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Chris Siddall Interview

May 10, 2021

We all love listening to film score; and some of us enjoy reading scores too. No, not reading about them, but reading them. The notes, the rests and every detail surrounding them.. For me, reading a score is a bittersweet experience. I’ve had some-but-limited musical education and I’ve been a hobby composer most of my life, but I am not at all proficient at reading music. I have no perfect pitch; and I’m not sure I have any pitch at all. You could probably give me a piece sheet music with the national anthem on it and I might very well struggle to recognise it. That said, reading along while the music is playing is a whole different ballgame; one that is great fun and very interesting.

Earlier this year, Chris Siddall published the printed score to one of my favourite scores from my favourite composer. It was a no-brainer purchase. At first, I was surprised that Chris choose this score. It’s harsh, aggressive, challenging and most certainly not a pretty, melodic affair. But then… that’s exactly why it excited me! I wanted to see how this score is written, what goes into it, how it does what it does. That score is ALIENS by James Horner.

I wouldn’t think that James Horner, his score, the film or the circumstances surrounding the creation of the score need any further introduction. It’s the stuff of film music folklore; to the point that I’m surprised no one’s made a film about it yet. Reading through the score, I discovered how Horner created those deliciously dark clusters, how he’s created the sound of space, how truly spectacular some cues are, and how a styrofoam cup can out-screech an entire orchestra. Through this book and subsequent analysis by people far more skilled than me, I’ve learnt that actually ALIENS is much more ‘typical Horner’ than I had always thought. It’s full of recurring motifs that help the narrative; but sadly Cameron edited (read: chopped and re-tracked) the score in such a way that much of Horner’s intentions is lost. Varese Sarabande’s ALIENS THE DELUXE EDITION from 2001 is the one you should be listening to, if you haven’t already. It’s also the version that Chris Siddall used to compile this book, with every cue (bar the bonus tracks) available to read through.

The first pressing sold out in no-time, but the book is now back in stock again (at the time of me typing this anyway).

A little while ago I had a private chat with Chris and I was fascinated by the amount of effort that goes into producing a book like this. His passion for film music and his determination and desire to publish more scores got me excited; and it inspired me to talk to him some more about ALIENS, his next two books (THE IRON GIANT and INDEPENDENCE DAY), the hardships of publishing scores and his love for film music. At the time of the interview we were still under lock-down during the COVID19 pandemic, so we spoke over the internet. You can watch the video below. I hope you enjoy it; and if you do, please give the video a ‘like’. Leave some comments too if you wish. I don’t usually do on-screen things, so please forgive me stuttering and spluttering through the questions. Do you want to see more videos or was this one-off more than enough?

Special thanks to Chris Siddall.

From → Film Soundtracks

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