband). It turned out that Garfein's current wife had discovered a mint, sealed copy of the LP in the family attic.

Copland conducted a 55-piece orchestra in the music, which is stylistically different from his earlier, more familiar Americana scores like Of Mice and Men (1939) and The Red Pony (1949). Because the film's subject matter is grim and violent (Baker plays a suicidal rape victim in New York City), the composer's idiom is more contemporary, incorporating jazz influences, serialism and occasional dissonance.

Copland adapted the score into a concert work, Music for a Great City, which was premiered in 1964. For those who prefer this suite, Music for a Great City is available in two recorded versions: Copland's own, with the London Symphony Orchestra (Sony 47236), and Leonard Slatkin's, with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (RCA 60149).

Something Wild is a welcome addition to the recent resurgence of interest in Copland's film music. Jonathan Sheffer's 2000 collection (Telarc 80583) of obscure Copland includes suites from The City (a documentary presented at the 1939 World's Fair), The Cummington Story (documentary short, 1945) and The North Star (1943).

More familiar to many listeners will be the Americana classics – Of Mice and Men, Our Town (1940) and The Red Pony – which are regularly performed in concert and have been the subject of multiple recordings over the years. Slatkin's Music for Films collection (RCA 61699) is comprised of a seven-movement suite from The Red Pony, nine minutes from Our Town and the five-movement Music for Movies, which includes two pieces from The City, two from Of Mice and Men – the barley-wagon and threshing sequences – and one from Our Town.

What caps the Slatkin CD is an eight-minute suite from The Heiress, Copland's Oscar-winning 1949 score – including the composer’s Prelude that director William Wyler dropped in post-production in favor of an orchestral arrangement of the plot-specific chanson, "Plaisir d'Amour." Jon Burlingame

Track listing

1. New York Profile (02:48)
2. Park At Night (01:27)
3. Subway Jam (02:16)
4. Mary Ann Resigned (02:01)
5. Incarceration and Nightmares (07:06)
6. Escape Through The City (07:23)
7. Love Music (01:57)
8. Walk Downtown (03:11)
9. Episode On The Bridge (04:51)
10. Mother Alone (00:57)
11. Reunion (01:05)

Total Duration: 00:35:02


Scoredaddy said...



Something Wild / Music for a Great City
In 1961 Copland composed the music for his eighth and final motion picture, an independent production entitled Something Wild. He had become somewhat hesitant about film work; but after previewing the picture at the urging of its thirty-one-year-old director, Jack Garfein, he was won over. "I found it extraordinarily vivid-even now-I've not much visual memory," he explained a few months later. "It grips the imagination .... The picture is so basic it lends itself naturally to music." Moreover, Garfein obliged Copland's working preferences, letting him compose at home with a Moviola and giving him control over the end product-no small matter after his last film, The Heiress (1949). And, in fact, Something Wild became his only feature film score to make it from paper to final edit intact.
Born in Czechoslovakia in 1930, Jack Garfein survived eleven Nazi concentration camps before his liberation at Auschwitz. After immigrating to the States, he studied at the New School of Social Research with directors Lee Strasberg and Erwin Piscator and devoted most of his career to stage direction and teaching. His friend the writer Henry Miller described him as "not only most affable, charming, exciting, but a great raconteur who holds you spellbound," "a perfectionist" with "the endurance of a giant and the knowledge of an encyclopedist," someone "deeply religious without belonging to church or synagogue."
In 1955 Garfein married Carroll Baker, whose performance the following year in Elia Kazan's Baby Doll (1956) made her a star. After directing his first film, a military-school drama called The Strange One (1957), he founded, with Baker, Prometheus Enterprises, a company aimed at producing quality, low-budget motion pictures. With $100,000 advanced to him by United Artists, he made Something Wild-his second and, to date, last feature film. He considered both Shostakovich and Morton Feldman for the music, but then gravitated toward Copland; he knew and loved The Tender Land, a work that, like Something Wild, concerned a young girl's self-discovery. Realizing how much the film stood to benefit from Copland's music, Baker offered her services to United Artists as collateral in order to cover his $42,500 fee-a hefty figure even by Hollywood standards and a huge percentage of the film's relatively small budget. Because the picture lost money, Carroll wound up having to go to Africa to film Mr. Moses. "But at the time," she recalled, "I was very happy to find a way for Copland to do it."
Garfein based Something Wild on Mary Ann, the first published novel of Alex Karmel (b. 1931), a New York-born author Garfein's age who had spent some years in Paris during the 1950s. Garfein and Karmel cowrote the screenplay, which closely adhered to the novel, an existentialist beauty-and-the-beast tale. On her way home from choir rehearsal, Mary Ann Robinson, an innocent high school girl, is raped in a New York public park. She immediately exhibits neurotic tendencies: washing herself compulsively, flinching from any bodily contact, and wearing a coat throughout the hot summer months, during which most of the story transpires. Unable to discuss the rape with her self-absorbed mother (Mrs. Gates) and ineffectual stepfather, she leaves home and disappears into the city, renting a tiny room in a rundown tenement and taking a part-time job in the local five-and-dime. Withdrawn from her miserly landlord, the vulgar prostitute who rents the room next to hers, and the catty shopgirls at work, she attempts to jump off a bridge, only to be prevented at the last moment by a passing auto mechanic, Mike.
Accepting Mike's offer to rest in his secluded basement apartment, she finds herself locked up as a virtual prisoner. Mike's behavior wavers between tenderness and brutality. Early on, when he returns home drunk, Mary Ann kicks him in the face, blinding him in one eye; when he awakens, he thinks his injured eye the result of a bar brawl. He hopes Mary Ann will eventually agree to marry him, but after she confesses that she blinded him, he lets her escape. After wandering about the city, Mary Ann spends the night in a park; she awakens transformed, reconciled to the world. She returns to Mike, who now seems attractive to her. Mrs. Gates visits her at Christmastime and learns that she and Mike, now married, are expecting a baby.
The film, produced by George Justin, starred Carroll Baker as Mary Ann, Ralph Meeker as Mike, Mildred Dunnock as Mrs. Gates, and Jean Stapleton as the prostitute. Garfein shot the film on location in New York, emphasizing the city as wasteland: squalid apartments, crammed subways, excavation rubble, looming billboards, homeless beggars, and so on, all baking in the summer heat. Assisted by Eugen Shuftan's gritty black-and-white cinematography, such direction recalled the photographs and films about New York (including The City) that emanated from the Stieglitz circle; this surely constituted some of the picture's appeal for Copland. At the same time, the picture resembled Europe's neorealist cinema, the connections heightened by the vague malaise of its two main characters, withdrawn to the point of silence, suicide, drunken stupor, frigidity, fatigue, claustrophobia, and nausea. All this enabled Copland to revisit, in a fresh light, his longstanding inclination toward urban realism and social criticism.
Indeed, the film score, with its music for New York's skyscrapers and apartment buildings, its subways, its crowded streets, its bridges and factories, and its playgrounds, as well as for Harlem and Times Square, can be viewed as Copland's culminating cityscape. Even in the two scenes depicting Mary Ann walking through a city park, he attempted "pastoral sounds that are edged with a steely quality, hoping thereby to suggest the country in the midst of the city," a sound partly achieved through accented chimings in the glockenspiel and vibraphone.
Significantly, he originally intended to title his suite from the film Music for New York but changed it to Music for a Great City in deference to the London Symphony Orchestra, whose sixtieth season the piece commemorated. The "great" in the title, he explained, "meant large and noisy." When the work was premiered in London on 26 May 1964, he noted, with evident satisfaction, that "every critic mentioned that the precise locale of the 'great city' in the title was Manhattan, not London."
Copland's penchant in his later years for dense, dissonant harmonies, chromatic (sometimes twelve-tone) melodies, and percussive sonorities served him well in this regard. The main title, for instance, immediately announces a somewhat strident seven-note harmony that evokes, in Copland's own words, "a sense of power and tension. I worked on that chord to make it sum up what the picture is all about." When a depressed Mary Ann slowly walks down the stairs of her tenement on her way to the bridge, a descending twelve-tone melody in canon ably captures her utter defeat. And in many episodes, the score accentuates its enormous percussion battery, as in Mary Ann's crowded subway ride to school. Copland even hoped to collaborate with his secretary, David Walker, on electronic sounds for the scene at the bridge, but monetary considerations precluded this.
The music not only heightens the film's atmosphere but helps delineate character, especially that of Mary Ann, the movie's principal figure by far (though there are distinct themes for Mrs. Gates and Mike as well). Copland took advantage of Mary Ann's appearance in nearly every scene (often by herself) to paint a vivid portrait of a rape victim-forlorn after her rape, anxious as she decides to leave home, dazed on her way to the bridge, fearful and confused when she finds herself prisoner. The music becomes more psychologically complex-wavering between fear and love-as Mary Ann begins to develop romantic feelings toward Mike. Copland also faced the critical and daunting task of elucidating Mary Ann's overnight transformation, but it was a challenge for which he was particularly well suited; so many of his works contain affirmative gestures that rise up from the prevailing gloom. Here he states a poignant melody, one neatly introduced during the title, so that the viewer has some foreshadowing of Mary Ann's coming rebirth.
Copland also made incisive use of silence, withholding music, for example, at the film's two most violent moments: the rape of Mary Ann and the kick in Mike's face. Garfein had his one disagreement with Copland over the absence of music for the rape scene, but he later acknowledged this decision as "absolutely masterful." Copland also avoided writing music for the first few scenes between Mary Ann and Mike, the silence pointing up the ambiguity of their relationship; he apparently felt that even the most neutral music would somehow color the drama in a way that might dissipate the tension. And at the end of the film's one short love scene, the music fades out just prior to the climactic moment when Mary Ann and Mike kiss. "Music, when it speaks, tells too much," he noted while working on the score. "In this film we must wonder what is going on, and not really know."
Garfein found the music moving and effective; Copland, he thought, had not only brilliantly depicted the crushing impact of modern life on a vulnerable girl but had revealed, seemingly hidden in the film, his own attempts to break through the isolation and violence of his traumatic past:
"It is not too much to say that Aaron made me realize things about my life I had not confronted." For her part, Baker was "ecstatic at what the music added to the film," telling Copland, "Your music makes me a wonderful actress."
Something Wild received mixed reviews in the press; the critics liked its offbeat qualities but found the story somewhat dull and confusing. General audiences took little interest in it, at least until it appeared on television a year or two after its release. Although the music was in some ways the most arresting of Copland's eight film scores, United Artists chose not to issue the soundtrack and Hollywood ignored it at Oscar time-in large part, one imagines, because the film was neither a studio production nor a box-office hit. Even today, most studies of film music overlook this towering achievement.
Copland had better success with the score's concert adaptation, Music for a Great City (1964). In contrast to earlier such suites, for this work he stitched together, in three of the four movements, large sections from disparate parts of the film. The first movement, "Skyline," even resembles, to one familiar with the film score, something of a crazy quilt: it comprises the main title, "New York Profile"; part of Mary Ann's "Escape Through the City" (the rumba); an interpolation of "The Park at Night"; Mary Ann's "Nightmare" (the celesta solo); and, after a pause, a return to "New York Profile." The second movement, "Night Thoughts," more narrowly focuses on those moments depicting the reflective Mary Ann but similarly conjoins separate episodes: "Mary Ann Resigned," "Incarceration" (the swaying 6/8 meter), the opening portion of "Escape Through the City" (the English horn solo), and a reprise of "Mary Ann Resigned." The third movement, "Subway Jam," consists simply of that one sequence, a study in claustrophobia. The final movement, "Toward the Bridge,'? comprises nearly all of "The Bridge," yet more untapped music from "Escape Through the City" that ushers in the same rumbalike music as found in the first movement, and a final reprise of "New York Profile." Considering its juggling of varied materials, Music for a Great City makes a surprisingly taut and coherent whole.
Copland used approximately half of the film score for this suite. He left out both the more sentimental and the more upbeat portions of the score, including Mrs. Gates at the police station, Mary Ann's morning walk, the love scene between Mary Ann and Mike, and the final reconciliation between Mary Ann and her mother. Some years later, however, a little snippet of the happy morning walk (at that moment when Mary Ann passes a playground) turned up as the jaunty climax of the first movement of his Duo for flute and piano (1971).
Although Something Wild was the last motion picture that Copland scored, his music made its way into later movies. A short excerpt from the opening of the Clarinet Concerto, for example, turned up in an erotic thriller, Love & Money (1982), by James Toback (b. 1944), all too briefly elevating the film above the mediocre.


chimezatmidnight said...


I have never seen the film... I've seen The Strange One and remember Kenyon Hopkin's score... and there are resonances between these film's themes... and Garfein's soul's experience.

I saw two plays which Garfein produced... both by Arthur Miller... both first rate.

I am grateful to you for posting this.

Are you going to explore The Tender Land?

Scoredaddy said...

Tender Land is coming up shortly

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot! I am always interested in more Copland, especially the modal-harmonic Copland of the Tender Land, Appalachian Spring, etc. Thanks again--Richard

jaben said...

Thanks, for all this beautiful music!

Scoredaddy said...

To all:
By the way, the Slatkin and Sheffer discs mentioned in the intro will posted on these pages in due course.

Anonymous said...

From st george utah

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the score and quotations.
Best wishes!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this! This is a fascinating blog, and a definite bookmark for me.

Bix63 said...

Wow! A Copland score I've never heard about (or heard!). Looking forward to this one! Keep up the great work.

Scoredaddy said...

SOMETHING WILD (1961) - Music by Aaron Copland

11 Tracks (Total Time = 35:10)

Produced by Aaron Copland. Executive Producer: Robert Townson. Mastered by Erick Labson. Cover Art by Saul Bass. CD notes by Aaron Copland and Mark Leneker.

Varese Sarabande 302 066 469 2

Rating: *****

Who would have guessed that a lost original film score by Aaron Copland would ever appear on CD? But that's the case with this wonderful last score by Copland. It was composed for a highly expressionist 1961 film starring Carroll Baker and Ralph Meeker, and directed by Baker's then husband, Jack Garfein. I remember seeing this film when it was first released and being very impressed with Carroll Baker's wonderful acting in a very difficult role as a rape victim, and especially aware of Aaron Copland's stark and sensitive score. Copland decided not to score the rape scene and I believe he was correct since it is dramatic enough in its brutality.

The opening track, "New York Profile" (2:48), just bristles with dissonant brass blasts along with heavy percussion support. This is a dynamite theme, used for the opening credit titles by Saul Bass. This theme might remind some of Leonard Bernstein's ON THE WATERFRONT, but actually Copland does it far better. Another terrific cue is track 3 ("Subway Jam" - 2:16), where the subway train can be heard reproduced by brass and percussion. Then things quiet down on the next track with the melancholy cue: "Mary Ann Resigned."

On track 5, "Incarceration and Nightmares" (7:06), Copland begins with subtle moody writing when Mary Ann first rejects her captor, Mike, who goes out on alcoholic binges. Copland next quotes the Subway Jam theme, introduced by beating of the drum, as Mary Ann begins her frightening dream. This is masterful writing for emotional effect.

The next track, "Excape the City" (7:23), is the longest one on the CD and depicts Mary Ann's escape from Mike's apartment and roams around New York's Midtown and Central Park. Once again, Copland's music begins highly dissonant as if to echo Mary Ann's disturbed and confused state of mind, and then eventually becomes more reflective as she head back to Mike's apartment.

One of the most intense cues is "Episode On The Bridge" (track 9 - 4:51), where Copland uses jagged brass and strident strings to accompany this powerful scene of Mary Ann's loneliness and depression.

The "Love Music" (track 7 - 1:57) is nicely written and manages to express deep feeling in under two minutes of music. The final track, "Reunion" (1:05), reunites Mary Ann with her mother, who is shocked when she hears that her daughter is going to have a baby. Copland wisely writes this scene in a harsh yet conciliatory manner so that it ends with uncertainty as the story suggests.

It's great to have the original 1961 notes by Copland included in the CD booklet. Also, there's a note from the director, and the fascinating account by Mark Leneker how the original LP recording was discovered and transferred to CD. He also provides an excellent description of each track.

Unfortunately, the CD is very short. Why not include another Copland original film score, like THE RED PONY? According to Leneker, that Copland score was the first original soundtrack on LP ever released - and it was on Varese.

Copland was undoubtedly one of the most respected American composers of the 20th century. Thus, this CD of SOMETHING WILD is surely a milestone of film music restoration. It deserves to be in any serious film music collection.

--Roger Hall, 28 June 2003


Another Review...

SOMETHING WILD (Aaron Copland)

Rating: *****

Slipping between the radar of many film score fans is this excellent release from Varese of Aaron Copland’s SOMETHING WILD (1961). There are really no current catalog releases of Copland’s scores, though many of the incarnations in his concert arrangements exist. The uniqueness of this work is manifold for music historians and film music fans. Copland lovers will recognize bits and pieces of the score from MUSIC FOR A GREAT CITY, a work Copland pieced together on commission and his last work. For a long time, we had only this and the angular CONNOTATIONS for orchestra to compare as the last of a long line of great works. After exhausting the Americana sound of his works in the 1940s, Copland really began to return a bit to the "enfant terrible" style of the 1920s when he first entered the American music scene.

The opening "New York Profile" slams into your ears declaratively with strong dissonant swathes of sound. How odd then to hear Copland writing what is standard Hollywood sound mixed in to his palette. One could argue that he was the primary influence behind the musical Americana style that filled the screen music of the 1950s, and here just expanded this into a more dissonant style. It is akin to Alex North’s orchestral scores of the same period that shied away from the hot jazz he hit upon in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. "Park At Night" is an almost lyrical Ivesian haiku with its splatters of color lighting up the texture. Copland comments in his notes that he worked to incorporate the sounds of the city heard on the soundtrack to coincide and be filled in by his music. Such must have been the case for "Subway Jam" a kind of percussion tour-de-force with punctuated brass that sounds like a scene from the more hellish side of New York. It is reminiscent of his earlier World’s Fair film score FROM SORCERY TO SCIENCE (recorded on Telarc 80583 by New York’s Eos Ensemble). "Mary Ann Resigned" has a kind of sound that one hears commonly in the best Newman dramas from the previous decade, and yet Copland’s inimitable style flows through this brief cue.

Copland fans will want to be sure and pull out his orchestral rearrangement of this music once they hear the two longest tracks which log in at over seven minutes each: "Incarceration and Nightmare," and "Escape Through the City." The "Love Music" that accompanies the first kiss in the film will also find its lyrical expression in the concert work. All of this to say that one needs to hear both works together to appreciate the intricacies of Copland’s art and working process.

For years music fans hoped for a glimpse into the sound world of Copland’s penultimate work and last film score. Mark Leneker’s notes reveal that masters of the music were made but that the studio balked at releasing the score. The sources were located, almost by accident as the case often is, after a discovery of a CD-R in a special collection at the University of Texas! Just another example of the importance of our university music libraries!

The accompanying booklet for SOMETHING WILD is an exemplary production featuring Copland’s commentary from 1961 as well as Mark Leneker’s program notes. Varese has put together the album as a listening disc, but also includes information on reprogramming for film order. The film stills are well-spaced and add to the reading experience. Included is an unpublished (until now) illustration by Al Hirschfeld. All around one of the finest releases of the year! The only carp is that Varese had THE RED PONY in their catalog and could have remastered and re-issued that along with this score to fill it out and make this a real gem.

--Steven A. Kennedy, 1 July 2003

Anonymous said...

Scoredaddy, thanks not only for the music but for all the effort you put in to the sharing.

Cornelius said...

Thenks for the post. Looking forward to listening to it. I have a Deutsche Grammaphone recording of Copland's "Clarinet Concerto" which is excellent. I enjoy comparing how different clarinetists perform this particular piece.

xoseluis said...

Gracias por los post! Hace sólo dos días que he descubierto este blog. Estoy comenzando a disfrutarlo.

Anonymous said...

"New" Copland is always good thing-thanks for sharing it!

Randy said...

EXCELLENT BLOG! The link for Something Wild is dead - any chance of a repost on this one? Thanks for all your hard work!

Scoredaddy said...

Randy - see here: http://fanfareforcopland.blogspot.com/2008/11/something-wild-original-motion-picture.html