Monday, December 25, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006


I heard some sad news today. One of my favorite television and film composers, Shirley Walker, died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 61.

My first memory of hearing Shirley Walker's music was on the wonderful Batman: The Animated Series in the episode On Leather Wings. This is a score with height (opening with a lofty flute accompaniment to urgent violins) and depth (trombones join in a quarter of a way into the title track); it has urgency, danger and excitement stamped all over it. Man-Bat flies across the Gotham skyline to the snared shrill of trumpets.

Shirley also provided the music to one of the classic episodes of Batman; Heart of Ice. To summarize the plot, Mr. Freeze seeks revenge on industrialists responsible for the death of his wife. Michael Ansara provides the voice for Mr. Freeze and delivers his lines in this wonderfully cold monotone voice, utterly devoid of emotion. Around this plays Shirley's delicate score bringing enormously emotional warmth and depth to the entire story, lending tragedy to the otherwise sinister.

Other Animated Series composers include: Michael McCuistion, Stuart V. Balcomb, Carlos Rodriguez, Lolita Ritmanis, Steve Chesne & James Stemple, Carl Johnson, Kristopher Carter, Harvey R. Cohen, Beth Ertz & Mark Koval, Todd Hayen, Brian Langsbad, John Tatgenhorst & Peter Tomshek, Richard Bronskill. There's an absolute wealth of wonderful music to be found in Batman and later Superman, Batman Beyond and Justice League shows. Most of the links in this post link to Toonzone's The Animated Batman: An Unofficial Guide website. I urge you to go and have a good look around, it is a wonderful site and one of the few, likely only, places you will find the music from the show itself. I only wish WB would bring out some sort of mass collection of all the incidental music and title scores because it really is a library of great music.

Shirley's last superhero outing is yet to come and will be heard on the direct to DVD release of DC: The New Frontier in 2007.

EDIT: Have updated the links in this post and added two new ones: snared shrill of trumpets and cold monotone voice