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Pianist, jazz arranger, composer, conductor Boris Claudio Schifrin was born June 21, 1932. Studied at the Paris Conservatory and made his debut in the American jazz scene with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie—Schifrin called him the "Pierre Boulez of Jazz"—and others (Count Basie, Quincy Jones, ...), Argentina-born Lalo Schifrin started composing two films for French actor Alain Delon: Les Félins and Once a Thief. He knew composers Igor Stravinsky and Bernard Herrmann and payed tributes to these music men in the 1990's with two albums: The Firebird that he defined as being "Jazz meets the Symphony" and Master of Mayhem that was a compilation of Hitchcock film scores combined with his own greatest hits. He composed two scores for actor Steve McQueen: The Cincinnati Kid and Bullitt and three scores for actor Charles Bronson: St. Ives, Telefon and Love and Bullets. Schifrin also was a daring modernist experimenter which achieved ambitious and unconventional works such as Hell in the Pacific, THX 1138 and The Hellstrom Chronicle. In the 1960’s, he worked for Norman Felton and his company Arena: the espionage series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (see the suspenseful Latin score "The Fiddlesticks Affair") and the WWII series Jericho (see the hyper martial score "Upbeat and Underground")—both series were the music templates of Mission: Impossible. Oddly enough, 1966 saw three espionages series (two WWII: Jericho and Blue Light and one Cold War: Mission: Impossible) composed by Schifrin but only Mission: Impossible survived and overcame.
"Schifrin also was a daring modernist experimenter which achieved ambitious and unconventional works such as Hell in the Pacific, THX 1138 and The Hellstrom Chronicle".
The Mission: Impossible soundtrack is a high exercice of style in the field of military music, just pay attention to the many martial variations executed by Schifrin himself and all its composers which reinterprete the motif called "The Plot" over and over. I call that music: M.M.M. which stands for Modern Military Minimalism. Further more and, behind its obvious military color, the Mission: Impossible music is an experimental work of art that combines many folklores into an abstract jazz writing, for instance the season 1 scores as "Pilot" that is Latin America-oriented and "Memory" and "Operaton Rogosh" that are Slavic-oriented but inside an avant garde soundscape. Schifrin didn't work during the second season (1967-1968) of Mission: Impossible due to other television commissions: Mannix and Braddock. Season 3 has two powerful scores: the Slavic-oriented "The Heir Apparent" and the urban jazz meets Eastern India-oriented "The Contender" which refers to two of his film scores: Bullitt and Coogan's Bluff. Season 4 has one single score entitled "Submarine" which is a powerful martial score in the line of Kelly's Heroes and which foreshadows the series Planet of the Apes. His 1970's scores  for the series follow the dissonant THX 1138 and the streetfunk Dirty Harry and reflect the slick hip America.
Soundtrack video for Lalo Schifrin's Harry in Your Pocket (1973).
But Schifrin’s most intimistic collaborations were with four Hollywood men:
1. Writer-producer Bruce Geller
(see Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Hunter, Harry in your Pocket, Bronk)
2. Director Don Siegel
(see Coogan’s Bluff, The Beguiled, Dirty Harry, Charley Varrick, Telefon)
3. Movie star Clint Eastwood
(see Coogan’s Bluff, Kelly’s Heroes, The Beguiled, Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, Joe Kidd, Sudden Impact, The Dead Pool)
4. Director Stuart Rosenberg
(see Cool Hand Luke, WUSA, Voyage of the Damned, Love and Bullets, The Amityville Horror, Brubaker)
Trailer from Don Siegel's Charley Varrick (1973).
Lalo Schifrin also composed many movies made for television as: How They Run, The Doomsday Flight, How I spent My Summer Vacation, The Young Lawyers, The Mask of Sheba, The Aquarians, Escape, Earth II, Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol, Night Games (PETROCELLI pilot) to name but a few... Thanks to a letter, I used to discuss with the maestro and told him the mystical influence coming from his teacher Olivier Messiaen in two of his film scores and you recognized a peculiar and dissonant emphasis on the organ in "First Escape" (from THX 1138 in FSM0604) and "The Cross" (from Dirty Harry in Aleph Records030).
Opening from the 1966 film I Deal In Danger (aka Blue Light).
Lalo Schifrin's related websites:
Lalo Schifrin's label
Film music critic Douglas Payne about Lalo Schifrin
Lalo Schifrin's related books:
"Lalo Schifrin - Entretiens avec Georges Michel"
(Rouge Profond, 2005, 208 pages)
(ISBN 2-915083-16-9)
"Mission: Impossible - My Life in Music"
by Lalo Schifrin and edited by Richard Palmer
(The Scarecrow Press, Inc., Series: Studies in Jazz #56, 2008, 264 pages)
(ISBN 0-8108-5946-7)
End music credits for the first season (1966-1967) of Mission: Impossible.

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Comments (4):Log in or register to post your own comments
Bravo, Thomas! As always, you have been meticulous in your research and admiration for Maestro Schifrin. Keep up the good work and I look forward to reading more of your incisive filmscore observations.

I watched PRIME CUT again last weekend with some friends. It's certainly vintage Schifrin. I wonder if a release of this score is doable.

That was a nice reminder of Lalo Schifrin's birthday, Thomas.

Let's hope that one day some of the MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE scores surface on CD.

How cool that Lalo Schifrin shares a birthday with me. :)

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