BLOG Devi Boulton

NWR Issue 109

Frizzi 2 Fulci at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Maestro Fabio Frizzi and his six piece orchestra take one of the more obscure collaborations, the horror movie score, and offer something rarely experienced from modern Hollywood, even from the horror genre: the chance to hear live performances of music, written with the intent of invoking terror and revulsion at the monsters on screen.

Showcasing his almost exclusive partnership with the late filmmaker, Lucio Fulci and his series of Italian horror movies from the late seventies onwards, Frizzi’s work is reminiscent of the era’s fellow composers, of John Carpenter’s moody, evocative ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ (1976), to the discordant heart-breaking ‘Midnight Express’ (1978), delivered by Giorgio Moroder. A synthesiser-focused ensemble, with string and percussion additions, heavy mood-altering base and piercing vocals; but unlike his contemporaries, and akin to Fulci and Dario Argento’s unorthodox approach to their respective cinematic media, Frizzi takes these components and turns up the dial.

The combination of live music and film clips works perfectly. Utilising the most famous of Fulci’s works, notably, ‘Zombie 2’ (1979), ‘City of the Living Dead’ (1980) and ‘The Beyond’ (1981), the music soars rolling crescendos, mirroring both the confusion and terror of those on screen as they come face to face with all manner of zombies and demons. The girl having her eye impaled, as a zombie breaks relentlessly through the door, dragging her to her doom, or the classic underwater battle between zombie and shark, leave the audience uncertain over the potential victor but still stirred by the restless, relentless score.

‘Voci Da Nula’, the signature piece from ‘The Beyond’, arguably Fulci’s seminal work, deserves being singled out here. Strings flutter and race alongside the hearts of the main characters as they flee from the evil around them. The sudden final appearance of chanting vocals indicating the presence of insurmountable evil, a minor key change suggesting their ending is fast approaching, and it isn’t a happy one.

Yet amidst the crescendos reside surprising moments of elegance. The gruesome scene where a girl starts bleeding from her eyes is accompanied by a lone keyboard, the solo demonstrating empathy towards an unknown character, rare in a genre where most are served up as simple cannon fodder. The simultaneous experience is of the catharsis of her suffering combined with a deft beauty, the music flowing like an adagio.

Frizzi’s work here also provides contrast, away from his collaboration with Fulci. Scoring for Scooter McCrae’s ‘Saint Frankenstein’ (2015), the love scene between creator and creation evokes heartfelt emotion and tenderness, despite expect revulsion from the monster’s physical deformity. Single keyboard, Spanish guitars and soft percussion combine to play with our emotions, subconsciously teaching us the value of all our senses.

Personally, a special part was the step away from the horror. The collaboration between director Fulci and composer Frizzi began at the end of the spaghetti western era and the resulting works, ‘Four of the Apocalypse’ (1975) and ‘Silver Saddle’ (1978), treat the audience to the classic harmonica wails alongside the burning strings. These were reminiscent of Sergio Leone’s opaque wastelands from the spaghetti western era but utilised the full range of colour in the thematic pallet, resulting in movie masterpieces of style (even if their stories are flimsy in comparison to the more heralded director, Fulci).

It’s not hard to see why several Fulci works were unfairly tagged with the label ‘video nasty’ when they were first released. They are visceral and graphic in their violence. Yet the same cannot be said for Fabio Frizzi’s compositions for these movies, which have sophistication and texture. Passionate, unrelenting, honest, Frizzi’s scores roll like tsunamis of sound, before inverting and presenting something softer, yet no less terrifying. Unchecked by censors, his work is a testament to both his own vision and Fulci’s. His audience felt they too were turned inside out: the standing ovation at the end of the performance shows I wasn’t alone in that opinion.

Devi Boulton is a postgraduate candidate in the department of English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University. Her piece for us on Abertoir’s tenth anniversary exhibition of horror film posters, at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, was published this autumn.

‘Fabbio Frizzi in Concert’ was at Aberystwyth Arts Centre as part of the Abertoir horror festival programme on 10 November 2015.




       


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