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KRZYSZTOF KOMEDA 

"Soundtracks from Roman Polanski movies"

"Fearless Vampires’ Killers" , "Rosemary’s Baby"

 

We present you with a CD with two motion picture soundtracks by Krzysztof Komeda from his later period. Within merely several years as he was gaining experience and knowledge as a composer his method of composing was changing and developing. His first work was created in autumn 1957 and recorded in 1958. It was a piece of music composed for the film "Two Men with a Wardrobe" directed by then a student, Roman Polański. It was a £ód¼ Film School étude and the music was composed for a quartet: a tenor saxophone, a piano, a double bass and percussion. The film became a classic and is lectured on at many European film schools as an example of music superbly harmonized with picture. The music for the film "Fearless Vampires’ Killers" was created in 1966 in London, that’s 10 years after the first score. This time the composer extended the line-up to include a clarinet, a trombone, two harpsichords, a piano, a guitar with an amplicator, a bass, percussion, a marimba, a cello, bongos, a flute, an oboe, a horn, bells, kettledrums, an alt saxophone, a violin and a seven-piece choir. As we can see from the set I have just described apart from the typical musical instruments and jazz specific instruments he extended the line-up by adding a beat rhythm section. He also surprised the studio technicians when he used folk during the recording: by rubbing the piano’s cords with his fingers he could bring out sounds similar to the string effects. The latter activity usually required negotiations with a representative of trade unions who was always present during the recording. In the times before Mrs Thatcher trade unions in England would go to absurd lengths in their activity. A composer from Poland could not be both a pianist and a composer at the same time because he would deprive English musicians of their pay. Unfortunately Komeda was not able to bring from Warsaw a renowned vocal group "Novi Singers", the watchful trade unions made it impossible for him to engage the singers. It was recorded by vocalists – three women and four men from London. The film with a Hollywood producer was made entirely in Europe. The main actress was a pretty American called Sharon Tate, a subsequent Roman Polański’s wife who died tragically. Apart from the fact that Polański had fixed a French actress, the American producer Mr Rancehoff decided otherwise. The director had no say in the matter as it was Mr Rancehoff who paid. Unfortunately for Sharon and Roman who had met on the film’s location it ended tragically! If it wasn’t for this decision they may never have met at all and Sharon would be alive.

The other soundtrack included on this CD is a score for the film "Rosemary’s Baby". The film locations were created partly in New York – a famous house in which John Lennon lived and in front of which he was murdered. The other pictures were shot in California. Krzysztof Komeda had to be present in the cutting room when the film was edited. It was demanded by Polański and Komeda had to leave Warsaw a month earlier than it was previously arranged. The music was recorded in 1968 in Los Angeles with Don Ellis band. What was interesting, Blood Sweat & Tears manager applied for this job but Komeda did not approve of it as he had been friends with Don Ellis for two years and it was then that he and his band playing in LA in a jazz club had financial problems so Krzysztof helped them. I talked about that after Krzysztof’s death with the percussionist of this excellent beat band who had used many jazz elements in his arrangements. Talking to Bobby Colombo when they were giving concerts in Warsaw I suddenly realised that I incidentally shifted to German which I knew much better. Surprised at Bobby’s reply in German I asked him how come he as an American knew this language. "You see I was born in Germany and I went to school there before we with my parents left for the States", he said. "My dad is Silesian and our name’s Go³±bek but I don’t remember Polish anymore." Coming back to the score, the famous lullaby is hummed by the nervous main character Mia Farrow on the composer’s request because the singer who Komeda had offered this recording to – it was with lyrics then – demanded a sum almost the same as the pay of Krzysztof Komeda the composer, the arranger and the conductor of the whole film music. Poland was then a completely unknown country in the States and so were Polish talented artists. Surprisingly though, before the first night, when the lullaby was played for commercial purposes in radio broadcasts, the so-called "Pop Twenty", it became so popular that it kept topping the charts. Going down the streets of LA one could hear it all the time coming from passing convertibles with their radios on. It was recorded, as far as I could count, on seventeen singles – by different bands and singers. It was also recorded by that Canadian singer from Los Angeles who demanded of Komeda the mind-boggling sum of money, this time at a different price, though. Or maybe out of charge, just for publicity? Personally I was absolutely contented. The whole score was nominated for a "Golden Globe" together with Barbara Streisand’s "Funny Girl" The first score of a Pole in the realm of film and all of a sudden such a huge success of Komeda. He was called then "Napoleon of Poland." I was listening to the very lullaby watching television in a hospital room in Los Angeles sitting by the bed of its dying composer when Oscars were presented during the Great Oscar Ceremony. It was played twice, once when the awarded support actress was going to get the prize and later when she was going back from the stage. She got an Oscar for the role of Rosemary’s neighbour, the lovely elderly lady whose name I don’t remember exactly so I won’t write it down just to avoid making a mistake. Still, I think I have so many memories. It’s been 35 years since then anyway.

Zofia Komeda-Trzcińska

 



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