The Music of RAINTREE COUNTY Piano Album

      In 1957 Robbins Music Corporation published an album of piano themes, The Music of RAINTREE COUNTY. Though title songs and themes from motion pictures were a staple of the music publishing business of the era, only a few film scores appeared in extended, commercially available published sheet music form. (A pioneering effort was the piano transcription publication by M. Witmark & Sons of Alex North's score for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE in 1953).
      The publication of authentic excerpts from the RAINTREE COUNTY score seems to verify that MGM suspected they had something very special with John Green's now legendary score. As indeed they did. The album does contain two songs from the score. Both have lyrics by the prolific Hollywood lyricist, Paul Francis Webster, though only one, the title "Song of Raintree County," is actually sung in the film. Words were also added to the Johnny and Susanna love theme, and the song, "Never Till Now," a lyrical waltz, is also included. (It can be heard in a vocal version on the recent Film Score Monthly CD release).
      But of special interest to both fans of the score and to trained musicians with a special interest in the theory and notation of film music are the excerpts from the score itself. While not as complex as the piano transcriptions from North's STREETCAR, many of which require a musician of considerable technique to pull off, the piano versions of the RAINTREE cues are relatively accessible to the average pianist. (This is also due to the more straightforward and lyrical mode of the music itself).
      Still the music is by no means simplified for popular consumption. The changing time signatures of the original cues are maintained. The "Anxiety" themes open in 5/4, shift to 4/4, and then to 3/4 and 4/4 again. The variation on the Susanna/Johnny love theme opens in 6/8 with one 9/8 measure before ending up in 4/4. The modernistic harmonies, which lend the essentially traditional score its contemporary edge, are also maintained, notably the poly/bi tonal harmonies of the first "Anxiety" theme, and the expressionistic "Mad" themes.
      It should be pointed out that (unlike STREETCAR) none of the score excerpts are complete cues as heard in the film or on the soundtrack album. But they are authentic piano versions of the short motifs and full-blown melodies that make up these cues.
      Visually the piano album includes a centerfold montage of film stills, a portrait and bio of composer John Green, and some photos of the other personnel involved, including an inside back cover shot of Green conducting the huge MGM symphony orchestra on one of the cavernous studio soundstages.

Ross Care


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