Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Composers: Michael Kamen

In this series, I will introduce you to the artists who had the greatest influence on my life, and I will try to share what exactly it is that makes them unique and important to me.

Meet Michael Kamen, my greatest influence as a teenager and beyond. Michael was the unique musical voice behind films like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Don Juan De Marco, Brazil, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, X-Men, What Dreams May Come, Band of Brothers, and some 80 other films. He was also the genius who brought the fusion of Rock with Classical orchestra for musicians like Eric Clapton, Metallica, Cold Play, Sting, Bob Dylan, Eurythmics, and a few dozen others.

Michael passed away on November 18, 2003 of heart failure at the age of 55.

I've written a tribute to him on my web site, so you can check it out. Here, I want to focus on what makes his music special.

I was first consciously impacted by this genius musical voice when I heard his score for Robin Hood. The crisp heroic brass fan fares, the vibrant timpani, aggressive strings on both ends of the register echoing musical phrases... rumbling basses and celli accompanying the sweeping high strings with Middle Eastern-flavored colors. He even used Middle Aged instruments to give the film darker textures for the evil witch, Shota.

Then you had the wonderful solo instruments, the oboe and flute flutters set against a bed of warm violins playing the love theme of Maid Marian and Robin of Loxley.

The score was loaded with orchestral colors that for the first time woke me up to the magic of movie music. I had already fallen in love with other scores like Dances with Wolves and Superman of course, but this was my conscious awakening to the appreciation of film music as a teenager. I was hooked from that point on.

Michael Kamen's sound is very unique. It is both sad and beautiful at the same time. Listen to his score for "What Dreams May Come", the 1999 Robin Williams movie, and you will hear some of the most deeply beautiful music to penetrate your heart. Standout instruments in this score were the Cello and the Oboe. This is what inspired my dogs's names.

Then you have Action Kamen. He was the inventor of the sound of action movies from the mid 1980's. He was very witty, and his music reflected this with its staccato Mickey-Mousing, hitting certain beats around the action. For example, he was the first person to build up a climactic pum pum pum pum that suddenly stops to be followed by an explosion. Watch Die Hard starring Bruce Willis. It's one of the cleverset film scores of all time. A classic!

I hope this will open up an interest in discovering the power of film music, a form that changed my life because of its depth. It was my best friend throughout high school and college. Food for my soul. More to come on my favorite composers...


Blogger Laith said...

aywa amin..bring film music to the masses in jordan...hehe
ive been loving Kamen's sax concertto...nice stuff...also the music from open range is lovely...and my favorite one which i have been looping for the past couple of days " Nixon's Walk" from Band of Brothers

12:39 AM  
Blogger Roba said...

hey great idea :) culturally enrich the Jordanian blogosphere...

4:57 AM  
Blogger Omarello said...

the first time i came across Michael Kamen's work was when he did the S&M concert with metallica, since then i fell in love with him...
Hes a really cool guy too, i saw some clips from the extras of the S&M dvd..

1:14 PM  
Blogger Amin Matalqa said...

He was one of the nicest people I've ever known. Very generous, always happy to be alive, radiant with life, and full of funny stories.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

Amin you forgot very handsome!

11:16 PM  
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11:29 PM  

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