During the production of Moving Images, one of the many pleasant experiences I had was through my dealings with the Henry Mancini Estate. They were extremely helpful and generous with their support of our educational mission, and two images from their archives ended up in the book (figs. 3-14 & 3-15 in Chapter 3: Sound and Image). This is quite apt because Henry Mancini’s legacy is one of the most inspiring examples of boundless creativity, exceptional attention to one’s craft and medium, and deep generosity towards one’s collaborators and peers. Looking for insights and inspiration? I highly recommend a visit to the Henry Mancini website established by the Mancini Estate (which has experienced an interesting evolution over the years; they have clearly worked hard to make the site exceptional).
The video archive of material represented here is particularly rich (click on “Video Clips” from its main page). The discussions of the creative process by Jack Lemmon and Mancini himself are quite interesting and inspiring; the explanations by Mancini, sitting at the piano, of the origins of his most well-known melodies should be treasured by anyone who appreciates the creative process and composing. Any of them can be very useful for classroom use; for a film class, the video on the far right, “Thoughts on the Creative Process,” also features clips from a Blake Edwards film in production and the most in-depth insights on the particulars of composing for the screen.
For educators, there is one clip that is of great value. At the top of the left hand column is “On Music Education,” which is a jaw-droppingly appropriate discussion of the priorities of education in the United States and the profound values of arts education. I’m guessing that this video is from the 80’s, but its message could have been recorded yesterday. Check it out.
These materials center on Mancini’s gifts as a melodicist, but I would like to add that his talents as an arranger and sound innovator are too often neglected. He explored the possibilities of the studio orchestra like few other movie composers in history, and his use of the range of tones, colors, and quirks of the widest possible scope of instruments gives such richness to his scores. Whether writing for French Horns, mallet percussion, the full families of clarinets or flutes, or Plas Johnson’s sax, he explored their capacities and articulated a boundless range of emotions and expressions of life’s rhythms, movements, and mysteries. While he is most famous as a composer of “light” music, he could write in any vein. He could compose dark, eerie material right alongside specialists in that genre, and there has never been a better scorer of comedies.
When pianist and composer Roy Budd had a sudden opportunity to make a break into the movie scoring business at the age of 23 in 1970, the already successful jazz musician knew that the only way he could fake it was to buy Henry Mancini’s book, “Sounds and Scores,” and learn from the master. Budd got the job and went on to compose some of the greatest scores of the 70’s. He was right in looking to Mancini for guidance. As I indicate in Chapter 3 of Moving Images, the partnership of Henry Mancini and Blake Edwards is one of the most successful collaborative partnerships in motion picture arts history, and a study of how their talents merged so dynamically is very enlightening. (Here is a particularly moving story about Henry Mancini’s last days by Blake Edwards.)