Friday, April 4, 2014

Michael Kamen: A very talented guy

I've been watching (on Blue-Ray) the 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers which follows Easy Company of the American 101st Airborne Division from D-Day to the end of World War II. I've been struck by the elegant way the scoring of the series was handled by composer Michael Kamen.

Kamen, who died in 2003 at the age of 55 was a major league talent who was enormously successful in many musical endeavours. While attending the New York High School of Music and Art he formed the rock/classical fusion band the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble. He later attended Julliard and was a protégé of the incomparable Leonard Bernstein.

Michael Kamen became a go-to arranger and composer of popular music. He arranged the music and conducted the National Philharmonic Orchestra on the recording of Eric Clapton's 24 Nights. He wrote Bryan Adam's Oscar-winning song Everything I do (I Do for You). I think his arrangement is largely responsible for the success of the Eurythmics hit Here Comes the Rain Again.


Kamen wrote the scores of a couple of dozen Hollywood films including the Lethal Weapon series, Mr. Holland's Opus and X-Men.

We are used to insistent, pulsing music beneath the action scenes in films. There is little of that in Band of Brothers. The battle scenes, full of the sounds of gun-shots, explosions and warriors yelling play without accompaniment. Music often plays instead during introspective scenes and in descriptive passages devoid of dialogue. With eight different directors working on the series, the decision to score the series this way must have been made jointly by the composer and executive producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. 

Here is the main theme music for the series. If you'd like to hear more, I've also linked to a recording of the two Band of Brothers suites. The music is played by the London Metropolitan Orchestra, Michael Kamen conducting, of course.


  1. good post David. I really found the music dramatic, without being over done.

  2. Check out Kamen's score for The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988 or so). I think it's the finest score of its type. Just as the main character is a bit like Til Eulenspiegel (bringing to mind Strauss's tone-poem, which is a set of variations on a theme), so too with Kamen's score. At one point the theme is reprised as a funeral cantata in Mozartean style, as we look upon the death of the hero (who speaks in voice over about the virtues of experiencing death).

    I'm very sad about his untimely death.