The Wicker Man - Settling the Score
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Pre-production
Everyone who worked with Paul Giovanni held him in the highest affection and esteem. The average age of the musicians was 21, so you can imagine that working with this hip, super-cool American was an illuminating experience for a group of callow, inexperienced, 50% straight [in the musical sense!] musicians. Paul always new exactly what he was after and how to get it, but he couldn't read a note of music and it was my job to do the arrangements and orchestrations and conduct where appropriate as a result. This was a more necessary skill when orchestral instruments were involved and I spotlight two examples of the different working processes below. The significant musical input to the film required that much of the score was pre-recorded for playback on location. All the songs [bar The Tinker Of Rye, which was recorded on the set and The Flame Dance, which was recorded at Pye Studios, near Marble Arch, London] were recorded at De Lane Lea, Wembley [now CTS]. The then novel 16-track recording facility was utilised throughout [8-track at Pye]. The dubbing may also have happened here, but most post-production incidental music was certainly recorded at Shepperton [including a 'beefing up' of the famous cliff-top 'hum'] under the most primitive conditions I have ever encountered - more of which later.
Two examples of finished music in the score indicate the general methods that were used to construct the Wicker Man score:

The Procession/Sumer-Is-A-Cumen-In (all versions)
The Procession, which is based on a Scottish folk tune, [and typical of Paul's imaginative, off-kilter thinking, was a march in waltz-time] was my first undertaking. Paul's guidelines were to make it sound 'cheesy' which was achieved by the way the clarinets and tuba behave. The recording session was, I think, at Shepperton. We used RCM students and it was a total disaster. It may have been that the sound was not up to snuff, but it was really because the playing was crap that this version was discarded and I'm grateful to this day that Paul didn't tell me to sling my hook there and then! It was then re-recorded [definitely] at De Lane Lea with better players, although I'm unsure whether this included anyone from the LSO at this stage. What did come in for the first time was the stupendous piccolo trumpet scream and drop-off [played by John Hammond] which was entirely Paul's idea - I only had to find an efficient way of notating it, which wasn't so easy! Where we did have the benefit of the LSO trumpets was for the closing music, which was largely transcribed from a Bulgarian folksong, and the long held note [absolutely no electronic trickery, by the way] at Rowan's appearance at the cave mouth. The principle trumpet on this session was Maurice Murphy I believe - who also played the Dallas theme-tune trumpet solo.

The one thing that I did do mainly off my own bat, largely because of the old classical training thing, which Paul liked the idea of was the trick when Howie is immolated of combining the waltzing march tune from the Procession with Sumer-Is-A-Cumen-In, which to this day I'm still rather proud of as a contrapuntal feat! The modern English version of this ancient song was by Peter Shaffer, who, interestingly, was also Ted Woodward's 'Punch' stand-in [not a lot of people, etc. etc.]

Gently Johnny (USA: 96 and 102 minute versions only)
We started rehearsing this at Peter Shaffer's apartment off High Street Kensington [Earl's Terrace?] where Paul stayed when in London. Peter was writing Equus upstairs at the time and would descend on occasion to ply us liberally with wine and anecdotes. Paul attempted at an early rehearsal to chill us out a bit - uptight English musicians that we were - with the aid of some blow - which caused that whole rehearsal to degenerate into an uproarious giggle-fest. So from that time on, dope was a purely recreational option at the end of rehearsal sessions. Paul also served 'proper' coffee in a cafetiere - a form of luxury which we had until that moment assumed to be confined to the wilder imaginings of Harry Palmer films. Paul would use his guitar to demonstrate what he was after to Andy Tompkins, our guitarist, who would then 'personalise' it a bit and that was the guitar 'riff' - which requires a fist of iron to maintain, by the way. I came up with little 'counter-melody' ideas which would be yes-ed or no-ed. Paul would, democratically, do likewise. In the end, it's hard to tell who inputted what, particularly as the players themselves also contributed ideas throughout the entire process. The descending violin phrase was probably Paul's invention; the oscillating tenor recorder motif was my main contribution. What was absolutely Paul was the extraordinary vocal texture at the song's climax. This he achieved by layering. One or two parts [the women's voices in particular] were fixed in advance - the rest were put down by ear with Paul singing to each singer what was required. The result was pure magic, in my opinion, with some truly extraordinary resultant harmonies which, as no one actually seemed to be singing them, are a continuing source of wonder.

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2000 Gary Carpenter; This article must not to be reproduced in part or in its entirety without permission. Contact: wickerman@garycarpenter.net

 © 2000 Gary Carpenter