Released for the first time on vinyl, in conjunction with Record Store Day 2019, Moochin’ About/PIAS is very proud to present David Amram’s innovative score to John Frankeneimer’s cult classic – The Manchurian Candidate …
This groundbreaking score features jazz legends – Paul Horn, Harold Land, Jack Nimitz, Carmel Jones & Joe Gordon…
(cat number – MOOCHIN11)
This limited release includes 10 jazz based tracks from the original score, with 5 more tracks available as a download, which will include all 15 tracks available together for the first time ever…!
“David Amram has done a magnificent job. The score is exactly what I wanted for the film.”
“David Amram’s haunting score drives the movie forward and emphasizes perfectly all the dramatic elements.”
“I have always regarded David Amram as one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century and I don’t just mean for the cinema. Now thankfully his music, in America at least, is getting the exposure it so rightly deserves.”
From the first, ominous moments of John Frankenheimer’s enduring, memorable film THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE audiences have known they were experiencing a classic psychodrama of suspense, one that remains in the mind years later like a mordant poem or a darkly bewitching painting. Richard Condon wrote the brilliant novel that gave Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury and Janet Leigh a vehicle for some of the finest work any of them ever did in film. Released in 1962 during the Kennedy years, it was the story of an American patrol that was ambushed, captured and brainwashed by North Koreans and Chinese, and how one of its members (Harvey) returned to the U.S. after the war as an unsuspecting puppet whose mind and behavior could be manipulated by his former captors. He is moved deftly, like a chess piece, toward his assigned mission – the assassination of a Presidential candidate – while his former superior officer on the captured patrol (Sinatra) tries desperately to discover the roots of their tortured minds and to avert a tragedy.
In the 57 years since THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE went into release, it has become a cult classic for the stark beauty of its black-and-white photography; for the mystification of its engrossing story line; for the superb performances of its principal players; for the dazzling, sure-handed direction of John Frankenheimer; and, not least, for one of the most consummate scores ever created for a motion picture.That score was composed, orchestrated and conducted by David Amram in the spring of 1962. He was then a 31-year-old musical phenomenon who was already well-known as a brilliant young composer and performer in classical music and jazz, and a pioneer of world music. The score is available in its entirety on this LP for the very first time, including extended sections not used in the film and thus never before heard, available via a download code, that comes with the LP…Its release now is an instant “event” for students and connoisseurs of American music.
When Frank Sinatra first heard the score in 1962, he said: “David Amram has done a magnificent job. The score is exactly what I wanted for the film.” And referring to the movie’s complex theme of psychological tumult, he added, in the parlance of jazz: “The music is almost sane sometimes, as the story is almost sane sometimes. And at other times, the music is in the trees, just like the movie. It is a great score.” In 1997, John Frankenheimer said: “David Amram’s haunting score drives the movie forward and emphasizes perfectly all the dramatic elements.”
The circumstances that led to Amram’s creating THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE score – which is regularly cited as one of the ten best ever composed – began in the late 1950’s, when John Frankenheimer attended performances of New York’s famous Shakespeare in the Park series and heard the incidental music that Amram had composed for those productions. That led to Frankenheimer hiring Amram to write the score for his Emmy Award- winning television production of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, starring Ingrid Bergman. When the director learned that Amram was equally fluent in jazz and Latin music, he also commissioned the score for his film about New York street gangs, The Young Savages, which starred Burt Lancaster and Shelley Winters. (Amram subsequently wrote the score for Elia Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass, with Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood. The late Ms. Wood won an Oscar for her performance.)
As THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE began its pre-production phase, Frankenheimer and Sinatra decided they needed a non-Hollywood composer to create a score that would be as unique as the film. They gave Amram free rein to meld jazz from the Korean War period (1950-1954) with symphonic music to evoke the terrible psychological plight of the captured patrol, and the trauma and eventual triumph of the two main characters. The only instruction Frankenheimer gave to Amram was: “The picture will tell you what to do. I hired you because you’re different from anyone else, and you care and have pride in what you do.”
In the spring of 1962, Amram went to Hollywood for a month, checked into the Montecito Hotel and worked around the clock. The final product was a distinct departure from many film scores, which often consist of permuted shards, scraps and borrowings from the great European composers whose work is in the public domain. Every note of this one was original, composed and orchestrated by Amram himself. For the recording session, he assembled a first- rate orchestra from the ranks of symphony soloists and chamber music players, plus Latin performers and such jazz artists as Paul Horn (alto sax and flute), Harold Land (tenor sax), Jack Nimitz (baritone and bass sax), Dick Leith and Lou Blackburn (trombonists) and Carmel Jones and Joe Gordon (trumpeters). Many of the respected jazz and Latin players whom Amram chose had never performed film scores before, and being allowed to do so helped break down that barrier. During the recording – which was accomplished in four sessions over two days – Amram startled some of the film’s producers by regularly leaping from the podium to join the musicians, playing improvised solos on French horn and piano. Most of the tracks were recorded in a single take.The resulting document is a work of immense subtlety and nuance, miraculously evocative of the 1950’s, and a fascinating experiment in combining jazz, Latin and classical modes into an integrated, pleasing architecture that not only epitomizes the remarkable film it celebrates, but survives beautifully on its own as a delectable chrestomathy of musical invention. A jot of credit for that goes to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, with whom Amram jammed as a jazz French horn player and budding composer in 1951-52, and who encouraged him to write music that would represent his own broad, catholic interests in ethnic, folkloric and various articulations of jazz. Other musical sentiments in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE score derive from Amram’s own Army service in 1952-54; from his recollections of the McCarthy period and its shameful repressions; and from the Kennedy Presidency with its energy, its promise and its optimism.
1 ) From the first statement of the melancholy 14-note theme in the OVERTURE played on the trumpet, one is caught up in the moody reflectiveness of Amram’s programmatic ideas about the story.2) SOME SOUL FROM SEOUL is a joyful tonic – sassy, playful, redolent of the jazz clubs in Greenwich Village and around the world that David Amram as a jazz player knows so well. It describes Gls, in idle moments, listening to music from home, even as they fight a “police action” on the other side of the world in which 55,000 Americans died.
3) In THEME FROM THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (JAZZ VERSION), there’s that pensive figure again, announced on the muted trombone, then turned over for examination to saxophone and trumpet. The jazz ensemble colludes engagingly with the wind and brass players among the symphony musicians, ending with both idioms united.
4) Amram’s most expressive statement about the mysterious effect of brainwashing occurs in QUEEN OF DIAMONDS. Seeing that playing card triggers programmed behavior in the Laurence Harvey character. His bewilderment is expressed here in jagged chords featuring the unlikely fusion of harpsichord, three piccolos and high, dissonant strings.
5) CANTINA LATINA, KOREA, 1952, is an interlude in which Amram recalls some of his own Army days in the 1950’s when draftees from Puerto Rico and the urban centers of the U.S. would bring their Latin-influenced jazz to the clubs and bars near military bases. It evokes the memory of what it was like back then to be a young man in the Army, and features a prologue and coda on French horn by Amram.
6) A riot of drums and brass announces POLITICIANS ON PARADE, a virtual parody of American campaign music played at a frantic, quick-step pace. It’s a brief, affectionate tribute to all the hard-working musicians who play in pick-up bands at political conventions and along the campaign trail, and whose music is aimed at whipping up enthusiasm for candidates who are, more often than not, undeserving of their efforts.
7) UNREQUITED LOVE is the musical underpinning for a poignant, doomed love affair between Laurence Harvey and the lovely young woman of his dreams. The Hollywood tradition in which they might have lived happily ever after is subverted as Harvey is once more victimized by the effects of his brainwashing. The forlorn hope of perfect love ends tragically. A hint of the main musical theme and a few bars of harpsichord music signals the buried torment at the root of the character’s consciousness.
8) In SLIGHTLY MANCHURIAN BLUES, Amram on piano introduces a theme based on the traditional 12-bar blues form, with altered harmonies, to suggest the folkloric music of Central Asia and the isolation that was felt by the American patrol in their captivity.
9) DARE TO DREAM was originally intended as a theme to underscore the tender relationship between the Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh characters but was eliminated in the final edit of the film. Amram and Frankenheimer agreed that allowing the acting to speak for itself, uncommented upon by the music, was more effective. Still, it’s a haunting piece: the alto sax states the theme, then the strings, piano and flute explore it until it dissolves in a ripple of piano notes.
10) An unworthy Senator’s determination to run for the Presidency is central to THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE storyline. LONG ROAD TO THE WHITE HOUSE – with its percussive drive, insistent cymbals and blaring brass – is celebratory of that urge that has afflicted so many politicians, good and bad.
11 ) RETURN OF A HERO is the composer’s tribute to the dignity of military people who have served their country unselfishly, and the deep emotion they feel for comrades who never returned.
12) HOME AGAIN, 1952 uses a jazz idiom to express the uncertainty and trepidation that many felt who were drafted for service in the Korean War, and the joy of being mustered out when it was all over. Amram joins the band on French horn, improvising two ebullient blues choruses and a coda.
13) THEME FROM THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (MAIN TITLE) is the film’s musical signature, a memorable motif that recurs in fragments throughout the score.
In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s I was a budding journalist (before putting in 25 years as TV Guide’s New York bureau chief), living in Greenwich Village, as was David Amram. He was already well known for his jazz French horn recordings with Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, Oscar Pettiford and Julius Watkins. He also collaborated with novelist Jack Kerouac in the first-ever jazz/poetry concert in New York City in 1957. That led to the famous 1959 “beat” film, Pull My Daisy in which Amram’s chamber music and jazz melded with Kerouac’s narration (Premier PRCD 1046). He was producer Joseph Papp’s choice in 1957 to score all the incidental music for the Shakespeare in the Park productions. During that period, Amram frequently played jazz in the Greenwich Village clubs by night with his own quartet; and by day he was busy composing a body of orchestral and chamber music and two operas (one of which, The Final Ingredient, is available on Premier PRCD 1056) that would, over the years, grow to one of the richest and most impressive bodies of work by any American composer.
David Amram is unique. The Boston Globe once called him “the Renaissance man of American music.” At times, he can be seen toting what appears to be a mechanic’s tool box, but which actually is chock-a- block with exotic wind and percussion instruments from scores of countries, all of which he plays expertly. He has conducted and performed as a soloist with symphony orchestras around the world, and collaborated with artists such as Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Willie Nelson, Tito Puente, Betty Carter, Elia Kazan and Arthur Miller. In 196667, he was Bernstein’s choice as the first composer- in-residence with the New York Philharmonic, and since 1974, BMI has listed Amram as one of the Twenty Most Performed Composers of Concert Music in the United States. Not the least of his attainments is his family: he is married to the songwriter/performer/playwright Lora Lee Amram; they live on a working farm in upstate New York with their three children.
It’s a genuine boon for music fans that the long-awaited MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE score is finally available. The film – with its story of political assassination – was withdrawn from circulation after President Kennedy’s murder, and was not widely seen for many years. Frank Sinatra has often said it’s a favorite among all his film performances. I interviewed Sinatra privately twice, once at his apartment in the Waldorf Towers in New York, and some years later at his house in Palm Springs. At the latter meeting, we lounged in his living room just off the swimming pool and, methodically – one by one – went down the list of every film he’d ever made, documenting his recollections for an article that appeared in TV Guide in the 1980’s. He had been offered the Laurence Harvey role as the soldier most traumatized by the enemy’s brainwashing, but chose instead that of the officer who strives successfully to unravel the film’s central mystery. He told me he thought that his performance in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE was probably on a par with those in The Man With the Golden Arm and From Here To Eternity (for which he won an Academy Award). The miracle of Frank Sinatra is that he was, unarguably, the greatest (and most raffish) singer of popular ballads who ever plied that trade, and also a film actor of bountiful gifts. No other performer has been similarly blessed.In August, 1997, his son, Frank Sinatra Jr., had this to say about the score: “The ingenious combination of polytonality and jazz was just incredible to me, and the choice of instruments was perfect for the film. None of us had ever heard a film score like this before. It’s wonderful that this music is finally coming out as a sound track album. It is long overdue.”
For THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, David Amram created a film score of immense subtlety and distinction, its moods brilliantly wed to the beguiling texture of George Axelrod’s ingenious screenplay. This recording will have pride of place among Davids music now commercially available, a feast for fans of the most multifaceted composer now at work in America.
The history of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and its music is like a script from an old adventure film: acclaim, disaster, obscurity, a long arduous road to a comeback, and a final triumph. With the recent re-release of the film for theater and home video, the music can be heard supporting the film and its myriad dramatic changes. Fifty Seven years after I composed the score, it can now be heard in its entirety for the first time, sepa- rate from the film. This would have happened in 1962, but after the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, the film and its music were withdrawn from the public for twenty-five years.
I’ll always be grateful to Frank Sinatra and the film’s brilliant director, John Franken- heimer, for allowing me the freedom to do the best that I could do. It is very fulfilling that this music can finally be heard.