Sunday, November 25, 2012

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight was a composer, pianist and musicologist known principally for his work as a composer for films. They were nominated for an Academy Award twice for their work, and won a BAFTA in 1985. Today's Out Spotlight is Richard Robbins.

Richard Robbins was born December 4, 1940 in South Weymouth, Massachusetts and began his musical studies at the age of five. A graduate of the New England Conservatory, he received a Frank Huntington Beebe Fellowship and continued his studies in Vienna, Austria.

In 1976, while he was acting director of the Preparatory School at Mannes College of Music, Robbins taught the youngest daughter of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the noted novelist, screenwriter and winner of the Man Booker Prize for her novel Heat and Dust. Jhabvala introduced Robbins to filmmakers Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, which launched their longtime collaboration.

Of their initial meeting, Ivory said Robbins "liked us and we liked him, and then he gradually became a composer. I don't think that was something he ever thought he'd be doing, writing film music, but what happened to him was what happened to me and to Ruth: Ismail just kind of assigned us our roles and that was that."

Ivory added, "I think the more Dick did, the more he realized he could do. And soon, he was writing really wonderful original music."
He concluded, "I always felt that if anything happened to him and we didn't have his music, then it really wouldn't be a Merchant Ivory film. His music was integral to our films."

Robbins first work in film was Sweet Sounds, a documentary about gifted five-- year old music students, conceived and directed by Robbins and produced by Merchant and Ivory. Robbins went on to compose the score for the 1983 film adaptation of Jhabvalas' Heat and Dust.

Robbins went on to create the score for nearly every Merchant-Ivory film from The Europeans in 1979 to The White Countess in 2005.

He typically combined lavish orchestrations with synthesized minimalist cues to evoke the dramatic complexity of each film and the psychology of its characters.

Robbins's work embraced a wide range of music and musical styles, from opera to jazz. His romantic, lushly orchestrated music for Maurice (1987), which won an award at the Venice Film Festival, was quite different from the melancholic score he wrote for The Remains of the Day, for example.

His compositional style combined lavish orchestrations with synthesized minimalist cues, evoking the dramatic complexity of each film and the psychology of its characters. Robbins said of his process, "I know when ... the hard part of writing the score is over, because I know how I feel about a character. That's a great relief. That can happen all at once: it can be as simple as watching one of the characters enter a room or walk down a hallway. In The Remains of the Day, it happened when I first saw the shot of Emma Thompson walking down the hall toward the camera. That did it."

He was responsible for choosing and supervising all the music for the films he worked on, from the pop songs for Slaves of New York (1989) to the Puccini aria "O mio babbino caro" for A Room With a View (1985).

Robbins was best known for the scores he wrote for Merchant-Ivory films,  he won a Golden Osella from the Venice Film Festival for Maurice (1987), was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Original Score for Howards End (1992) and The Remains of the Day (1993). His score for A Room with a View (1985) won him a British Academy Award.

Robbins work in film extended to direction. Inspired by a leper couple he heard singing a duet of what he described as almost unearthly beauty on the street below his Bombay hotel window, Robbins directed Street Musicians of Bombay (1993), documenting the street life of that city.

Robbins work was honored in 1996 at a gala benefit concert at Carnegie Hall supporting AIDS research. Robbins was passionate about his dogs , his gardens, and all aspects of the natural world.

Richard Robbins died on November 7, 2012 at age 71 at his home in Rhinebeck, New York , following a long struggle with Parkinsons disease. He is survived by his long-time partner, painter Michael T. Schell. In 1994, the couple collaborated on Via Crucis, a musical and visual collage representing the Stations of the Cross.

In addition to Schell, he was survived by his brothers Donald, William, John, and Peter Robbins and several nieces and nephews.

The clip below is the music from the end titles of Maurice, the Merchant-Ivory film based on E. M. Forster's novel of homosexual awakening and love.


Cloud 9 said...

The Maurice soundtrack has to one of the the most passionate and romantic ever. I found it really haunting, one of my very favorites.

AUS10 said...

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1:31 PM

Seaweed said...

I just wanted to echo some congratulatory comments for M in her new work environment. Nothing like a new challenge to freshen things up a bit.

I'm sure you'll do just great !