© 2022 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Musical Space

Musical Space: Criterion


There’s a lot happening in the movie biz: Disney just bought 21st Century Fox and will be launching their own streaming service later this year. More interesting to me, though, is what’s going on with the most important distributor of serious film - The Criterion Collection. 

If you’ve ever been corrected for calling an arty foreign film a “movie,” that film was probably brought to you by Criterion.  Now they’re launching their own digital service, The Criterion Channel, which goes live April 8. This is good news for film lovers - Criterion films have been without a streaming platform since November - and it’s also a good reason to talk about how serious cinema and serious music go together so well.

Modern classical composers have a hard time being heard, but those who write music for film connect with others who aren’t afraid of a strong artistic statement. Film is the opera of our time, putting music into an immersive and multi-dimensional experience that’s easier to “get” because it’s part of a narrative.

It strikes me how many composers best known in the concert hall have also written for cinema, like Sergei Prokofiev, the guy who wrote “Peter and the Wolf,” and even Aaron Copland.


Jazz composers like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, who I also regard as serious concert artists, have written amazing music for film as well.

The word “classic” means “standing the test of time,” and it looks like the Criterion Collection will be bringing us classics in the world of music as well as film.




Listening list:


Alexander Nevsky (1938)
Sergei Prokofiev, “Battle on the Ice” Alexander Nevsky (1938)

Aaron Copland, The Heiress (Suite) (1948)
Copland did many film scores. This won an Oscar for him.

On the Waterfront (1954)
Leonard Bernstein, “Main Title,” On the Waterfront (1954)
His only film score

Elevator to the Gallows (1958)
Miles Davis, “Sur l'autoroute,” Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (elevator to the gallows) (1958)

La Dolce Vita (1960)
Nino Rota, “La Dolce Vita,” La Dolce Vita soundtrack (1960)

Koyaanisqatsi (1982)
Philip Glass, Koyaanisqatsi OST, (1982)