Tintin knows music!

Dossier ~ Thursday 2nd April 2009
The Castafiore Emerald (1963) - Page 51]

John Williams has been chosen to compose the score for the film The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, currently in production by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. He joins a long line of prestigious musicians who have accompanied Tintin on his adventures, at the cinema or in the theatre.

John Williams, timeless musician

From the prehistoric times of Jurassic Park to the far-off future of Star Wars, the music of the American composer John Towner Williams (born 8 February 1932) traverses time and space, captivating each generation on the way. Superman, Harry Potter, Jaws and E.T. are just a few of the epic films he has worked on. What is not so well known is that John Williams, famous for his work in the cinema, is an accomplished conductor and composer of concert music. He also composes themes for special events, such as the music that was played at the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States, in 2009. Another reason to look forward to Speilberg’s film, scheduled for release in 2011!

Tintin’s first notes

The first music ever to grace The Adventures of Tintin has been all but forgotten as the decades roll on. In 1940, the puppets in the shows playing at the Théâtre du Péruchet in Brussels, sang along to melodies played on the piano. But no-one knows if this music was composed specifically for the occasion, or if it was simply popular music of the time. It’s the same for the other theatre productions. We’re unsure whether the amateur musicians who played the musical interludes in The Mystery of the Blue Diamond (1940) and Mr Boullock has Vanished (1941), were playing existing compositions or original music. This has not been established yet. The first musical score to become relatively well known was the one that accompanied The Crab with the Golden Claws, a film made with puppet animation in 1947. The music, a little pompous and clumsily comic, was written by a top violinist, Georges Béthume, with the assistance of André Ducat.

Radio Tintin!

1958 was an important year for Tintin. It was during this year that Tintin was serialised on national French radio. The first musician involved was André Popp (born 19 February 1924), composer of the score to the children’s musical Piccolo, Sax and Co. and many popular songs, one of which, Tom Pillibi, would win the Eurovision Song Contest in 1960. He was succeeded by Vincent Vial, who is well known to the members of Club Tintin thanks to the interview he gave to Hergé magazine (issue 5). As a very kind gesture, he donated his musical scores to Studios Hergé. The daily episodes were adapted and recorded on vinyl LPs, and these records have become highly sought after collector’s items.

Animated cartoons with music

Between 1958 and 1962, a company called Belvision produced 104 five-minute cartoons. The first of these were made by an American, Charles Shows, who was succeeded further down the line by Ray Goossens. Each of these episodes began with a gripping theme tune, whose composer wasn’t mentioned in the credits. All we know is that the voice that thundered ‘And now, the Adventures of Tintin!’ was that of Larry Harmon, who would later produce the series Bozo the Clown, and cartoons including Laurel and Hardy, Popeye and Dick Tracy. The music for the full-length feature The Calculus Affair was written by the Belgian Ralph Darbo: actor, narrator, director and co-creator of the legendary Belgian television series from the 1960s, Bonhommet et Tilapin.

A Golden Fleece and some Blue Oranges

The live-action film Tintin and the Golden Fleece (1961) was set to music by André Popp. The second movie – with the same actor, Jean-Pierre Talbot, playing Tintin – was called Tintin and the Blue Oranges (1965). It was scored by Antoine Duhamel (born 1925), a prolific composer for television (Belphégor, Le Chevalier de Maison Rouge) and cinema (Pierrot le Fou). François Rauber (1933-2003), who composed and arranged music for Jacques Brel, directed the orchestra for two major cartoons: Tintin et le Temple du Soleil (1969) and Tintin et le Lac aux Requins (1972). The first of these two films was accompanied by two songs written by Jacques Brel (Ode à la Nuit and Chanson de Zorrino), who wanted to express his admiration for Hergé and Tintin, at a time when he had given up singing and had stopped appearing on stage.

Tintin to music, in Namur!

No fewer than three plays have pulled in the crowds in London so far: Tintin’s Great American Adventure (1976) and Tintin and the Black Island (1980) – two adaptations written by Geoffrey Case – and Tintin in Tibet, first staged by the Young Vic theatre group in 2005. On a slightly different note, The Castafiore Emerald, created by the group Am StramGram (Geneva), didn’t have any music, but instead made use of an impressive range of sound effects. At the other end of the scale, the Flemish composer Dirk Brossé put together a breathtaking score for the musical comedy, Prisoners of the Sun (2001). As a grand finale, it is our pleasure to inform everyone planning to visit the Tintin Festival in Namur (8-10 May) that they can hear a performance of the Tintin Suite by the Swede Mats Lidström (Saturday 9 May, at 7.00 p.m. in the Palais des Congrès). Tintin and music? Let’s raise the tempo!

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