John Garden’s Lost Memories

Cornerhouse Digital Reporter Ben Williams caught up with John Garden after his live accompaniment to our screening of The Lost World

A synthesized musical soundtrack to a 1925 silent film might sound like a strange idea, but John Garden’s recent live score for The Lost World was something of a treat. While the film somewhat predates his electronic soundscapes, they’re both very much Science Fiction stalwarts. You can hear the influence of John Carpenter and Vangelis, all pinned together in the progressive style of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

‘I chose to work on The Lost World because of my early childhood interests,’ says John, who talks about growing up watching Blade Runner and Ray Harryhausen films with his father. ‘As a child I was imagining the music I wanted to hear in my head. I’d mix the music from one film and the images from another’ he remembers. ‘You let the film push you in the musical direction. It’s not about a virtuoso performance; it’s about getting the emotion across’. This is where Garden’s soundtrack is so successful. Garden insists there is no need to try and fix the film and enthuses about its acting, and he’s right but his distinctive themes certainly help breathe life back into the faded images. Watching the film, I felt a sense of wonder familiar to Science Fiction cinema of the 1970’s and early 80’s.

The performance could easily have been played for novelty and poked fun at the film’s inevitably dated moments, but Garden clearly loves and respects the material. He scored the film with a suspension of disbelief and the same straight face a wide-eyed child might have looking upon this classic man versus monsters adventure.

‘Kids probably understand more from the music than the script,’ he says, and it’s a shame there were no children at the screening to appreciate this. However, this big kid was not alone in being swept away with the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adaptation, helped along in no small part by John Garden’s modern, yet retro soundtrack.

If he could do it again with any film and all obstacles removed? ‘Seprico – I’d use a dirty funk band with a string quartet, massive horns section and Gil Evans horn stuff over a Funkadellic jam band’. I’m sure many of us would love to see that.

Want to hear more? Listen to this 5 minute interview between Ben and John where they chat music and cartoon owls

We hear from John Garden… (mp3)

If you enjoyed John’s live score why not check our next musical accompaniment to the 1929 silent film Drifters. Human beatboxer, vocal sculptor and sound artist Jason Singh will perform a live vocal score to the John Grierson classic on Sun 6 Nov. Book your tickets here.