Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Music of the Night (of the Living Dead)

For a non-musician, the closest thing to composing a score is working a good set of library tracks into your picture”…

George Romero, as quoted on the sleeve of the 1982 Varèse Sarabande soundtrack edition of Night of the Living Dead. I’m currently enjoying the music of Romero’s great film - not exactly the kind of music fitting a bright summer’s morning, but I’m working a hectic 16-hour work shift today and the sturm und drang of Romero and Karl Hardman’s selections seem entirely appropriate. I’ve read that it was Hardman who applied the subtle electronic shading to the cues, which may account for some distortion heard on the tracks, but it makes for a far more eerie musical landscape than any conventional score could provide (fascinating to think what Louis and Bebe Barron might have come up with). The stand out track here is the final number, a mournful violin refrain credited to Spencer Moore, but crucially treated with some echo and used to powerful effect in the film over a disturbing photo montage of dead bodies. This edition of the soundtrack also includes a sampling of some of the more famous dialogue in the film and while I normally find such a thing intrusive, it’s always a treat to hear George Kosana say “They’re dead, they’re… all messed up”. The liner notes on the sleeve of the Varèse Sarabande LP mention other films that have shared Night of the Living Dead’s music – Terror from the Year 5000 (1958), The Hideous Sun Demon (1958), Teenagers from Outer Space (1959) and unmentioned here, The Killer Shrews (1959). I can’t recall the exact cue used in the film, but I had that distinct feeling of déjà vu whilst watching season 1 of Naked City



Worth mentioning too, an additional Night of the Living Dead soundtrack album entitled They Won't Stay Dead from 2010 which gathers as many cues and effects as possible from the film. Unfortunately it's currently OOP but worth keeping an eye on Discogs...

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