I could wax rhapsodic quite easily here, so apologies in advance. My father played French horn on many film scores (http://www.timburden.com/John-Burden.aspx) so I was introduced to numerous recordings from an early age. Either via TV broadcasts, VHS or records / tapes. I used to go to London studio sessions in my pram and the likes of John Barry, Charles Gerhardt, Elmer Bernstein, Ron Goodwin, Henry Mancini and Ronnie Barker used to speak to me. I’m sorry for the excessive name dropping. If only I remembered what they said! Speaking of pram shenanigans. Dad once left the brake of my pram at the top of the Abbey Road steps. When he was talking with a colleague the pram and I went down the steps, head first. My bottom lip has the permanent scar to prove it.
How did you begin your radio show? Tell us a little about its history, and what you do now in terms of film music journalism.
I used to host a film music show on local hospital radio from 1993-’95 and then I concentrated on full-time paid work. After working with Blockbuster Ireland, hotel management and the role of projectionist & GM at Warner Village Cinemas Belfast, I got back into radio thanks to the local commercial station. Eventually I was hired to be a film correspondent for the Northern Media Group/Q Radio Network and started to get film music showcased for the masses. Further to all of this, I started working for Film Score Monthly Online as their UK Correspondent and created audio features/interviews with some of the industry’s best, some of which can be heard at https://soundcloud.com/timburden/sets/moviemagic.
My work also involved film music programming for the local orchestras and film festivals, being a spokesperson for local BBC radio and from 2013, becoming a board member of the Film Music Foundation.
Concerts are a passion for me. Going so far as producing audio promos and devising the best possible running orders. IMG and I are big friends, I love their methodology and live to picture packages. Back to the Future, West Side Story & Psycho to name just 3.
Can you talk a little about the positives and the challenges/difficulties of being a film music journalist who works via radio?
To be honest, it was a bit of a constant battle with the powers that be. They considered film music to be non-commercial, and they are right. As long as I programmed slightly populous scores (Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, movie songs) I was fine. Between you and I, the amount of low-key scores or Golden Age classics I shoe-horned in were off the chart. Call me a maverick if you like, yes perhaps. Audiences seem to enjoy it though and I began to incorporate composer interviews and commentaries as often as possible. Some key film music radio premieres too, like Alan Silvestri’s The Avengers and Danny Elfman’s Dark Shadows and Patrick Doyle’s music from Marvel’s Thor.
What, in your opinion, are the things that are necessary for a film score to be successful?
It depends upon the film. There are examples where sound design can work as a compliment to the film (Gone Girl for example). Ideally, it’s the structure and thematic identity that commands attention. Phillipe Rombi, Alexandre Desplat, Johann Johannsson, Laurent Eyquem and Patrick Doyle are some of my favourites in this discipline. Williams, Horner, Newton Howard and Silvestri are in a league of their own.
What is your opinion of the film music industry as it stands today, especially in the UK and Ireland?
The UK and Ireland isn’t doom and gloom. Local talent in Northern Ireland is significant and some of my favourite composers and UK born. I have been working with local orchestras to try and get film music concerts of a dynamic nature programmed. Recently I co-produced successful concerts of music from Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Movies by Patrick Doyle and live to picture performances of Hitchcock’s Psycho. Next year I have projects featuring music from the Star Wars Saga and Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for Joe Dante’s movies.
Who do you think are the best film music composers, historically and working today? What is it about their music that appeals to you?
Perhaps unexpectedly, I would cite Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, Alan Silvestri, John Barry, Hans Zimmer and James Horner.
For the likes of Horner, Silvestri & Williams it’s their sheer musicality. Each of them left an indelible mark on me, like many of my generation (Star Wars, E.T., Aliens, The Land Before Time, Back to the Future & The Abyss). Hans Zimmer too is someone that i’ll always admire. Backdraft was a score I couldn’t stop listening to, It was a perfect combination of orchestra, choir and electronics. So influential too. Before that was Paperhouse though, solidifying the Stanley Myers relationship. A composer (The Deer Hunter) that ultimately launched Hans’ career.
The Charles Gerhardt RCA albums were my introduction to the dawn of film music, thanks to my father’s collection and his playing on them with his National Philharmonic peers. I was besotted with the Franz Waxman album and couldn’t stop listening to Gone With the Wind and Bernard Herrmann’s On Dangerous Ground. What writing for horns!