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At the Movies: Alex North

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Album Review

This Label X compilation includes a 17-minute suite of Alex North's score for Cheyenne Autumn, arguably the most demanding and challenging body of music ever associated with a John Ford movie, Copland-esque with a highly dramatic edge and lots of sonic flourishes; from the other end of his career comes the music from Dragonslayer, more self-consciously dissonant and sounding a great deal like modern concert music (in the best possible way). The collection closes out with North's music for the 1958 Cinerama travelogue South Seas Adventure, which is his most conventional Hollywood scoring, filled with lush romantic string passages and all manner of Pacific Rim musical references as they were understood in the movies of that era. These are the original studio recordings as conducted by the composer, ranging across several decades' worth of recording technology. The early-'80s vintage material from Dragonslayer, cut in London during that period, sounds as it should, and the 1965 vintage Cheyenne Autumn material, recorded in Rome, has held up remarkably well. Only the South Seas Adventure score dating from 1958 seems compressed, but that's an allowance one can make and also quickly adjust to. The notes by John Steven Lasher are extensive and detailed, though the producers should have sprung for an extra page in the booklet and a larger typeface.


Born: 04 December 1910 in Chester, PA

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

American composer Alex North hardly needed films to enhance his reputation. A graduate of Juilliard and the pupil of such musical heavyweights as Ernst Toch and Aaron Copland, North was responsible for the incidental music in several major Broadway productions of the 1940s, notably Death of a Salesman. He also composed for the ballet, for symphony orchestra, and even for Benny Goodman. North's earliest film work consisted of the scores for documentary films, an activity he engaged in from 1937 through...
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At the Movies: Alex North, Alex North
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