Soundtrackobit: Maurice Jarre

lawrence-of-arabiaIf you wanted epic, then Maurice Jarre was your man. The film composer frequently worked with David Lean, and helped made the desert sing in Lawrence of Arabia. But he was also willing to try small-scale and experimental, too, such as his electronic score for Peter Weir‘s Witness. His melodic touch made him a Top 40 star in an era where film music was still chart material. Jarre lost his fight with cancer on Sunday and died aged 84.

Georges Franju provided the former engineering student’s entry into film in 1951. Jarre had cut his teeth with years of working with theatre orchestras. He applied what he knew about writing incidental music for the works of Moliere and Shakespeare to Franju’s short Hotel des Invalides and the horror classic Les Yeux sans Visages/Eyes Without a Face.

It was his association with Lean which led to a rise in prominence. For Lawrence of Arabia, the director originally planned on using three different composers, but Jarre ably filled the capacity. His music contributed to the sensation that the film was happened around its audience, while including indigenous instruments like the cithara. Arabia‘s music won an Oscar in 1962. He worked with David Lean three more times, winning two more Oscars. Ray Conniff turned “Lara’s Theme” from Doctor Zhivago into a hit, and the soundtrack topped the American charts.

For the next four decades, Jarre averaged around three scores a year and racked up nine Academy Award nominations. He formed collaborations with John Huston and Weir. “You work for the film, not the studio,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.

His epic style moved smoothly into high adventure. Jarre penned music for The Spy Who Loved Me and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. In 1990 he once again demonstrated his mastery of the romantic mode with Ghost, even if “Unchained Melody” is what everyone remembers. Outside of Hollywood, he produced work for ballets, symphonic music and work for TV.


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