As author J. Blake Fichera states in his introduction to Scored to Death: Conversations with Some of Horror’s Greatest Composers (out now from Silman-James Press), there have been interview-based books of interviews with film composers, and compilations of essays about horror film scores, but because the twain haven’t met, he wrote Scored to Death, which is the first collection of horror film composer interviews.
The interviews Fichera compiled run the gamut from recent and modern composers like Jeff Grace and Joseph Bishara, as well as legends such as Alan Howarth, John Carpenter, members of Goblin, and Fabio Frizzi - just to name a few. It’s astonishing that Fichera was able to contact and interact with so many of these composers, and to get such fascinating answers.
The interviews with the lesser-knowns or more current composers are a little more illuminating than those who might rightly claim “legend” status, simply because the likes of Harry Manfredini or Alan Howarth have been interviewed enough that they’ve got some pat stories and answers which might’ve already appeared in the pages of this very magazine.
Fichera’s a wonderful interviewer, and his musical background is enough that he’s able to dig deep and ask some wonderful initial and follow-up questions, but he also keeps things understandable for the average reader. Given that Fichera is interviewing the likes of Charles Bernstein, who has written two books on movie music, as well as being a professor, it’s certainly helpful, because he’s able to sort of keep things in context for those of us who aren’t brilliant composers who came up with the theme to A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The most appealing part of Scored to Death are all the threads which appear throughout the fourteen interviews within its pages. Bernard Herrmann and his influence pops up constantly - as well it should, because his music is amazing and wide-ranging - but you also see how many of these composers didn’t initially intend to get into film composing.
Just as many did decide that this was what they wanted to do, but those like Simon Boswell, who just happened into it as part of a different musical path, are almost more interesting, because you see how they had to learn film composition via a totally different skillset. The tactics and techniques they develop are just as fascinating as the theory with which the more traditional composers came up.
All in all, J. Blake Fichera’s Scored to Death is an excellent book, full of intriguing interviews, and the author’s questions are so much more than a set of rote interrogatories. Fichera gets these composers to open up about their lives and skills, and they share some amazing stories about their techniques and methods, and how it is to work in this genre. By the time you’ve made it through the first interview with Nathan Barr, you’ll be snagging records and CDs off your shelves and pulling things up on Spotify so you can listen along.
SCORED TO DEATH: CONVERSATIONS WITH SOME OF HORROR’S GREATEST COMPOSERS / AUTHOR: J. BLAKE FICHERA / PUBLISHER: SILMAN-JAMES PRESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW