Harry Manfredini
Interviewed by Petch Lucas, June 1999

Harry Manfredini

The acclaimed film composer Harry Manfredini lent his comments to a 1999 interview dealing with the musical particulars of his contributions to the Friday the 13th series, plus hints at what would become Jason X. The Pit Of Horror webteam would like to extend our gratitude to Mr. Manfredini for his time and geniality.

Although Friday the 13th, Part Two was an all new score, the scene in which the policeman investigates the dilapidated shack re-introduces a cue from the original movie. This same cue appears in scenes from Parts Three and Four. Was this intended to establish a motif?

Wow, you are really paying attention. I don't remember it perfectly, but as I remember there was a shot from the back of the policeman. The re-use in the second Friday was probably intentional. In Parts Three and Four, the use of it was the result of the music editor feeling that it was the right cue at the right time. My guess is that something about the scene with the policeman suggested something to me that was in the first film, and so I repeated it. So I guess that would make it a motif. There are things like that in many of the films. There is a certain chord that appeared in the first film that I called the "lights chord" It seemed that there was a lot of lights on and off in the film. So since it was a visual motif, I created a sound that went with those "light cues." I try to see the things that the director has chosen to make significant in the visual. For example, I did a TV film called Angel of Death. It was a spin-off, (pun intended) of the Rumpelstiltskin story. The director had beautifully woven (pun intended) all sorts of visual spinning things into the picture. So I picked up on that, and wrote a spinning motif into the theme.

The new music scored for Part Four adds a significant increase in horns, particularly in the end chase sequence between the villain and the heroine. Was the brass emphasis used to denote a climactic air of finality to the series, since at the time the movie was meant to be the "Final Chapter"?

Another amazing question. I have to confess that the main reason there was more brass was that there was more of a budget. So, I spent the money to get a bigger overall sound. I wish I could say that I was trying to do something as esoteric as you suggested. I did make good use of the money though. Most people don't realize that the original score to Part One was only 13 (oddly enough) players. So for me to have a larger budget, I wanted to beef it up, so to speak.

One of the most striking elements of the Part Five score was the use of strings in a "spiraling" rhythm, most evident in the opening and end titles. Did you write this in to suggest madness, such as the film was suggesting with the Tommy Jarvis character, (before we discovered the killer's true identity)?

Well, yes and no.... The madness was to be suggested by the rhythms as you so smartly sensed. But it is beyond that of Tommy. It was to suggest that there was a total madness afoot. It was necessary to use this because it was important to "point the finger" at various characters, not just Tommy. The ambulance driver and the wacky farm hand, as I remember. It was there to suggest that things were not as you might expect. I thought the music was good, but I'm not sure how well the ideas of the plot, and the acceptability of the outcome played to the audience. Friday fans are particular, which will also be addressed in the next question.

Part Six, widely regarded by critics as the best (or least unfavorable) of the series, lent a definite air of self-parody to the F13 canon. When you were scoring the music to Part Six, did you consciously add humorous elements to the score? Or did you intend the score to be straight horror which happened to meld with Tom McLoughlin's direction and ultimately achieve a comedic effect?

Another great question. I really enjoyed Tom's intelligent approach to the film. Ultimately, it was changed from the original ideas. The changes occurred when the test screening did not produce the results that were expected. Tom had all sorts of cool intellectual things in the film. At one point, there were only 13 murders, and all sorts of references to the people from earlier films, as well as references to the people involved with the original film. When the screening did not go well, scenes of killings were just gratuitously added. Characters were introduced solely to get offed. The slickness paled a bit. But that is what these pictures are about. It is difficult to add any other element,(except in Part One) to the script. As far as the comedic effort, I was aware of it. I don't remember actually writing any "funny" music but I know that I tried to capture some of what Tom had tried to incorporate into the film. Music doesn't have to be funny to actually underscore something that is funny. Great question.

There is a particular murder cue which is used in the first Friday for the character Marcie, who is killed with an axe. It is very reminiscent of the shower scene in Psycho and is repeated sometimes as an accompaniment in other cues in later F13 installments. The best way to describe it is an "alternating shrieking" sound effect. How was this effect achieved?

Well, you were correct to see it as the shower scene. I guess I can't resist the urge to salute Bernard Herrmann. I mean, it (Marcie's death) was a shower scene. Anyway, it was a bit different. The Psycho theme is pitch based. Mine was a random pitch. It was as you identified an alternating figure. But I gave the violins no exact pitch to play. They all simply played what ever pitches that they wanted. It was more of the effect that I wanted, not the pitch. I was a first for the violinist, who all love to play together. So I had to keep coaxing them to alternate and try not to play the pitch of the player next to them. So it simply is just what they call an "x" note In this case a very high "x" alternating in a rhythm.

I have owned a copy of the vinyl record album of the F13 Parts 1,2, and 3 soundtrack since 1983. Comparing the recording to the VHS movies, the sound is strikingly different in places. Did you re-record the music for the album, or are the sonic differences the result of studio remixing?

In a word: Yes. I did re-record them and put them into more listenable sequences. In the film, the music had to fight other sound effects. Rain, and wind, and dialogue, and crickets, and lions and tigers and....Anyway, I did re-record it.

I have read your comments in Royce Freeman's interviews and realize that you were unhappy with the sound quality of the Jason Goes to Hell album. That aside, the score remains a very captivating listen. Did you use an orchestra or additional musicians on that project, or did you perform the entire score yourself on digital equipment?

Something strange happened somewhere in the process. I don't know where, but the album does not hold a candle to the real sound. I hope to re-record some of the best cues from that album on a new CD that will include all my music from the entire series. Thank you for the nice comments about the music. I really liked a lot of the music. That is what made that CD flub such a disappointment. That music was really great sounding. I remember at the cast screening we knocked a speaker off the wall at Warner Bros. Screening Room!!! A proud moment. I did not use any live players at all. I played and performed all the music myself in my own studio. I get a really great sound, and I am proud that I at least had you thinking that there might be some live players involved. But it was all me...I am live.

Your scores on these films, much like Herrmann's work in Psycho, have been described as "atonal." Having studied musical appreciation, I remember reading about Schoenberg's atonal scale. Do you find working within the atonal realm more challenging than composing in a central key? I ask this because my own musical knowledge encroaches me to the limits of "rock" songwriting, at least at this point. So the atonal realm of composition with its many variations fascinates me endlessly.

Wow, you have stepped into one of my favorite topics.. I don't have the time to explain this to you in full, but let me try to help you. First of all, Schoenberg created a 12-tone system. The music is atonal, because the idea is that no single tone is stronger to the ear as any other. That is the plan, anyway. There have been alterations of the system in many different directions. I suggest listening to some ALBAN BERG's "Four Pieces for Orchestra" or any of his music. Then also listen to ANTON WEBERN. A totally different approach to the same system. Also there are some later STRAVINSKY works that are written in the system. Today you can use the system in various ways. Actually you can write some surprisingly "tonal" music if you are careful which pitches appear together, also on the construction of the order of the notes. Schoenberg wanted you to use all twelve notes before repeating any....The "scales" are created by playing the original order backwards, and upside down, and then upside down and backwards. Also there are transpositions of the original, and all sorts of rows "or scales" that are possible.

Actually I use this system very sparingly in my music. I do deal with groups of notes, and certain pitch centers, but not really tonal centers, like a key. I also use harmony as a color, not as function.

Let me explain. You know rock and roll chords, then for example you could play ----A major to F# minor to D major to E7 and then back to A major. That is a progression. Those chords function one to another. The function of the E7 is that it almost always goes to A. That is its function. What I do is simply take a chord, or to be more exact a harmonic color. Let's say C9#11 That is the color... The function of that chord is usually to some sort of F. But I could simply take that color and use it on all sorts of steps. For example the "light" chord that I referred to earlier is an example. So the music that would come from that kind of writing would simply result from the use of those pitches in the color of the chord, and then move to the pitches on another color.

It might surprise you that there are only three chords in the whole Friday the 13th Part One. At least I think there were just three, maybe four or five, but very few for all that music. Obviously, when it came time for the end credit theme, I went to a more normal style of music. Actually, that is the same as the song that is playing in the diner at the beginning of the film. I suggest to you and all who like this to listen to the above pieces as well as BARTOK's "String Quartets"(especially the Fourth) And WITOLD LUTASLAWSKI's "Symphony #3" and many other pieces. You will have your mind blown. Also, PENDERECKI, JOHN ADAMS, RAVEL, STRAVINSKY, a young composer MICHEAL TORKE. Go to the 20th century music area in your local record store. And feast your ears. It warms my heart that you are so interested in this. I wish I could teach music appreciation again.

Royce has reported that you mentioned the possibility of a new Friday the 13th album being released, containing material previously unavailable. What is the status of that project?

The project is in progress. I hope to have music from each of the films included. It will probably be two CD's worth of music. I will select and re-record the music myself. I hope to have it out by next summer, although that is not a promise. I have to work on it as my free time allows, so if nothing happens with new projects, I should be able to get it done.

Petch Lucas with Harry Manfredini at TX FEAR FEST 2007

The current word around the campfire is that a Friday Ten [note: this refers to what became 2002's Jason X] is being planned in lieu of the long projected Freddy Vs. Jason movie. I realize that, despite your work on the previous installments, you're not particularly fond of the series. But as for whichever project eventually takes place, would you be willing to score the new film?

Well, let me say this. I have read the Friday Ten script, and I think it is going into production. I can tell you that I think it is the best YET. My favorite was always Part One. Others had their moments, but after a while I get tired of the same ol' same ol'. I can tell you that this is totally original and really fun. It has everything. I can tell you that I am actually looking forward to scoring this one !!!

As far as the Freddy Vs. Jason script, I have read at least seven of the attempts. I thought the first was the best. After that, they got consecutively worse. I can tell you that the last one, which was at one point considered to be the one they would make, was just awful. I was so disappointed with that script that I was really not interested in scoring it. I don't know if there will ever be a Freddy Vs. Jason. Just the concept of it seems to be a bit mutually exclusive. But I tell you that the first one was the best as far as I was concerned. I will have to wait and see just like everyone else.

But trust me: Friday Ten, majorly good.

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