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Thread: The Art of Conrad Salinger

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    Default The Art of Conrad Salinger

    I've been advocating for this extraordinary MGM Freed Unit orchestrator for over a decade now, having presented a lecture about him to a community music group in our city. My interest was and is in promoting this largely forgotten musical genius and his role in the Freed Unit. To my astonishment a recent Zoom discussion took place with some American composers and arrangers, including Michael Feinstein, and "Connie" Salinger is the topic of the discussion. Absolute joy.

    Salinger studied at the Paris Conservatoire in the 1920s and took his talent back to Broadway, working with Robert Russell Bennett (and you can hear Bennett's orchestrations in some of "Connie's" work, including but not limited to "Showboat"). Salinger's signature style was lush orchestration - some said ostentatious - which was the hallmark of MGM musicals in what became known as "the royal Family of MGM" - the Arthur Freed Unit. Andre Previn worked there for a time with Salinger and John Williams knew him quite well. In fact, Previn said of Salinger that he could take a simple tune like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and make it sound like "Daphnis and Chloe". Why not? He was thoroughly steeped in French music!!

    Before I post the discussion about Salinger's work (apologies, the quality isn't very good) I'll post the 'isolated score' of "The Trolley Song" (from 'Meet Me in St. Louis") so you can hear what "Connie" Salinger did. At almost no time is this music following the musical line as sung by Judy Garland: and, remember, the forces playing this music were about the size of a dance-band!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCKg8GrLD5g

    Absolutely wonderful!! Counterpoint extraordinaire. No wonder other orchestrators/arrangers were jealous of Salinger.

    Secondly, the writing of Jack Campey on Conrad Salinger:

    https://jackcampey.wordpress.com/201...nrad-salinger/

    Lastly, the discussion - (be patient; it takes a while to gather a head of steam, starting at about 7 minutes):

    https://www.facebook.com/asmac.org/v...1248125978315/

    Warning: there are some factual inaccuracies in this discussion.
    Last edited by Christabel; Jul-20-2021 at 11:03.

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    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    A 2020 conversation of Conrad Pope and John Williams about Conrad Salinger might interest you
    https://vimeo.com/414323436

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabulin View Post
    A 2020 conversation of Conrad Pope and John Williams about Conrad Salinger might interest you
    https://vimeo.com/414323436
    Thanks. Excerpts from that conversation were included in the Zoom discussion I posted; the quality is so poor that you can unfortunately hear little of it, sad to say. I hope Conrad Pope records it again with Williams - but time is running out.

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    Here's the original 35mm master recording used in "Brigadoon" of Gene Kelly singing "Heather on the Hill", magnificently orchestrated by Conrad Salinger. The man was a poet; just listen to this!! And yet "Fritz" Loewe thought Salinger 'over-orchestrated'!! I daresay if one listened to the piano version of this song it would sound pretty simple on its own - yet the complex polyphony and instrumental colouring of Salinger raises it to another level. This ballet music from "Brigadoon" (a musical which doesn't particularly appeal to me) is believed to be Conrad Salinger's masterpiece.

    https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x21xy73

    When "Connie's" home was destroyed in the 1961 Bel Air wildfires his personal library of music and some important artifacts belonging to MGM were also lost.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZVhKhmzZGk

    Compounding this was the disposal of 4 million pieces of written and recorded music belonging to MGM when Turner Entertainment bought the studio. Date unknown and reason as yet controversial. An incalculable loss and one of the worst pieces of cultural vandalism in the USA.

    Thanks to the brilliant work of John Wilson (UK), who has been able to put Salinger's music back into manuscript form (by listening closely to recordings!) and play it as originally orchestrated, with his own John Wilson orchestra, a whole new audience appreciation for this music has been achieved.
    Last edited by Christabel; Jul-22-2021 at 05:46.

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    "Connie" Salinger influenced orchestrators for American musical film for years after his work at the Freed Unit. Here's just one example of that influence on the arrangers for the film "Carousel" of the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. At 1:48 here. There is an isolated score on the DVD I have but I couldn't find it on U-Tube so you'll have to listen carefully. Listen to the counterpoint!! Pure "Connie"!!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gU26-SrHeA

    And there IS a connection: Conrad Salinger worked with Robert Russell Bennett on Broadway and Bennett orchestrated these great musicals for the musical stage. Ergo, Bennett influenced Salinger influenced the arrangers of the R&H films. The main difference between the films and the music for the theatrical productions was simple; the size of the orchestras. With the advent of cinematic stereophonic sound studio orchestras grew much bigger to cater for the larger sound and the greater dimensionality.

    How I wish I was 35 years younger and could undertake all the musicological research on Salinger and his influence for a PhD. Alas, it isn't to be.
    Last edited by Christabel; Jul-25-2021 at 02:25.

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    A piece of trivia; Barbara Ruick, who played opposite Shirley Jones in "Carousel", was married to composer John Williams when she had a stroke at 41 years old and died in a hotel room in Nevada where she was staying while making a film.

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