glass notes
Pick of the Week: It was Always You Helen from Candyman

The Legend of the Candyman, a son of slaves whose father became rich in 1890
after inventing a device for mass producing of shoes. The educated
Candyman was an artist, but when the daughter of a powerful man got
pregnant by him, her father hired some hooligans that saw off his right
hand with a rusty blade, took him to an apiary with dozens of hives with
hungry bees, smashed the hives and smeared honeycomb on his naked body.
Candyman was stung to death by the bees, then his body was burnt in a
giant pyre and the ashes scattered on Cabrini Green.

Boy…who would have ever thought that in 1992, the great artist Philip Glass would compose a score for a cheesy horror film like Candyman?  The story that we learned afterward makes a lot of sense:  the young director Bernard Rose wanted to make the movie as a social commentary on the "boogieman," a.k.a. African-Americans living in the projects of which white people, like Virginia Madsen's character Helen are terribly afraid.  That was the project that Glass signed on for.

Rose's vision never was realized, he was jettisoned, the whole production got taken over by the studios who wanted to make it a run of the mill slasher flick.  With that said, I really like Candyman and I actually think Rose' vision came across though it probably wasn't communicated to most people.

Candyman is also tremendously important in the creation of Orange Mountain Music by artist Don Christensen. Christensen, a long-time friend of Glass was at a meeting one day, and he pointed out to Glass how the music for Candyman was a hot commodity on the bootleg market and that it should be considered for release.  I believe at that time Glass had a record deal with Nonesuch who surely wouldn't have put such a thing out. So basically Glass told Christensen, "you want to put it out, put it out."  Thus the creation of a record label able to release "archive" items like the score to Candyman. Candyman was the label's first release with the catalog number is OMM0003. Today, OMM's latest release is the Glass Chamber Players at OMM0069.

Glass had dismissed Candyman as bad in his mind because it seemed the experience of making the film and what he considered being duped was a negative experience for him.  I'm very happy Christensen was so persistent.

The Candyman soundtrack begins with its most famous theme, that of the Music Box (Helen's theme.)  I consider it one of the catchiest things Glass ever composed.  Helen is a graduate student investigating the myth of the "Candyman."

Glass' sound palette for the film is a very gutsy one: chorus with organ.  What was the last film score you remember being so limited and disciplined instrumentally?  In this case it works.  The only variation is the Music Box/Helen's theme is also played once on piano and once on celeste.  

I really don't think the social commentary is lost in Glass' score.  We are terrified of the boogieman along with Helen.  However, the music drags us along with Helen as she wanders into the Cabrini Green projects in Chicago.  The silly supernatural elements eventually engulf the story, but they mystery of what happened to Candyman remains. The artist who became immortal because of the injustice of his death which was caused by no other sin than love.  These are all strong themes in Glass's other work as we were just discussing Orphée last week. 

So here is "It Was Always You Helen" which appears at the close of the film combines Helen's Theme with the terrifying music for organ (Candyman) and a peaceful and harmonious chorus singing the film's second theme, as we watch the giant pyre burn in the projects we hear this music, something of a lullaby, as we (Helen) accept injustice as we die.

It Was Always You, Helen

9 thoughts on “Pick of the Week: It was Always You Helen from Candyman”

  1. I think, like you, that the scores for Candyman (1 and 2) are among the best works by Philip glass.
    In 1996, I met Philip Glass in Zürich,where he was creating “Les enfants terribles” and I asked him why no record existed for Candyman”.He answered to me: “Oh, you like this film?”
    Yes I like him, Mister Glass, especially with your Music (Helen’theme is really a wonderful theme, so unforgettable with his its melodic beauty and total simplicity than historical Koyaanisqatsi’theme) which completes ideally Rose’s ideas and so makes of this film an intelligent horror movie.

  2. I became interested in the work of Bernard Rose after watching his much-maligned adaptation of Anna Karenina. As you can probably tell, I am quite a fan of the film and consider it too be misunderstood. Sadly, similarly to Candyman, the studio took over the editing and the end result probably isn’t as great as it could have been. Neverheless, Rose (whose other work includes Immortal Beloved) has quite an eye for visuals.
    It is my understanding that he and Mr. Glass had a reunion of sorts since Glass is listed as the composer for ‘Mr. Nice’ on IMDb.
    I am also somewhat curious how Glass became involved with Candyman 2, since he apparently wrote some music for it. And what music! As much as I love Helen’s theme, in many ways I found the lesser known “Annies Theme” from the sequel to be just as good.

  3. Despite the debatable quality of the movie, I think it is one of the landmark-scores in horrorland. I really wouldn’t know what persuaded Glass to be involved with the second movie, though.
    I’d love to see the reteaming of Glass and writer Clive Barker anytime soon in the future.

  4. Im pretty sure that Glass did Candyman 2 because they had the right, as studios do, to use his music again for the franchise. He probably figured that since they were going to use his music anyway, and that there was nothing he could do about it, that he might as well be in charge of it and get paid for it while he was at it. To make something out of it especially after being duped on the first movie.

  5. I think your logic is rock solid, Richard and it was the right decision too. It’s a lot better, like you said, to take control of something than let others misappropriate it. I have absolutely no problem with Glass scoring either Candyman. I didn’t hate the first movie and I really love the music.

  6. I think that ‘Candyman’ is actually quite an intelligent thriller/horror and a lot of the people who malign the film do so simply because they abhor the violence in it and so dismiss it as some low-brow “slasher” film. What they miss in doing so is the wonderfully dreamlike quality of the film, which is particularly enhanced by Glass’ score; the whole film from Helen’s incarceration in a prison for the criminally insane to her heroic sacrifice at the end plays like some seductively disturbing nightmare and it’s impossible to imagine the film being so psychologically potent without Glass’ music.
    One of the major challenges film composers face is that their music often has to compete with a film’s soundtrack, and by limiting his musical palette to chorus and organ Glass cleverly manages to “cut through” the noise, even psycho-accoustically co-opting it; when I first heard/saw the film I thought that the score was “fuller” but after hearing the CD and re-watching it I found that I had psychologically “moulded” the background sounds to fit the score, (there’s a technical name for this effect, it also occurs if you watch video of someone talking while listening to white noise; you begin to “hear” the person’s voice)!
    People should stop being ashamed of or embarrassed by these films simply because they’re not “art” movies; they still contain much that is artistically worthy.

  7. I have been searching for piano sheet music for any of the soundtrack songs from Candyman and have not been able to find any. Does anyone know where I can find any of them to purchase? In my opinion, Candyman has one of the best soundtracks EVER!

  8. The only Glass piano sheet music published is:
    Metamorphosis I-V
    Mad Rush
    Wichita Vortex Sutra
    The Hours (arr. Riesman/Muhly)
    The Trilogy Sonata (arr.Barnes)
    The Orhpée Suite (arr.Barnes)
    Satyagraha Finale (arr.Riesman)
    The other music like Dracula (arr.Riesman), Glass Soundtracks (arr. Riesman), Piano Concerto No.2 (arr. Barnes) and the two volumes of the piano études have yet to be published.

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