Manchester-born musician Barry Adamson has contributed to the soundtracks of David Lynch's Lost Highway, Derek Jarman's The Last of England and Steven Sebring's Patti Smith: Dream of Life, as well as playing in the legendary line ups of Magazine, Buzzcocks, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. At a time in which not everyone was so critically attuned to the spoils of cinematic language, Adamson was struck by the commanding role music played in film, and became fascinated by the story and feeling that could be conveyed through the narrative of a film score. Creatively charged, this became the focus of his solo work, and he composed an entire score for a fictitious film for his debut album, Moss Side Story (1989), which includes a rather alarming collaboration with avant-garde legend Diamanda Galas.
Adamson has now curated a season of his favourite films for Curzon Home Cinema, which launches today and includes the likes of Michael Haneke's harrowing The Piano Teacher (2001) and Gaspar Noe’s unhinged Enter the Void (2009). We asked him for his five favourite musical movie moments.
"John Barry’s score beautifully commands the action. Barry is most famed for his scores to 11 Bond films but this is perhaps some of his best work – there's a brilliant moment in which Caine’s burglary scene and the orchestra scene run simultaneously. As the orchestra tunes up the intensity of the paralleling action is beautifully built and the score becomes a live part of the action. For me it was one of the first times that I felt the way music expressed action."
The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
"I saw this at about four in the morning at The Scala in Kings Cross! It stars Frank Sinatra as a recovering heroin addict struggling to stay clean, but at that time of the morning when you’re off your face it’s the music that really hits you, such great jazz. I was so affected by Elmer Bernstein’s jazz score that I went into the studio and produced a slowed down version of “The Man With Golden Arm” which really inspired (my album) Moss Side Story."
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
"The score to the film was completed before a lot of the film was finished which gave Leone and his actors the opportunity to respond to the atmosphere created by the music, rather the other way round. I saw a live performance of Ennio Morricone’s magnificent score years ago with a full orchestra and I just started crying. It was a moment in which I truly felt the power of music, the emotion it can produce and I realised why I try to make music."
In Cold Blood (1967)
"Again a film from the 60s but I guess this was just an extraordinary time for music in cinema. For his adaptation of Truman Capote's true crime novel, Richard Brooks enlisted the help of Quincy Jones. He was most famous for his work with people like Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson, but his score for this film really shows the other side of Quincy Jones and everything he is capable of."
Taxi Driver (1976)
"Bernard Herrmann’s score to Scorsese’s masterpiece captures the mood of post-Vietnam New York perfectly. His soundtrack expresses the two sides of Travis Bickle and the different tones of the film, you can really feel his world becoming unstuck in the prison of his taxi. It’s a score that tells a story in itself. It was Herrmann’s final score and if I die making music like that I’ll be happy."