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Friday, 9 July 2004 — 3:04pm | Film

Last post, I said of Spider-Man 2: “Next post, I promise.” This intermediary one does not count.

It has come to my attention that this is the first anniversary of the entry that kicked off this website. In that time I have written 125 entries, containing 58,757 words (including quotations) for an average of 470 words an entry. Fifty thousand words is generally considered the dividing benchmark for when a work is considered a short novel rather than a novella, so the sum falls into an interesting range.

Conclusion: At the pace of this weblog, even with all the interruptions of the occasional disappearing December, it will take only a year to ready a workable first-draft manuscript from start to finish – not including the planning and revisionary stages, which take up the majority of the writing process anyway.

That is the optimistic appraisal, and one that relies upon several assumptions – among them, that the word count produced in a given time frame will flow towards that project exclusively, neglecting diversions such as academic writings and this weblog itself. Moreover, the higher standard of craftsmanship required of a publishable manuscript, or even the first draft of what may one day become a publishable manuscript, should naturally demand clarity, cohesion and consistency, and thus more time. This weblog, as it stands, has thus far been less about creation than its brother anagram, reaction – thoughts on the responses generated by existing work rather than the synthesis of the new. Undoubtedly, that has contributed to the girth of its contents, or at least its rate of expansion – the first derivative, if you will.

Still, a demonstration that fifty thousand can be so effortlessly reached should offer the budding-but-blocked potential novelists of the world a drop of encouragement.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a Stampede begins. After seeing an impressive procession of marching bands – and even one certain tidbit in Fahrenheit 9/11, for that matter – here is an observation about film music: Elmer Bernstein’s theme to The Magnificent Seven has for some reason not only transcended the film, or even movie westerns in general, but has established itself in the public consciousness as the definitive music of the Wild, Wild West.

In my opinion, the most impressive scores in this genre are by Ennio Morricone, who most notably scored the Man With No Name Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and that landmark of filmmaking, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly); but what Morricone achieves with his chanting choirs, electric guitars and ticking music boxes is a very different texture that contributes to the identification of the Spaghetti Western subgenre, or at least the incidental music of cinematic westerns as a whole.

Bernstein’s score, on the other hand, is for the fuller and more conventional instrumentations of orchestras and wind ensembles, and achieves an effect as different from Morricone as John Sturges is from Sergio Leone, to draw a directorial parallel. It evokes a Wild West of high adventure and pioneer spirit, not gunslinging duels at high noon. Much like Aaron Copland’s music to the Billy the Kid ballet, it works as a stand-alone throwback to North America’s vintage folklore of exploration. Observe the results: only forty years on, the theme to The Magnificent Seven is already the undisputed anthem of the world it portrays.


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