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BASIL POLEDOURIS - Composer (1945 - 2006)


    When Basil Poledouris passed on November 8, 2006 both the film and music worlds lost one of their most distinctive of artistic voices.  Born Basilis Konstantine Poledouris to Greek Orthodox parents, he began studying piano at age 7 then eventually enrolled at USC (University of Southern California) to study filmmaking and music.  A student alongside future filmmakers John Milius (for whom he would later score CONAN THE BARBARIAN, RED DAWN, FAREWELL TO THE KING and others) and Randal Kleiser (composing music for his THE BLUE LAGOON and IT’S MY PARTY) some would attribute his sense of “visual movement and rhythm” as well as his innate knowledge of it’s necessarily musical/emotional and  technical counterpart  to his filmmaking studies at USC.

    While justly renowned for lush, sweepingly epic music in the classic tradition of Miklos Rosza, Alfred Newman and Max Steiner (three of Poledouris’ favorite composers) his own distinct musical  “signature” would often be that of rich major chords evolving from minor keys.  Be it through a battalion of strings, percussion and choir (CONAN, ROBO COP, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER), folk-inspired melodies (LONESOME DOVE, THE LEGEND OF BUTCH AND SUNDANCE) or electronics (HARLEY DAVIDSON & THE MARLBORO MAN, NO MAN’S LAND) this heartrendingly effective musical character trait was often heard and more importantly felt in his scores.  Poledouris would attribute his ability to tap into this emotional wellspring to his close relationship with his wife Bobbie and children Alexis and Zoe.
 
    A devoted husband and father, his family was integral to his creative output.  1982’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN (since named one of the American Film Institute’s 100 Best Film Scores of All Time) was his catapult into “A” list filmmaking, and the 2010 reminiscences of his youngest daughter Alexis paints the family portrait. 

    “The scoring of CONAN took place in Rome.  Our parents decided to exchange the two allotted first class tickets for four coach seats so the entire family could go to Europe for the first time.  While Zoe and I explored this new, exotic land (Sistine Chapel! Room service! What’s a “bidet”?), our father conducted what would become one of his greatest scores.  And for the first time, we got to watch him in action. 

    We began to understand how our mother fitted into the writing process and the mysterious business of movie music making.  After every cue, without fail, our dad turned around to face the booth, searching our mom’s large, telling eyes; a tearful gaze, wide eyes, or even a wink let him know how right-on the cue sounded."

       (from liner notes: “Complete Film Score: CONAN THE BARBARIAN,
2010 Prometheus Records - XPCD 169)

    Poledouris would even collaborate with Zoe on two notable occasions.  The first was while composing his hypnotic Ravel-like music for the scene in the CONAN orgy chamber.  At the age of nine his daughter, studying the recorder at the time, entered his room and began playing an intriguing counter melody to what he was playing on the piano.  He would use his daughter's rift and give her credit on the soundtrack album.  Later in 2007 on Paul Verhoeven’s STARSHIP TROOPERS (he also composed Verhoeven’s FLESH & BLOOD and ROBO COP) Zoe would write and sing a song on screen during the film’s military academy graduation party. 

    Poledouris’ final public appearance was the conducting of “CONAN THE BARBARIAN - Suite for Orchestra” at the Ubeda Film Music Festival Spain in July, 2006.  Thinned from a battle with cancer he nonetheless energetically stirred the orchestra, choir and audience in a grand performance.   He would pass away four months later in Los Angeles.

Oher credits include

Big Wednesday (1978), Protocol (1984), Making the Grade (1984), Iron Eagle (1986), Wired (1989), Quigley Down Under (1990), Wind (1992), Free Willy (1993), Serial Mom (1994), Lassie (1994), The Jungle Book (1994), Switchback (1997), Breakdown ((1997), Les Miserables (1998), Amerika (mini-series 1987),  Atlanta Olympic Games - 1996 (Opening Ceremonies), Conan Sword & Sorcery Spectacular (Universal Studios), American Journeys (Circle Vision-360 at Disneyland)


Poledouris - In His Own Words:

music: Theme from THE BLUE LAGOON (1980) - piano solo

                         interview
: On scoring CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)

                                                                
music: "Night Mares" from LONESONE DOVE (1989)


interview: STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) - working with Verhoeven, music & sound design


music: "The Gifts" from FREE WILLY (1993)

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