You, me, the music, and me.

Friday, October 28, 2005

TAXI DRIVER Original Soundtrack Recording

Arista AL 4079 (1976)

Remember a couple of posts back when I said that Anthony Braxton is the man? Well, Martin Scorsese is also the man. Now, you may be wondering, how can Martin Scorsese possibly be the man when Anthony Braxton is the man? Isn't that, like, one man too many? Well, Scorsese is the man when it comes to movies. One of the few American directors to survive in Hollywood with his scruples and his artistry (not to mention his sanity) intact, Scorsese has created an impressively consistent body of work that spans four decades and contains such seemigly disparate films as Mean Streets, Raging Bull, After Hours, The Age of Innocence, and Kundun. The common theme in Scorsese's films is redemption; in nearly every one of his movies a character seeks to reform himself or achieve self-betterment through whatever means are at his disposal. In Taxi Driver, the character of Travis Bickle goes to violent extremes in his quest for redemption, and it is unclear at the end of the film whether he has achieved it.

The score for Taxi Driver was composed by Bernard Herrmann, whose career in film music spanned four decades and included such notable movies as Citizen Kane, Psycho, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and The Devil and Daniel Webster, for which he won his only Oscar. Taxi Driver was his final film; he passed away just hours after recording it. Herrmann had a reputation for being "difficult" and for voicing his opinion when he disagreed with a director; when Alfred Hitchcock told him he wanted a jazz score for Psycho and no music during the famous "shower scene", Herrmann went ahead with his own ideas, which Hitchcock eventually agreed with. The sound of scraping violins (being bowed behind the bridge) has been used ever since to represent the feeling of blind terror.

Side two of the album contains selections from the soundtrack which were composed and arranged by Herrmann. The swelling brass, accelerating drumbeat, and sweeping harp still brings a chill to my spine every time I hear the opening theme. There's even a track called "Diary of a TAXI DRIVER" which is "narrated" by Robert DeNiro, meaning that it features samples of his dialogue from the movie, including the legendary "You talkin' to me?" sequence. Side one features music from the score composed by Herrmann but arranged by Dave Blume, with alto saxophone by lite-jazz specialist Tom Scott. These tracks are good but fail to match the punch of the Herrmann orchestrations (I'm not even 100% sure they're actually in the film).

Taxi Driver brought Herrmann both a final, posthumous Oscar nomination and recognition from the hip, younger crowd who formed the audience for the particular brand of "edgy" American cinema that ruled the seventies. It served as a rousing coda to a brilliant career, as well as a confirmation of Bernard Herrmann's status as "the man" when it came to movie music.

(video not work-safe)


Post a Comment

<< Home