Remembering John Barry

Susannah York, Pete Postlethwaite, Peter Yates and now John Barry: at this rate the obituaries section of the BAFTAs is going to be longer than the awards. In a sad start to the British film year, the loss of John Barry at 77 is a reminder of how much his music has haunted us, far beyond the world of Bond. From The Lion in Winter to Dances With Wolves, The Black Hole to The Scarlet Letter, his music is instantly recognisable, but his melodies absolutely distinct. Those swirling strings, those dissonant riffs and perhaps above all those brutally triumphant minor chords created a world of mystery, romance and danger. And always, too, there’s ambiguity: even his sweetest love-songs are tinged with melancholy (and the most melancholic are heart-breaking), even his most heroic themes spiked with doubt. Barry will inevitably be best remembered for Bond, but for a reminder of his versatility here’s the opening of the anti-Bond, The Ipcress File, scored just as memorably, just as melodically but utterly differently: the mark of a great screen composer.

And here’s Barry himself, talking about his work on Bond:

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