Film Composers: John Carpenter – Comic Watch


According to IMDB, John Carpenter has 40 composer credits. These include Big problem in little China, Assault on Compound 13, Village of the Damned, Ghosts of Marsand his own movie, Halloween. He also has 25 music department credits which include TV series, zooand several video shorts, The Sassy One with Nancy Loomis, Alice at the Apocalypse: An Interview With Alice Cooper, Ghosts of Mars and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.

Carpenter attended the University of Kentucky in Bowling Green, Kentucky. His father was director of the music department there. After leaving the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, he collaborated with John Longenecker, a producer, and served as a composer for the film, The Resurrection of Billy Bronco. The film would win an Oscar for Best Live Action Short. He would go on to write the music for the 1974 film, Black Star. This earlier work was done out of necessity, as each film did not have the budget for a suitable composer and orchestra to perform the score.

In 1978, Carpenter played with a band called The Coupe De Villes. He was playing with this band when he wrote the score for Halloween. As is the tradition of horror films, it took Carpenter only three days to compose the theme. Asked about creating the tension evident in the film’s score, Carpenter said, “I just wanted to write something that I thought was effective.” This seems to be the case with all the scores written by Carpenter, both for himself and for others.

One of his band members in The Coupe De Villes was Nick Castle. Fans of the movie should know the name, even if they don’t know the face.

Fans of composer John Carpenter understand how he uses music to enhance the film. There were times when silence served as well as filling every scene with music. This indicates a very real and acute understanding of timing in the horror genre. There is also an elegant simplicity to Carpenter’s music that lends itself to his style of directing.

Even though Carpenter turned away from the director’s chair, he still scored halloween kills, the film by David Gordon Green. In an interview with KUSC (California Classic), Carpenter said Green has given him a lot of personal freedom and that his work is a “real great collaboration.” After taking notes on what Green wanted, Carpenter was able to deliver what the director wanted. “I’m just the composer and assistant,” says Carpenter.

Since leaving the directing world, Carpenter has looked back on his musical career. He has two albums in which he collaborates with his son, Cody, and his godson, Daniel. They produced three albums with new instruments and sounds incorporated into each one. New technology gave Carpenter the ability to update old musical themes and produce new works. “We used modern sounds on old stuff,” Carpenter told KUSC. The titled albums Lost themes and Anthologyare a new way to experience John Carpenter’s older music.

Carpenter’s music is available on CD and for streaming online.

Film Composers: John Carpenter

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