I have not posted to this blog for a while — mainly due to a busy work schedule and a bit of sloth. However, I am compelled to post after hearing about the death of Basil Poledouris.
I was shocked and saddened to hear the news this weekend of Basil Poledouris’ passing; I extend my deepest sympathies to his family and friends.
Despite a lack of high profile scores over the last few years Mr. Poledouris’ legacy had long ago been established with a succession of classic scores (Conan The Barbarian, The Hunt For Red October, Robocop, Lonesome Dove to name only a few). I won’t go in to the details of his distuingished career here — those can be found at any number of sites. I rank Basil Poledouris at the top of the crop of film music composers that emerged in the 70’s and found their success in the 80’s. In fact, in my mind he would probably rank as one of the top film music composers of all time. Statistics and ranking can be argued and in the end are probably not all that meaningful. What really matters is the music. And oh what music it is! Poledouris will probably always be remembered for his large, powerful symphonic action music but, to my mind, what really stands out are his melodies. Instantly memorable, they made their way right to the heart. Even in the bombastic fury of Conan The Barbarian two of the standout tracks are the gorgeous love theme and the folksy Theology/Civilization.
Another area where I truly respect Basil Poledouris is in his use of synthesizers. This is perhaps harder to quantify or explain but I really love the seamless way he was able to integrate synthesizers into his scores. Was it groundbreaking? No. He wasn’t the first. I just think that he was really able to use the syntehsizer as a seperate instrument of the orchestra and it usually worked wonderfully. Wind is a specific example that comes to mind where the synthesizers were very prevalent but another (perhaps even better) example is Robocop. In Wind the synths are very up front whereas with Robocop they were more in the background but still meshing with the orchestral fabric of the score.
As an aside, one of the most interesting discussions of film music that I have heard was a talk that Basil Poledouris gave for the SPFM where he discussed at the piano his Emmy award winning score for Lonesome Dove. It was both entertaining and enlightening. Basically, the talk was about 30 minutes of Poledouris going through his score theme by theme explaining his thoughts behind all of the choices in the score: from tempo to instrumentation to thematic structure. That was followed by some Q & A. Overall — a great look at the score and a brief glimpse at the man.
Over the years, I have listened to and loved the music of Basil Poledouris. Even though I will continue to do so it somehow doesn’t feel the same knowing he’s gone. Basil, you will be missed.