Finding the Treasure in the Park: Discovering the Score
Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray release of The Panic in Needle Park carries a distinctive Extra Feature: an Isolated Track of a score by one of the most celebrated composers of the past half-century – Ned Rorem – that was commissioned, recorded and then not used in the film by director Jerry Schatzberg, who decided that the film should be more verité and documentary-style in its released form. In this second of two installments, world-renowned film music historian Gergely Hubai, author of Torn Music: Rejected Film Scores – A History, (Silman James Press, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other book retailers), relates how lost music can turn up where least expected:
I’ve always been fascinated by the world of rejected scores and the fact that they offered endless possibilities of “what if” scenarios even for beloved films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Chinatown. While working on my book Torn Music, I was motivated to uncover as many stories as I could – The Panic in Needle Park, however, was not among them. I simply didn’t know about the score and it was brought to my attention by a friend who read about it in one of Ned’s many published diaries (The Later Diaries of Ned Rorem: 1961–1972 – portions of the book have been excerpted for these notes). The unused score was mentioned only in passing on a few days, but it was enough to get me started on my hunt for the music. The first result of my research was a concert booklet which mentioned that Rorem had reused some of the score in one of his concert works – more proof that this thing exists. But did a copy survive?
The next step unfortunately doesn’t have the wonders of an Indiana Jones adventure – I merely used a social networking site to reach out to an official looking Ned Rorem site, which turned out to be handled by Mary G. Marshall, who proved essential in getting this release done. Mary confirmed the music’s existence and that tapes were located in the Library of Congress, which housed the Ned Rorem Collection. Since I was insistent to continue my research, Mary arranged for a CD transfer of the tapes, which she got for herself and Ned. She confirmed that the music existed in crisp stereo, a very nice recording. However, I didn’t get my own copy of the music then and I moved on to some other commissions, keeping the story of The Panic in Needle Park on the back burner.
I reignited the research after reading the of the June 2016 Twilight Time Blu-ray release. I contacted Nick Redman and asked if they’d have an isolated score on it. He was perplexed, since the film had no score and after he confirmed that 20th Century Fox had no corresponding musical elements, I revealed to him that there was in fact an isolated score hiding in the Library of Congress. Since the title was already announced, we had a tight deadline to create an isolated score for the Blu-ray. We had to use Mary’s personal CD copy as our source and since we didn’t even have time for posting it, Nick’s daughter Rebecca picked it up in New York City and made a digital upload for us so we could get start working.
Perhaps I should reveal a bit about creating an isolated score for a film having no music. This is a tricky job, but I’ve been honored to do restorations like this (my latest being for Twilight Time’s Used Cars featuring Ernest Gold’s unused music). When I put a rejected score back to the film, all I’m left is the paperwork – luckily the tapes had a piece of paper attached to them that featured the actual track titles and reel numbers essential in positioning the cues in the film. A reel number like 8M2 (which was the code for “Sifting Powder,” for instance) reveals that the given cue was the second piece of music in the eighth reel of the film. The only part of the reel numbers that were tricky were the blanks; for instance, "An End" was meant to be 12M2, but there was no 12M1. This anomaly is due to the source cues that were planned for the film and were thus labeled, yet then never got recorded after the original music was jettisoned. While the TT Blu-ray gives viewers the chance to view the film together with its score, the forthcoming Kritzerland CD will prove that Ned Rorem’s music is just as exciting and innovative on its own and is a worthy addition to anyone wishing to experience another curious “what if” scenario of Hollywood film history. You can preorder it here: http://kritzerland.com/panic_needle.htm.