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 CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack (Poledouris)

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Flaming Turd
Flaming Turd

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PostSubject: CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack (Poledouris)   CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack (Poledouris) EmptyThu 12 Jun - 3:57


Buy it... if you want one of most powerful fantasy adventure scores in the history of film music.

Avoid it... if dated sound quality and a difficult album situation outweight your interest in the fantasy adventure genre.

Conan the Barbarian: (Basil Poledouris) "And on to this Conan..." When director John Milius and his college buddy Basil Poledouris collaborated to produce their first fantasy adventure film, little did they know that they would be catapulting their own careers, as well as that of Arnold Schwarzenegger, into the bright lights of both cult and mainstream attention. When Conan the Barbarian hit the theatres in 1982, Hollywood was hitting the peak of its "sword and sorcery" phase (which some called the "swords and steroids" phase), and producers and directors struggled to create authentic representations of a fantasy Earth from the Middle Ages on limited budgets and do it during a time when audiences were being awed by the special effects of space age films. Film scores were also undergoing a renaissance in the early-1980's, spurred by John Williams' orchestral adventure scores, back towards large symphonic representations of the fantasy genre. The producer of Conan the Barbarian, Dino De Laurentiis, was an advocate of experimenting with pop scores in the epic fantasy genre, and recommended such an approach for the film. Milius and Poledouris recognized that a rock/pop score would not function for Conan the Barbarian because of the film would rely on the music and cinematography to take the place of dialogue in painting the correct canvas for the film's depiction of the Hyborean age. De Laurentiis, of course, would take his pop score ideas to Dune instead, with a strangely effective result. Nothing but Poledouris' heavy symphonic and choral approach would work for Conan the Barbarian, and the composer would have to dig deep into Middle Age musical construction --abandoning modern, lyrical strategies-- in order to achieve a pre-historic score.

The resulting effort would be a complex score that sounded surprisingly primitive and brutal, and Poledouris would reinforce this approach by utilizing the sheer power of an awesome orchestral and choral ensemble. He would utilize players from two orchestras and combine them with a chorus for a monumental recording in Rome. Unlike other modern composers, Poledouris successfully took Milius' suggestion of adapting the sounds of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" and the Gregorian chanting of "Dies Irae" and provided similar emotional construction without allowing the score to sound like an imitation. He accomplishes a consistent Middle Age atmosphere by utilizing powerful arrays of brass and percussion throughout several different suite-like motifs that carry the film along as though it was a concert piece with several distinct parts. First, the film begins with the theme that many associate with Conan incorrectly; rather, the "Anvil of Crom" cue is more of a representation of the time period and primitive human behavior. It follows the prologue in the film with a powerful performance by timpani drums and 24 French horns. In the interlude of that title theme, Conan's true theme is introduced; it would be offered during the "Riddle of Steel" cue and would accompany Conan on his journey of revenge throughout the film. The third theme (or motif) utilized by Poledouris is the Orff-inspired "Riders of Doom" composition to represent the evil Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) during his attacks. This stunning piece, often performed poorly in concerts by modern performing groups, is a continuation of unabashed percussion and brass, with a Latin chorus providing the horror. This theme would return during the climactic battle between Conan and Doom's warriors near the end of the film.

For Thulsa Doom's more hauntingly pleasant side, Poledouris worked with a simple theme inspired by the musical tinkering of his daughter for "The Orgy," a simplistic, but effectively rolling representation of the barbaric sexual environment of the villain. The love theme for Conan is performed with a heroic and lush heart by woodwinds, which often act as the soul of the characters in the film. Among the smaller motifs are the stunningly grinding rhythms of "Wheel of Pain" and the light-hearted "Civilization" theme that accompanies Conan's Mongol friend and flourishes in grandeur as Conan is rescued from "The Tree of Woe." To finish the commentary about Conan the Barbarian at this point is an insult to the score, because nearly every cue by Poledouris contains an equally effective motif. While the score is never completely integrated so that all of the themes come together in a suite format, Poledouris does manage to restate most of his themes throughout the film, providing the perfect musical canvas for the predictable characters. The score is rich is exotic percussion, heart-pounding rhythms, and mesmerizing instrumentation, proving what kind of magic can result when a composer and director work towards a common goal with a massive ensemble of performers in mind from the outset.

On album, Conan the Barbarian has had another storied history. A very early CD was issued not long after the identical LPs hit stores in 1982. Most of the early Milan/MCA Records pressings came outside the United States, with the only CD representation for many years being a Milan album from France. This album contains the prologue from the film by the wizard (Mako), the classic text of which you can view at the bottom of this review page. The Milan album, with about 48 minutes of score, has been reprinted several times, in 1992, 1999, and 2003, and all feature identical contents. In 1992, however, Varèse Sarabande released both Conan the Barbarian and its sequel, Conan the Destroyer, with the album for Barbarian adding 20 minutes of previously unreleased material to the original LP and CDs. Among the extra cues are the fantastic "Tree of Woe" and "Recovery" cues back to back, both of which feature strong extensions of the civilization and love themes and are not to be missed. Also added are lengthy cues from the latter half of the film, including the orgy scene and Doom's execution by Conan. Unfortunately, these Varèse Sarabande albums for the Conan series have fallen completely out of print and are only available used (for an often hefty price). The Varèse Sarabande release of Conan the Barbarian, although it is missing the prologue, features slightly more vibrant sound quality and an excellent 20 minutes of extra score, and it should be sought at all costs. The shorter Milan album may suffice for a few, but the out-of-print Varèse Sarabande album is the definite product for any collector of film music. It is a classic album for a classic score.

Score as Heard in Film: *****
Score as Heard on the Milan Album: ****
Score As Heard on the Varèse Sarabande album: *****
Overall: *****

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PostSubject: Re: CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack (Poledouris)   CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack (Poledouris) EmptyThu 12 Jun - 4:09

A musical analysis of Conan the Barbarian

by berlioz II - written on 30.10.05 - Rating: (5 of 5 possible stars)

Advantages A mind blowing Classic of the highest order.

Disadvantages There simply is none, if less than perfect sound quality doesn't bother you.


The 1980's proved to be very blossoming for adventure/fantasy films, also known as "sword & sorcery" epics, in Hollywood. In the wake of futuristic space age adventures (spear-headed by Star Wars), many filmmakers started creating films that took place in ancient times during the Middle Ages, or in rough fantasy enviroments not of this Earth, while struggling to make them seem authentic and believable. By the late 1980s this phase would begin tiring itself out due to over-exposure of one epic after another and audiences started to get increasingly unresponsive to many such films. This genre of film has of late been resurfacing to some extent with The Lord of the Rings, Troy, and Kingdom of Heaven, but the kind of craze involving muscular men, primal lovemaking and action on steroids is not likely to come back with quite such a force as before.

One of the prime examples of the genre, as well as one of the best, came in the beginning of this phase when director John Milius came up with making a film based on Robert E. Howard's cult pulp-novels of Conan the Barbarian. The story involves the young Conan witnessing the death of his parents in the hands of the evil Thulsa Doom's servants. This sets Conan on the path of vengeance through spending a few years strapped into a grinding Wheel of Pain, becoming a gladiator and finally coming after Doom himself. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his career setting role as Conan is perfect for the part as well as James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom, giving the character a more menacingly nonchalant quality than being downright evil personified. Also Milius' approach in making the fictional Hyborean Age seem real and authentic helped add a great sense of reality to the proceedings without trying to make it seem silly or self-conscious. Helping to add dramatic gravitas to no small degree was the music of Basil Poledouris, one of the virtues that makes Conan stand far above many other such films and imitations.


During the 1980's, film scores were undergoing a huge change-over as major orchestral film scores were returning as the main medium of accompaniment for films, spurred by John Williams' award-winning contributions of the time. From the very outset Milius and Poledouris had an orchestral score in mind, thinking it the only possible way to properly bring the Hyborean Age to life. The producer of Conan, Dino de Laurentiis, on the other hand thought differently. He was an avid experimenter of pop/rock scores in the fantasy genre and this was the approach that he suggested for Conan the Barbarian. Milius and Poledouris however were not convinced and discarded the idea in favor of a more authentic style. Instead, de Laurentiis took his pop score ideas to be realized in 1984's Dune (a $47 million flop) where the rock group Toto created a strangely effective pop/rock/symphonic score that was one of the film's few saving graces. For Poledouris, the attempt for Conan was to create a musical soundscape that would evoke the Hyborean Age as a primitive and hostile time and for this he took much inspiration from the music of the Middle Ages as well as abandoning ideas of sweepingly lyrical melodies.

More than simply providing accompaniment like most film scores, Poledouris' music was required to actually tell the story as there is not much talking around going on in this movie. The first 30 minutes alone features about three lines of dialogue as a whole. This gave the composer ample opportunities to create long suite-like cues where he could create and develop multiple themes with great leisure. To help create the kind of primitive and brutal sound Conan required was a powerhouse of an orchestra comprised of members of the Santa Cecilia Chorus and Orchestra and the Radio Symphony of Rome in an epic recording session that took place in Rome. To be honest, the recorded quality by 1982's standards could have been a whole lot better, which can also be said of the performance itself that includes several distinct mistakes. But when viewed in the context of the film, the harsh recording and less-than-sophisticated performance actually enhances the film and makes the music more believable as an authentic composition from the age. The music often has a knack of sounding strangely familiar and there is a certain similarity toward Carl Orff's famous Carmina Burana, a composition often credited when film music features heavy choral music, an observation more often inaccurate among less informed reviewers. But in the case of Conan, this similarity is quite tangible. However, this is not to say Conan the Barbarian is a mere imitation. Rather Poledouris took certain aspects of different classical compositions and made them his own, such as the Gregorian plainchants. This all makes for an incredibly flavoursome score, helped along by a strong thematic base.


This thematic base is set strongly in the first seven cues on the album. After a minute-long prologue (featuring the classic opening lines of Mako found on the top of this review), the pounding percussion kicks in and Poledouris unleashes his full array of 24 French horns in the cue "Anvil of Crom", which many people have mistaken for being a representation of Conan. This however is most likely meant to depict the Hyborean Age itself in its savage and primal simplicity. Although not particularly inventive either in rhythm or theme, it was impressive enough that Jerry Goldsmith adapted it for a remarkably similar beginning to his score for Total Recall eight years later. The lyrical interlude between the pounding Hyborean motif is the true representation of Conan, a theme that will resurface throughout the score and has a truly noble sound to it. In fact, it is this theme that really elevates Conan above a simple mindless primitive by making him sound more high and mighty. This theme receives further appearances in the next cue "Riddle of Steel" where long garlands of string triplets embed a sensitive take on the theme. Here we can also see another feature of the score that prefers the use of soloistic instruments, namely the woodwinds, that are never drowned out by the full orchestra. This kind of instrumental usage is something many don't usually mention when talking about Conan, but it does lend the music a far more sophisticated air than simple wall to wall action scoring could.

The second half of the second track, "Riders of Doom", then brings us the more Orff-inspired music of the score. It is a very strong cue where the chorus is chanting in Latin verses of Poledouris' own invention and the brass gives mighty flourishes to the rhythm of a tambourine. The music is very reminiscent of "Fortune plango vulnera" from Carmina Burana and the whirl-wind performance by the full ensemble and chorus would put to shame any hard-core rock songs with its relentless assault on the senses. In the cue "Gift of Fury" Conan witnesses the death of his parents and the choral plainchants increase the menace of the scene with the orchestra backing up with primitive underlinings. Yet the woodwinds again are clearly heard in the background, preventing the music from ever exploding into real chaos. The following "Wheel of Pain" is an interesting cue that takes Conan's experience of being strapped into a giant rotating column where he grows up and gets his strength. The orchestra literally creates a metallic grinding noise in the background as the orchestra marches onward in an oppressive style with a slight Oriental touch added for flavour. It is however broken as Conan's theme is stated in a bold brass fanfare as he grows up to become a man.

The "Atlantean Sword" takes a variation on Conan's theme with some mystic undertones created by celeste and the minor-keyed string dirges of Rózsa-like feeling. It is followed by the most jolly cue in the score, "Theology/Civilization", which is a representation of Conan's Mongol friend Subotai. It is a gently lyrical theme, first presented by cor anglais and clarinet. It is then extended to full strings in a swingingly flowing and happy way that just can't fail to bring a smile to one's face. Also the constant clanging of tambourine and small bells makes for a really pleasant effect after so much oppressiveness. It is like a field of flowers with the sun shining over your head and the blue sky is all clear for but a few fluffy clouds. Maybe the description is a little unprofessional, but that's just how it feels. Bringing the main thematic material to close is the beautiful "Wifeing (Love Theme)" cue for Conan and Valeria. This is not a gently sweet love theme, but is rather tinged with an overwhelming sense of melancholy that is lovely to listen to. The woodwind solos are again very apparent in this theme and in the subsequent performances of it, with Conan's theme appearing near the end as counterpoint over the lush strings that take over the cue near the end.

"The Leaving" brings further extensions of the love theme with Subotai's plucking rhythms appearing for a moment in the middle. "The Search" continues in the same melancholy, yet hopeful feel as the previous cue and is a beauty of lyrical invention to which the solo instruments again bring much character. The "Mountain of Power Procession" brings another aspect to the score, that of a triumphal march. The music is full of Rózsa-esque pompousness apprarent in scores like Quo Vadis, Julius Caesar and Ben-Hur. Near the end we also get a tantalizingly haunting appearance of the Orgy music to be heard in full later on. Among the most interesting cues is "The Tree of Woe" where Conan is plagued by some really silly-looking ghosts. Again Poledouris' music really adds drama to the scene with eerie dissonance, swooshing effects and the sounds of wind-chimes. The moment is lifted as Subotai makes his appearance accompanied by his jolly "Civilization" theme. The following "Recovery" cue then extends Conan's theme for a full two minutes of performances, also adding a wordless female chorus in the process.

Some humour can be heard in the beginning of "The Kitchen" where the Riders of Doom music receives a more subdued appearance, namely sans big brass fanfares. The ensuing "The Orgy" is another fascinating cue. It was originally written by Poledouris' daughter Zoë and was then elaborated by her father to be played during Thulsa Doom's orgy scene. The music really brings Doom's hauntingly amicable and suave personality to the fore more than anything else and the rollingly hypnotic build-up of sound very much reminds me of the similar build-up of Ravel's Bolero to which the cue bears much apparent similarities. "The Funeral Pyre" brings the melancholy love theme to its grand culmination as Conan says farewell to his dead wife. The brass fanfares over the sweeping rendition of the theme is one that really delivers on the emotional front and brings a great sense of resonating tragedy.

The "Battle of the Mounds" brings another charging action motif that precedes a literal reprise of the Riders of Doom music in a slightly abreviated form. "Death of Rexor" also brings further new motifs of primitive intention along with the choral music heard in "The Gift of Fury". Many other themes are also reprised to some extent along with Conan's theme and the love theme. The haunting choral music before Conan slices off Doom's head is something quite interesting and reminds me a little of the choral writing found from Gustav Holst's "Neptune" movement from The Planets, an eerie and distant feel of other-worldliness. The concluding "Orphans of Doom/The Awakening" opens with a very sad and abandoned melody as Doom's subjects are left alone. The cue continues in a sustained adagio before a fanfare heralds a triumphal conclusion fitting for a film of this kind.


There are two official albums for Conan the Barbarian. The original Milan album features some 50 minutes of music (an impressive amount for a score this old) and has all the main presentations of the themes. The album has been released several times in the past (the latest in 2003) and is still widely available (particularly in Europe). However, in 1992 Varèse Sarabande released an expanded album, along with the sequel Conan the Destroyer, that added some 20 minutes of unreleased music and remixed it, adding more reverberation for a fuller sound. This edition, though missing the opening prologue, included such gems as the "Mountain of Power Procession", "The Tree of Woe" and "Recovery" cues as well as lengthy extensions of other scenes in the film. Accompanying the album is also a multi-page booklet with track description, pictures and production notes. Unfortunately this album is no longer in print and is difficult to find today. And usually when one can be found, the prices are often hefty.

As usual, the score has also been released in a more complete form in the bootleg market several times, the latest being a 2-CD edition appearing in the late 1990s (although with horrid sound quality). As for a more complete official release I'm not entirely convinced any such thing will surface. One source has said that the original masters are in so dire a condition or are missing entirely that nothing decent is likely to be salvaged. If this is true, it is unfortunate, as we now are missing such interesting cues as Conan's Gladiator Montage, the battle with Rexor and some of the other Battle of the Mounds material. For those interested enough to go through the trouble, the Varèse album is by far the one to acquire if you can find it. However, the Milan album is the cheaper and easier to find and has a good overall presentation of the music. Still, whatever version you will try to seek out, if you are either a fan of great orchestral music or film music in general, you cannot be without at least one version of the score. It really is a Classic with a big C and I can't recommend it enough. Simply a must-have!


Original 1982-2003 Milan album

1. Prologue/Anvil of Crom (3:39)
2. Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom (5:38)
3. The Gift of Fury (3:50)
4. Column of Sadness/Wheel of Pain (4:09)
5. Atlantean Sword (3:51)
6. Theology/Civilization (3:14)
7. Love Theme (2:10)
8. The Search (3:09)
9. The Orgy (4:14)
10. The Funeral Pyre (4:29)
11. Battle of the Mounds Pt.1 (4:53)
12. Orphans of Doom/The Awakening (5:32)

Expanded 1992 Varèse Sarabande album

1. Anvil of Crom (2:34)
2. Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom (5:36)
3. Gift of Fury (3:50)
4. Wheel of Pain (4:09)
5. Atlantean Sword (3:50)
6. Theology/Civilization (3:13)
7. Wifeing (Love Theme) (2:10)
8. The Leaving/The Search (5:59)
9. Mountain of Power Procession (3:21)
10. The Tree of Woe (3:31)
11. Recovery (2:11)
12. The Kitchen/The Orgy (6:30)
13. Funeral Pyre (4:29)
14. Battle of the Mounds (4:52)
15. Death of Rexor (5:34)
16. Orphans of Doom/The Awakening (5:31)

Music Composed and Conducted by Basil Poledouris
Performed by members of the Chorus & Orchestra of Santa Cecilia
and the Radio Symphony of Rome
"The Orgy" Composed by Basil and Zoë Poledouris
Orchestrated by Greig McRitchie
Recording and Live Mixing Engineer: Federico Savina
Recorded at International Recording Studios, Rome
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PostSubject: Re: CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack (Poledouris)   CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack (Poledouris) EmptyThu 12 Jun - 6:00


by Michael McLennan

on September 27th, 2004

A child of the Year of the Monkey 1980, I came to this world a little too late to get caught up in the Western world's enthusiasm for the sword and sorcery epics and their parade of well-oiled bodies, primal love making, unspiced red meats and graphic life taking. Conan the Barbarian was by all accounts the crowning achievement of this dubious film making spree, and it's not hard to see why. Despite the unpromising pulp origins of the film's hero and the acting resume of its lead actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, director John Milius grounded his pre-Sumerian fantasy in a level of reality sorely lacking in most other fantasy films (even Barbarian's inauspicious sequel Conan the Destroyer). And while we're a long way from The Lord of the Rings, the characters of the film are memorable. Milius took time for characterisation and inserted action when it was needed, a formula that is more often than not reversed in films of this type. Finally for all the film's ridiculousness – enshrined in that cheesy-as-cheddar prologue spoken by Mako – Milius resists the temptation to play the silliness self-consciously (as say Stephen Sommers would), but revels in the earnestness of Conan's personal quest for revenge against Thulsa Doom.

The spirit of earnestness is ably supported by Basil Poledouris' score. The film's signature piece "Anvil of Crom" thunders out of the gate with its 24 French horns (seriously) and stamping 5/4 percussion, pausing for a moment for strings and brass to introduce the noble 'Steel' theme as Conan's father forges a sword of Atlantean steel, before the 5/4 rhythm and warlike brass return to carry the cue to a resounding conclusion. (The track was sufficiently impressive to have been reworked by Jerry Goldsmith for the main titles of his Total Recall score.) Out of the rubble of Crom's musical onslaught, the "Steel" theme is stated for oboe over a bed of string arpeggios in the lovely "Riddle of Steel". A brass fanfare heralds the onslaught of the "Riders of Doom" – whose plundering rampage is scored with a furious piece for Latin choir and full orchestra that makes Orff's "Carmina Burina" look pallid. Together the two opening tracks constitute one of the most bravura opening sequences of any film score.

And the rest of the score offers ample variety to make the album time fly by. Poledouris reworks his themes for Steel and Thulsa Doom's Riders – adding his own take on "Dies Irae" – for the traumatic "Gift of Fury". Out of the wonderfully visual metallic grinding motif for "The Wheel of Fury" arises a stunning brass take on the Steel theme. Strings and celeste add an air of mysticism that one normally associates with Miklos Rozsa to "The Atlantean Sword". It's followed by an album highlight in the light-hearted theme for Conan's Mongol sidekick Subotai, presented as a splendid dialogue for cor anglais and clarinet in "Theology / Civilization", widening to the strings to make a truly joyful antidote to the oppressive feel of the preceding tracks. Equally impressive is the love theme for Conan and Valeria, stated for viola and oboe in "Wifeing (Theme of Love)", then for strings as oboe reprises Conan's Steel theme in counterpoint.

This thematic base is drawn upon and extended in the second half of the album. "The Search" offers two sublime themes for Conan's journey to Doom's Mountain of Power, both themes traded between oboe, cor anglais and strings before the ubiquitous Steel theme rears its head again in a stately brass reprise. The allure of Thulsa Doom is well served by the balletic cue for "The Orgy". Minor motifs – including a cor anglais theme for Mourning - circle an earnest reprise of the love theme in "The Funeral Pyre". Even Conan's wizard friend (played by Mako) is given his own playful motif for clarinet and flute in "Battle of the Mounds, Part One", heard shortly before a return to the combative brass and choir associated with the Doom's saddled minions. A female choir intones a lament for the directionless "Orphans of Doom" with yet another theme, before a subdued setting of the Mourning and Steel themes carries "The Awakening" to its bombastic (though slightly abrupt) finale.

The Varese album adds to the already impressive twelve-track Milan album with an additional twenty minutes of music, extending two cues and adding four others. While the additional tracks do not include a great amount of unreleased thematic material, the established themes are explored in fresh arrangements. "The Leaving" offers a more extended oboe and string treatments of the love theme, and coupled with the already released "The Searching" becomes the highlight of the softer tracks on the album. A bombastic march that seems to have escaped from a Miklos Rozsa score dominates "The Mountain of Power / Procession", seguing into an alluring anticipation of the Orgy theme in the strings towards the end of its length. Poledouris rarely employs dissonant textures in his writing, and 'The Tree of Woe' is a nice hint of what he might come up with if so inclined. The harsh track bursts into a string reprise of the wonderful but little used theme for Subotai, before relaxing into the love theme. The Steel theme is given additional development in "Recovery", the typical woodwind/brass arrangement complemented by female chorus. Injecting a much needed dose of humour in the second half of the album is the comical treatment of the "Riders of Doom" motif that opens the extended "The Kitchen / The Orgy". Finally, the inclusion of "The Death of Rexor" (which also includes the cue for the death of Thulsa Doom) makes for a more satisfying extended climax on album. The dissonant chorus from "The Gift of Fury" returns in this penultimate track, putting the soothing choral opening of "Orphans of Doom" in context.

Listening to Varese album again in preparation for this review brought back memories of the same weaknesses that plagued the Milan album. Impressive as Poledouris' writing for orchestra and chorus was, the performing group – the Orchestra and Chorus of Santa Cecilia and the Radio Symphony of Rome – was not entirely up to the challenges it presented and the flaws are noticeable. In the iconic concluding stretch of the "Anvil of Crom", the augmented brass section races ahead of the percussion, while more than one flub mars the extended "The Kitchen / The Orgy" cue from the Varese release. Such a composition as this surely demands a rerecording by a more able performing group.

The mixing of the album is either a strength or a weakness depending on how you look at it. The sound design seems almost arbitrary – "barbaric" even if you'll mind the pun – often giving insufficient attention to key sections of the orchestra during critical moments. Of course the "rough edges" aesthetic, together with the quirks in performance, does add to the feeling that this recording actually is an ancient work that has survived the long years from the "days of high adventure".

One thing that is never weakened by either performance or mixing is Poledouris' writing for woodwinds. Every time I listen to this score I'm struck by the sense of drama imparted by Poledouris' deft handling of the oboe and cor anglais. They've always been magical in this composer's hands (see Les Miserables and Farewell to the King as well), and in Conan they continually outshine the brass and choral writing often emphasized by reviewers. Performances of the many solos parts for these instruments (in "Riddle of Steel", "Theology/Civilization", "Wifeing", "The Leaving / The Search", "Recovery" and "The Funeral Pyre" to name the most obvious examples) are fine indeed, and they are never drowned out by the other sections of the orchestra. The more recent album releases for Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings scores might have benefited greatly from similar clarity in the woodwind solo parts.

Ultimately, compared to the quality of Poledouris' writing for Conan the Barbarian, the flaws of either album incarnation shrink in comparison. Fans of orchestral film scoring simply must have some version of this music in their collection, and the question not whether to buy but which version to buy. While the Varese album offers a superior presentation of the film's score, the Milan is easier to find, and cheaper as well. Those with a special interest in this score or film will of course favour the former, and to them is highly recommended with its excellent liner notes by Kevin Mullhall. To those who do not know the film, but are eager to sample the legendary score, the Milan edition is an excellent album containing all the main themes in their iconic arrangements in a thrilling fifty minutes of underscore. Purchasers of the Milan edition have the added feature – again, whether it's a strength or a weakness is debatable – of hearing the classic opening narration by Mako. (Personally I feel Varese was most prudent in their removal of this cue from their expanded release.)

Of course one hopes that before long a Deluxe edition of this score – akin to Varese's expanded Total Recall score – or a complete rerecording (by a more able performing group) may be made available to film score fans. Significant unreleased cues such as Conan's Gladiator Montage, the Temple Theft sequence, the post-orgy battle with Rexor and some unreleased music from the climactic Battle of the Mounds would be welcome additions to what is already one of the best film scores in history.
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PostSubject: Re: CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack (Poledouris)   CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack (Poledouris) EmptyThu 12 Jun - 7:49

Inspiration and creation of the music:

The violent early portions of the movie are filled with intense pieces including "Anvil of Crom", played by 24 french horns, strings and timpani, and "Riders of Doom", loosely inspired by "O Fortuna", "Fortune Plango Vulnera", as well as other portions of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana.

Quote :
Carmina Burana, also known as the Burana Codex, is a manuscript collection, found in 1803 in the Bavarian monastery of Benediktbeuern, and now housed in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. The 119 leaves of the original collection contain 228 poems compiled by three different scribes.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack (Poledouris) 250pxcarminaburanawheelwa7

The collection is divided into six sections:

Carmina ecclesiastica (songs on religious themes)

Carmina moralia et satirica (moral/satirical songs)

Carmina amatoria (love songs)

Carmina potoria (drinking songs - also includes gambling songs and parodies)

Ludi (religious plays)

Supplementum (versions of some of the earlier songs with textual variations)

Between 1935 and 1936 German composer Carl Orff set 24 of the poems to new music, also called Carmina Burana.
Quote :
O Fortuna is a poem from Carmina Burana, a collection of Latin poems written in early 13th century.

Fortuna is the goddess of fortune in Roman Mythology.

German composer Carl Orff selected 24 poems from the collection and set them to new music between 1935 and 1936. O Fortuna is the most famous movement from his Carmina Burana, and opens and closes the cycle.

Quote :

O Fortuna (Chorus)

O Fortuna
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem,
dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis
et inanis,
rota tu volubilis,
status malus,
vana salus
semper dissolubilis,
et velata
michi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
dorsum nudum
fero tui sceleris.

Sors salutis
et virtutis
michi nunc contraria,
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria.
Hac in hora
sine mora
corde pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem
sternit fortem,
mecum omnes plangite!

English translation:

O Fortune,
like the moon
you are constantly changing,
ever waxing
and waning;
hateful life
now oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;
and power
it melts them like ice.

Fate - monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.

Fate is against me
in health
and virtue,
driven on
and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate
strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

Quote :
Fortune plango vulnera

Fortune plango vulnera
stillantibus ocellis
quod sua mihi munera
subtrahit rebellis.
Verum est, quod legitur,
fronte capillata,
sed plerumque sequitur
Occasio calvata.

In Fortune solio
sederam elatus,
prosperitatis vario
flore coronatus;
quisquid enim florui
felix et beatus,
nunc a summo corrui
gloria privatus.

Fortune rota volvitur:
descendo minoratus;
alter in altum tollitur;
nimis exaltatus
rex sedet in vertice
caveat ruinam!
nam sub axe legimus
Hecubam reginam.

English translation:

I bemoan the wounds of Fortune
with weeping eyes,
for the gifts she made me
she perversely takes away.
It is written in truth,
that she has a fine head of hair,
but, when it comes to seizing an opportunity
she is bald.

On Fortune's throne
I used to sit raised up,
crowned with
the multi-coloured flowers of prosperity;
though I may have flourished
happy and blessed,
now I fall from the peak
deprived of glory.

The wheel of Fortune turns;
I go down, demeaned;
another is raised up;
far too high up
sits the king at the summit -
let him fear ruin!
for under the axis is written
Queen Hecuba.
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Thulsa Doom's theme, which recurs throughout the film, is based on the Gregorian chant "Dies Irae".

Quote :
Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) is a famous thirteenth century Latin hymn thought to be written by Thomas of Celano.

It is a medieval Latin poem, differing from classical Latin by its accentual (non-quantitative) stress and its rhymed lines. The meter is trochaic.

The poem describes the day of judgment, the last trumpet summoning souls before the throne of God, where the saved will be delivered and the unsaved cast into eternal flames.

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The Poem

The Latin text is taken from the Requiem Mass in the 1962 Roman Missal. The English version below was translated by William Josiah Irons in 1849 and appears in the English Missal. Note that the below translation is not literal, but modified to fit the rhyme and meter.

Dies iræ! dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla
Teste David cum Sibylla!

Quantus tremor est futurus,
quando judex est venturus,
cuncta stricte discussurus!

Tuba mirum spargens sonum
per sepulchra regionum,
coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit et natura,
cum resurget creatura,
judicanti responsura.

Liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.

Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet apparebit:
nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?

Rex tremendæ majestatis,
qui salvandos salvas gratis,
salva me, fons pietatis.

Recordare, Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuæ viæ:
ne me perdas illa die.

Quærens me, sedisti lassus:
redemisti Crucem passus:
tantus labor non sit cassus.

Juste judex ultionis,
donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.

Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
culpa rubet vultus meus:
supplicanti parce, Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,
et latronem exaudisti,
mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meæ non sunt dignæ:
sed tu bonus fac benigne,
ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum præsta,
et ab hædis me sequestra,
statuens in parte dextra.

Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis:
voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis:
gere curam mei finis.

Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophets' warning,
Heaven and earth in ashes burning!

Oh what fear man's bosom rendeth,
when from heaven the Judge descendeth,
on whose sentence all dependeth.

Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth;
through earth's sepulchers it ringeth;
all before the throne it bringeth.

Death is struck, and nature quaking,
all creation is awaking,
to its Judge an answer making.

Lo! the book, exactly worded,
wherein all hath been recorded:
thence shall judgment be awarded.

When the Judge his seat attaineth,
and each hidden deed arraigneth,
nothing unavenged remaineth.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding,
when the just are mercy needing?

King of Majesty tremendous,
who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!

Think, good Jesus, my salvation
cost thy wondrous Incarnation;
leave me not to reprobation!

Faint and weary, thou hast sought me,
on the cross of suffering bought me.
shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Righteous Judge! for sin's pollution
grant thy gift of absolution,
ere the day of retribution.

Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
all my shame with anguish owning;
spare, O God, thy suppliant groaning!

Thou the sinful woman savedst;
thou the dying thief forgavest;
and to me a hope vouchsafest.

Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
rescue me from fires undying!

With thy favored sheep O place me;
nor among the goats abase me;
but to thy right hand upraise me.

While the wicked are confounded,
doomed to flames of woe unbounded
call me with thy saints surrounded.

Low I kneel, with heart submission,
see, like ashes, my contrition;
help me in my last condition.

The poem appears complete as it stands at this point. Some scholars question whether the remainder is an addition made in order to suit the great poem for liturgical use, for the last stanzas discard the consistent scheme of triple rhymes in favor of rhymed couplets, while the last two lines abandon rhyme for assonance and are, moreover, catalectic: (this information is questionable. Editors at this point have actually offered this piece at a genuine requiem - it is sung, it is true, it is appropriate... Dona eis requiem.)

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:

Pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.

Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning
man for judgment must prepare him;
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!

Lord, all pitying, Jesus blest,
grant them thine eternal rest. Amen.

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A number of quieter pieces fill the middle of the movie, including "Civilization", "The Leaving", "The Search" and the sensuous "The Orgy" (co-written with his daughter Zoë and in part resembling Maurice Ravel's Bolero) before the music again intensifies for a series of battle sequences at the end of the film.

Quote :
Boléro is a one-movement orchestral piece by Maurice Ravel. Originally composed as a ballet, the piece, which premiered in 1928, is considered Ravel's most famous musical composition.

Boléro epitomises Ravel's preoccupation with restyling and reinventing dance movements. It was also one of the last pieces he composed before illness forced him into retirement.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack (Poledouris) 22533804512f166b3926ii0

Boléro is written for a large orchestra consisting of two flutes, piccolo, two oboes (oboe 2 doubles oboe d'amore), cor anglais, E-flat clarinet, two B-flat clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, piccolo trumpet in D, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, three saxophones (one sopranino, one soprano and one tenor — one of the first large ensemble pieces to employ the family), timpani, two snare drums, cymbals, tam-tam, celesta, harp and strings (violins, violas, cellos and double basses).

(The sopranino saxophone called for in the instrumentation is a sopranino saxophone in F; whilst the ones of today are in E-flat. Today, both the soprano saxophone and the sopranino saxophone parts are commonly played on the B-flat soprano saxophone.)

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Other string sections clearly resemble Ralph Vaughan William's "Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis", namely "Atlantean Sword".

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Ralph Vaughan Williams, OM (October 12, 1872 – August 26, 1958) was an influential English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also an important collector of English folk music and song.

Vaughan Williams's music, although embodying the composer's own unique voice, often reflects the influence of Ravel, his mentor for three months in Paris in 1908. Ravel described Vaughan Williams as "the only one of my pupils who does not write my music."

Vaughan Williams's music expresses a deep regard for and fascination with folk tunes, the variations upon which can convey the listener from the down-to-earth (which he always tried to remain in his daily life) to the ethereal. Simultaneously the music shows patriotism toward England in the subtlest form, engendered by a feeling for ancient landscapes and a person's small yet not entirely insignificant place within them.

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Several of the pieces, including the "Anvil of Crom" are frequently used in the movie trailers of other films by Universal Pictures, like Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Much of the film's music was also reused in Conan the Destroyer.
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Taken from the Silva Screen compilation

(FILMCD 164, 1995).

Quote :
Enses requirimus saevos nos,
We seek savege swords,

nos ferrei reges servi fati,
We, iron kings, servants of fate,

morta ex terra mortiferra tela
bringing deadly weapons, sprung from the earth

in hostes bello ad moventes.
against the enemy in war.

Equos frenamus furentes
We control high-spirited horses,

Capi ta superba quatientes
shaking their proud heads

mortem hostibus et luctem date
Spirits of the dead, give death and bitter grief

acrem di manes sternadis.
to the enemy who must laid low.

Ave Nevis, ave ferrum,
Hail Nevism, hail iron

Ave tela, ave cruor
Hail weapons, hail terror,

Ave pugna, ave moritur.
Hail gore, hail those who are about to die!


Another version:

Quote :
Enses, enses requirimus, requirimus saevos nos. (Swords, we seek swords, savage ones.)

Nos ferrei reges, servi fati. (We, iron kings, servants of fate.)

Vale caelum, vale terra, vale nivis, morimur! (Farewell, heaven, farewell, earth, farewell snow, we die)

Vale, morimur servis fati! (Farewell, for the servants of Fate, we die!)

Quote :
We seek things of steel
Riven from Hell, driven by evil
We are dying in battle for Doom
For fated Doom

Farewell Skies, farewell snow
Farewell Earth, we are dying
We are dying for Doom
Dying for fated Doom

Quote :
Has anyone figured out what Skylon means? Google is of no help, alas.

That's another question I've been trying for answer. The best I can come up with is that Skylon is either a curse-word or the name of an imaginary deity; a number of parallel examples occur in the Carmina Burana, namely "Mandaliet" in CB 180 (O mi dilectissima, or Circa mea pectora in Orff's version), and again as "hyrca, hyrce, nazzaza" in CB 174 (Veni, veni, venias). Other examples abound in the so-called "Barbarous names" one encounters in Medieval and Renaissance magical literature.

So given the influence that's been acknowledged from these sources, it's possible (though only speculation on my part) that the influence may have extended to creating an artificial swear-word or deity, to express the people's crying out in a state of anguish as they are slaughtered.

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Quote :
Ecce nunc dies Patris (Behold, now is the day of the Father.)
Ecce nunc dies Matris (Behold, now is the day of the Mother.)

Regnat nos, salvat nos. (He rules us, he saves us.)
Regnat nos, salvat vos. (He rules us, he saves you.)
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