Brett Hughes is a singer, songwriter and producer who splits his time between the bands Monoprix‚ Chrome Cowboys and Ramble Dove. He received a 2005 regional Emmy Award for composing the music for the Vermont Public Television series Windy Acres.
I had no idea where to begin all of this… so it ended up that I would remember remembering the first Fellini film I ever saw. I was 14‚ barely in high school (at a boarding school in Hoosick‚ N.Y.) and I went to a required‚ everyone-in-the-school-in-attendance film series‚ where they showed Fellini's La Strada. I couldn't get around most of it-it was long and slow and in Italian‚ with barely readable subtitles. The story was about this innocent little naif (played by Guilietta Massina‚ Fellini's wife) who ultimately soothes and disarms a savage‚ beastly muscleman (Anthony Quinn). And it is beautiful‚ in black and white‚ and I found I couldn't (and still can't) get the images out of my head. But the thing that really hung me up was the melody Massina plays on a trumpet in the film (I don't think she actually plays it‚ but her character does)-and it is in that moment the saddest music in the world‚ just achingly melancholic and beautiful‚ and I found myself hearing it in my head and humming it to myself between classes‚ and began my small but lasting obsession with the music of Nino Rota.
Nino Rota wrote the soundtrack music for almost all of Fellini's movies‚ as well as music for movies by Franco Zefferelli (Romeo and Juliet) and Francis Ford Coppolla (The Godfather) and many others. But the Fellini scores have always had a peculiar and lasting effect on me -- the music is all over the place‚ borrowing rhythms and inspirations from sources all over the world‚ yet it sounds particularly "Italian" somehow. There are manic‚ circus-like two-beat romps that spiral up and cascade down‚ crammed together with slow‚ building orchestral swells that tumble into a cha-cha‚ then careen into a passage that emulates the sounds of Rome. It is crazy stuff‚ and it swings like mad‚ even when it breaks down to a tuba‚ piccolos and trombone.
More than anything though‚ it is the melodies that are to blame for getting stuck in one's head. They have a lasting power‚ and I still listen to them all the time. They are quintessentially swinging 1960's Europe: the soundtrack to an extroverted and introspective post-war generation watching the divide between rich and poor widen‚ and experiencing joy‚ despair‚ lust and love in all its shapes and sizes. Fellini's characters are alternately smooth and handsome‚ like Marcello Mastroianni and Anouk Aimee‚ outrageously and overtly sexual‚ like Anita Eckberg‚ sometimes beastly and unattractive‚ enormous or frail‚ crazy‚ washed up‚ suicidal or naively hopeful and blissfully unaware of the hopelessness of others. And the music of Nino Rota somehow manages to capture the moods and feelings of all of these characters‚ and particularly that of Fellini himself‚ perfectly.
Recommended: La StradaLa Dolce Vita8-1/2Juliette of the Spirits (Juliette des Esprits)AmarcordCasanova. My favorite piece of music from all of them is a short piece from Satyricon. There are soundtrack compilations available that include most of the major Fellini themes.