Voices — Maurice Jarre, 1924-2009



Ode to David Lean

August 8, 1993


composer Maurice Jarre leads the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a
special salute to his frequent collaborator, the late director David
Lean, in "Great Performances: Lean by Jarre," premiering Monday on PBS.
Highlighting the hourlong concert are suites from "Lawrence of Arabia,"
"Dr. Zhivago"–including the famous "Lara’s Theme"–"Ryan’s Daughter"
and "A Passage to India." Recorded at London’s Barbican Hall, the
special features clips and behind-the-scenes footage from those classic

Jarre, 69, had composed the music for more than 40 films,
including "The Longest Day," before he was hired by "Lawrence of
Arabia" producer Sam Spiegel to compose that film’s now-legendary score.

who died in 1991 at age 83, encouraged Jarre in the use of electronic
and ethnic instruments in film music. Today, the French composer is
recognized as a pioneer in that field. Jarre has received 10 Academy
Award nominations and received Oscars for "Lawrence," "Zhivago" and
"India." His most recent screen credits include "Witness" and "Ghost."

Jarre discussed Lean and the art of film music with Times Staff Writer Susan King.

Was the tribute to Lean your idea?

When he died I wanted to do a concert, a tribute to him, in London.
When we recorded "Passage to India" it was with the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra in London. We decided to do this tribute to David Lean with
the orchestra. Exactly eight days before the concert somebody from a
video company said why not try to videotape this concert because it
will definitely be something we should have an account of. In one week,
they managed to organize the thing. I think everybody was very
concentrated, very professional. These musicians wanted to play better
than just for a normal concert. We did it for David.

You got very emotional at the conclusion.

because when I heard all of this applause, I knew that was not only for
the orchestra and me, but it was for David Lean. So at that point I
almost broke up. His work was really applauded as much as mine.

Is it true you had very little time to compose the music for "Lawrence of Arabia"?

was real panic time. I had six weeks to compose two hours of music and
record it. The problem was David was editing the second part of the
movie before the first part, so when I was doing the music I couldn’t
start the music in a chronological order. I had to start the second
part imagining what I was to do in the first part. That was really
another challenge. To make a working schedule perfect, I managed to
sleep every three hours for 10 minutes. I could go just days and nights
without stopping. After that, I had three or four months to recuperate
just sleeping and doing nothing.

I hope your schedule was easier with the other Lean films.

the first place, with "Lawrence of Arabia," I arrived at the end of the
picture. With "Dr. Zhivago," I was involved from the beginning and that
was much better. I read the book and the script. I went on location
with David. He was always insisting after "Lawrence of Arabia" for me
to be involved from the beginning and to go on location to have a
little flavor of the artist’s concept for the film. I went to Ireland
for three months for "Ryan’s Daughter" to work on the music there.
"Passage to India," unfortunately … I couldn’t go to India but I was
not too keen on going to India. I like to see India from photos and
films, but it’s not a country I am very interested to see because I
don’t feel comfortable in a tropical climate.

Do most directors you work with want you to go with them on location?

when you work for the first time with the director, the film is
finished and they decide to hire a composer. If I work with a director
more than once, the second time, if he likes what I did with the first
collaboration, he asks me to go on location with him. That’s what I did
sometimes with Peter Weir or Visconti or even John Huston. That’s much
better. When they ask you when the film is finished, you are confronted
with the problem that you have to digest the concept of the director
and the story in a few weeks. Sometimes they work on the film for two
years. How can you in a few weeks be on the same wavelength as the
director and the producer?

Music always seemed to play such an
important part in Lean’s films, even the ones you weren’t involved in
like "The Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Brief Encounter.

Also with David, it was very interesting. When he was writing the
script with Robert Bolt or by himself, he always put the music cues in
the script. These notes about the music are extremely thorough and
precise. David Lean never had a big musical culture. He loved music and
had tremendous intuition about music, but he never really had musical
references like Visconti or Peter Weir. By the way, Peter Weir, I
think, has the largest spectrum of musical culture I have ever met in a
director. He knows very well classical music, modern music, electronic,
new wave, opera. It’s amazing.

What’s your favorite score you composed for a Lean movie?

sentimentally I think it’s "Lawrence of Arabia." I met David because of
that. I liked very much "Ryan’s Daughter" because we tried a lot of
little experiments in the sound, music and concept.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in classical music, Film, Hollywood, Music, Obituaries. Bookmark the permalink.

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