Apocalypse Now Final Cut & The Synthesizer Soundtrack


Director Francis Ford Coppola has announced a new release of his classic film, Apocalypse Now, to coincide with the film’s 40th anniversary.

Apocalypse Now Final Cut is an updated edit, based on a new 4k restoration of the film from the original negative. It also features a new Dolby Atmos mix of the soundtrack.

The film is getting a theatrical re-release, along with a three-disk Blu-Ray release.

The film is notable for electronic musicians because it featured an electronic score, inspired by the music of Isao Tomita. Though Tomita ultimately did not score the film, his influence can be heard very clearly in some parts.

In this clip from RBMA, Tomita discusses how he almost scored the film (starting at about 46:51 in):

Coppola was inspired by Tomita’s take on The Planets, by Holst. He turned to composer David Shire next. David Shire’s ‘lost’ Apocalypse Now score retained the Tomita inspiration – including a synthesized take on Richard Wagner‘s Ride Of The Valkyries.

Coppola fired Shire after a year’s work on the soundtrack, and turned to his father, Carmine Coppola, to create the soundtrack that was ultimately used for the film. You can hear more of Shire’s synth sountrack in a 2018 interview on NPR.

The soundtrack features a who’s who of 70’s synthesists, ranging from Bernie Krause to Patrick Gleeson, Don Preston and Nyle Steiner.

In a 1980 column for Keyboard Magazine, Bob Moog cited predecessors like Louis and Bebe Barron‘s nusic for Forbidden Planet and the Wendy Carlos soundtrack for A Clockwork Orange, but argued that the Apocalypse Now soundtrack is a technical and creative milestone:

“In terms of total production effort, the Apocalypse Now score is without precedent.

Francis Coppola taxed the capabilities of four of the most experienced synthesists on the West Coast, and demanded the state of the art in mixing facilities.

Five years ago the Apocalypse Now score could not have been made, simply because there was not a mixing studio in the world that could sort 48 jumbled tracks out into six or so organized ones in a reasonable time.”

Listening to the soundtrack 40 years later, it’s easy to hear the influence of Tomita and other synth pioneers.But it’s also easy to hear the score as a precursor to modern soundtracks, which regularly use an expanded orchestral palette, make up of both electronics and traditional instruments.

One thought on “Apocalypse Now Final Cut & The Synthesizer Soundtrack

  1. It’s too bad the audio in the video is so terrible. When you listen to his stuff, it’s hard to believe (in light of today’s music industry) that his albums would enjoy such wide release. I miss all that experimentation and acceptance of different music in the mainstream that was so prevalent in the 70s.

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