Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Earle Hagen

For years I've been complaining about lousy movie music (music for comedies is especially awful*). I've also griped about the dearth of good TV show original theme songs. A guy who composed great TV theme songs just died, Earle Hagen. Composed excellent TV scores, too. & the classic tune "Harlem Nocturne," which sounds like a private eye theme song & was used as one. Everyone knows the whistling theme fromThe Andy Griffith Show. Fans have a special high regard for his innovative theme & episode soundtrack music for I Spy, one of the best series scores ever, ranking with Peter Gunn & Mission Impossible in an era that did not lack great TV music. When I hear the "bonk bonk" signature & cheesy synths of the Law & Order shows, or the anti-themes for shows like Medium, Cold Case, & Without a Trace, I remember that TV drama & adventure series were once the class acts of TV music, with professional Hollywood musicians performing the music of accomplished composers.

* Every gesture & expression is musically underlined cartoon style. When an actor laughs I expect to hear corny yuk yuk sounds from a trumpet. This isn't really the fault of the composers. It's an unsubtle degraded attempt at audience manipulation, like obnoxious, relentless laugh tracks on sitcoms. If they could get away with putting a laugh track in a feature film, they would.

I'm not a big fan or student of jazz music, but did you notice that Jimmy McGriff passed away?

I first discovered him when WFMU received some reissued CDs of his back in the mid-90s and became hooked. Mrs. Contrarian and I saw him perform at the Crossroads in Garwood many years ago as well.
Yeah he's great too. I played a lot of McGriff on my radio shows in the 80s & 90s. "Funky Bullfrog" was a fav.
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