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WOODY ALLEN in CONCERT

THE MUSIC OF SCOOP

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Except perhaps for the very overtly apropos use of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" in his now classic 1979 film "MANHATTAN," a discussion of the films by Woody Allen, the most cerebral and prolific of American filmmakers, rarely touches on the music. Yet if one re-viewed his films and gave even only half an ear to the music, one would soon realize that music - whether as backdrop or as a topic for conversation or debate among his fictional characters - is an important element of his works, and conclude that Allen has got to be also the most musically literate of American filmmakers.

The "matching type" quiz below should prove the latter point.  Allen's movie music is never made-to-order. He relies on extant sources, drawing from his beloved jazz, old-fashioned American songs, and the classical works of men long dead - as he did in "Scoop" and a good number of his other films, such as those in the table below.

Jog your memory a bit and see if you can match the classical work with the movie in which it was used as backdrop or in dialogue.


MOVIE WORK BY CLASSICAL COMPOSER
 1. Annie Hall a. Puccini: Sola perduta, from Manon Lescaut
 2. Another Woman b. Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No.2, 2nd movement
 3. Celebrity c. Prokofiev: March, from Love for Three Oranges
 4. Crimes and Misdemeanors d. Wagner: Flying Dutchman
 5. Hannah and Her Sisters e. Satie: Gymnopédie No. 3
 6. Husbands and Wives f. Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, 1st movement
 7. Love and Death g. Stravinsky: Concerto in D for String Orchestra - 2. Arioso
 8. Manhattan Murder Mystery h. Holst: Jupiter from The Planets
 9. Match Point i. Bach: English Suite No. 2
10. Melinda and Melinda j. Katchaturian: Saber Dance
11. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy k. Verdi: Desdemona rea, si, per ciel, from Otello
12. Scoop l. Mahler: Symphony No. 9, 1st mvt
CLICK HERE for answers.  

Allen's 2006 film SCOOP is a hilarious, suspenseful admixture of romance (young American journalism student, played by Scarlett Johannson, falls in love with young English aristocrat-businessman), murder-mystery (involving a serial killer - could it be the young aristocrat?), and the supernatural (a newly-disembodied ghost is Johansson's unlikely source of tips for a news scoop, and the revelations happen mostly while she is inside a performing magician's magic box).  One would not instinctively lean on the classical composers to supply the background music.  Yet, some of the most familiar works in the classical repertoire provide much of it. Who among us ordinary mortals cannot hum a melody or two from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and Nutcracker Suites, or Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, or a perky tune from Johann Strauss' Polkas? The film is packed with extended excerpts from such works, recorded by no less than such ensembles as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera Orchestra, and London Symphony Orchestra - interrupted here and there by titillating pieces of Rhumba and other Latin music. An odd combination? Yes. But Allen , ever the magician - and he plays the role in the film - makes it all work. And surprisingly, his use of all-too-familiar music breeds, not contempt, but enjoyment.

Let's listen to some clips
(CLICK on TITLE):

From Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake Suite:     Scene (Track 1)              Dance des cygnes (Track 3)
 
From Tchaikovsky's Nutracker Suite:No.7 Scene (Track 15)
 
From Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite: Morning Mood (Track 11)
 
From Johann Strauss, Jr.'s Tritsch-Tratsch Polka
 
Miami Beach Rhumba

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Allen's clever use of music in his films speak of finely honed musical instincts. Is there a musician lurking in Allen's soul? Yes is the only answer. Because in fact, he is one - a jazz clarinetist by avocation, but skilled enough to play to the gallery. And as the NEXT article will show, he seems to have the greatest fun being one.  If filmmaking is the first of Allen's cerebral passions, music must be a close second.


BRAVO, JEAN-YVES!




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