Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A lot of things happened right here in this particular hotel over the years…and not all of ’em was good

I bought the record, and you shouldn’t have to pay what I paid, so please help yourself. Half of these tracks (cuts 3, 4, 5, and 7) are available on CD, so I’ve ripped them from CD sources. The other half (cuts 1, 2, 6, and 8) have never been issued on CD to the best of my knowledge, so I've digitized them from the soundtrack record.

There’s a Wikipedia entry on this movie and its soundtrack album which is slightly helpful; and there’s an obsessive, in-depth analysis of all the music sources used in the film which is a lot more helpful; but I’m still left with two unanswered questions.

Question #1. Why were so few copies of this album pressed, and why is it not available on CD? The Wikipedia entry has a footnote referencing a book written by a L.A. City College professor who asserts that licensing problems were to blame. But the book doesn’t specify what those problems were.

Question #2. Why is track 6 not what it purports to be? The piece was first performed in 1974. As is always the case in classical music, any conductor can record a piece using any ensemble, and every resulting recording is unique; but very few recordings of this piece existed when the movie debuted in 1980. So you’d think it must be just what the LP sleeve – and Wikipedia, and this guy’s discography – says it is: a specific performance conducted by the composer for the PRNSO. The PRNSO version was released by EMI on German vinyl in 1976, and later reissued multiple times on CD. I’ve bought that record, and I’ve bought two of those CDs, all of which contain the same PRNSO performance. That version, categorically, is NOT what’s in the movie or what’s on the soundtrack LP. If the fact that the two versions are different lengths doesn’t convince you, just A/B them:

Here’s the PRNSO version from EMI. The total time is 7:31. Go to time index 2:00.

Here’s the soundtrack LP version, which matches what’s used in the movie. The total time is 7:58. Now go to time index 2:15. The piccolo. Oh my god, the piccolo.

What the hell happened? The director’s music editor has spoken of how creating the music bed for this film ran the gamut of techniques from importing giant chunks of source music with no edits to basically atomizing multiple music sources and layering them on top of each other like collage. Never mind the question of the true original source of the performance – does it sound to you like maybe they put this music through a harmonizer? Is that phasing I hear? Did it get time-stretched without pitch-shifting, to the best degree possible with 1980 technology? Do you think the composer would have LIKED it if the director did that to his music? Is it possible the composer would have disapproved to the point where he demanded the record company withdraw the record?

Or could it be that question 1 and question 2 answer each other? Did some brain donor at Warners misattribute the source of this performance, and the wrong label was applied to it all the way through mastering, pressing, and distribution, and only when the LP actually got back to the composer did someone at the record company realize they’d paid licensing fees to the wrong publisher?

Anway, thank heavens there are no OTHER unanswered questions about this movie, being a completely straightforward horror film with just one possible interpretation and lacking the handicap of any ambiguity whatsoever. Except, of course: Unanswered Question #3: How long until the hospital-and-tennis-ball cut scene surfaces on YouTube?


  1. Very nice, and just in time for Festivus! Thank you for sharing something so rare!!

  2. ps - forgot to thank you for raising some very thoughtful questions and also for including Krzysztof Penderecki's track for comparison.

  3. "Do you think the composer would have LIKED it if the director did that to his music? Is it possible the composer would have disapproved to the point where he demanded the record company withdraw the record?"

    Given the treatment accorded to Gyorgy Ligeti over the unauthorised use of his works in '2001' I doubt old Krzysztof got a look-in. The first GL knew of his music's usage was watching the film and thinking "I know this music". He was told "So sue us" apparently.

    Thanks for the share - haven't heard this in a good while.


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