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Joby Talbot

Publisher: Chester Music

The Lodger (1999)
Commissioned by the BFI
Work Notes
Silent film
Chester Music Ltd
Year Composed
1 Hour 30 Minutes
Programme Note
Joby Talbot The Lodger (1999)
Composing the music for a film seventy-three years after it was made presents an interesting challenge. One cannot simply ignore the intervening years and respond to the movie as if it had been made yesterday but neither should one treat it as just a piece of historical nostalgia, especially when the film in question is as modern and forward looking as The Lodger. In my view the soundtrack’s job is to help the film have a similar impact today as it did when it was released. My father was a ten year old boy, living in London at the time (he was born in Holloway, not far from Gainsborough Studios where The Lodger was shot). He went to see the film and was terrified and not a little disturbed. My music aims to elicit these same responses from a modern audience.

The film is very long (Hitchcock admitted that he still had a lot to learn about editing in those early years!) so I divided the score into movements, nine in all, to help give it a more comprehensible shape. Themes recur throughout, sometimes relating to characters – Daisy has a very obvious tune – but more often to the ideas with which the film concerns itself: love, suspicion, human weaknesses, and, of course, murder. The murders, or more specifically their screaming victims, punctuate the film and I have chosen to leave these moments silent. The images are so vivid the screams seem almost audible anyway. The crucial final murder is an exception and this is the musical climax of the film.

We now know, from Hitchcock’s fascinating conversations with Truffaut and from Ivor Novello’s 1932 remake, that both director and star were dissatisfied with the film’s very dissatisfying denouement. I believe they’d have approved of my musical attempts to wrong-foot the forced happy ending. The clues are there in the final shot for those with sharp enough eyes to spot them.

Finally I would like to pay tribute to the work of Christopher Austin who orchestrated and arranged the music, keeping our ears fresh with an astonishing variety of sounds gleaned for such a small ensemble; and to the wonderful Matrix Ensemble themselves who, under their conductor Robert Ziegler, uncomplainingly take years off their lives every time they perform this 90 minute marathon

Preview the score:

'A movie's moods' Alfred Hitchcock's "The Lodger" is a silent film classic, but it would have been unwatchable on Friday night without the boost from Joby Talbot's music. Talbot's job was to amplify the mood of those moments, maintain some sense of propulsion while the 90-minute film idles, and clarify characters and ideas by attaching bits of music to them. He exceeded the requirements of every task. Talbot draws a great deal of vivid color from a chamber ensemble comprising piano, clarinet doubling saxophone, bassoon, trumpet, violin, bass and percussion. …it would have seemed awfully slow without Talbot's hurtling percussive clatter. The bargain between Hitchcock and Talbot isn't one-sided. The composer gave the filmmaker color and motion, and the filmmaker gave the composer a coherent, ready-made structure. Both profited.
Tom Strini, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,01/11/2003
Hitchcock's silent classic startles from the word go, thanks in part to the use of a restored print that attempts to match the original's colour tinting. Joby Talbot's soundtrack buttonholes the ears as well… Aggressively arty for a British film at the time, and essential viewing for Hitchcock fans.
Geoff Brown, The Times,01/01/0001
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