Maurice Jarre, one of the most prolific film music composers in the 20th century, can very much be the guy who the past generation can trace every single tune they find themselves humming unintentionally, to quote The New York Times: « [He was] among the most sought-after composers in the movie industry. » One doesn’t get that much attention unless they wholeheartedly deserve it, at least back then.
Despite Jarre mainly composing for concert works, he’s mostly known for his film scores. He had one of the earliest composer/directer cooperations with director David Lean, composing for most of his movies, including Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, and the last movie Lean ever directed before he died, Ghost.
He also had a significant presence in the early middle eastern film industry, composing for The Message and Lion of the Desert.
One of his most famous compositions was for the movie Lawrence of Arabia, the Overture, played by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, is probably one of his only works that even today’s generation is familiar with.
It starts with a haunting drum arrangement, only for all sorts of instruments to be introduced in the middle of the first movement, after a while everything quiets down for a very familiar string arrangement to emerge, it fuses with an emotive horn that plays the same notes so good, one would doubt if there is a horn there in the first place.
On this side of the world, however, most of us know him for composing for the first biopic of Mohammed, the messenger of Islam, called The Message. His composition basically made the whole movie indefinitely more spiritual, and shows tremendous understanding of eastern instruments such as the Oud and the flute.
The Faith of Islam, one of the main titles of the movie’s score, had, and still has, so much impact on the Islamic world, that a big chunk of Muslims still identify with it.
Then comes Jacob’s Ladder, in my opinion, the most important movie Jarre ever worked on. Jacob’s Ladder is one of the first psychological horror movies that tried to implement a no scare-jumps and no monsters policy, it relies solely on the psychological effect that the movie leaves on its viewers for days after they have watched it.
The score can’t come any closer to the plot itself, just like how Jacob goes back and forth between reality and his hallucinations, the main title goes back and forth from being a classical composition of strings and piano to full on electronic experimental new wave sounds. And it suits the movie so well, one might think the plot is based on the score not the other way around.