Saturday 13 October 2018

Music to the Undersea Adventures of Jacques Cousteau

One of the great many pleasures of visiting the city-state of Monaco is taking a tour of the Musee Oceanographique. And if visitors to this combination of museum and institute had their reasons stamped on their foreheads, mine would have read “Jacques Cousteau Brought Me Here”. Cousteau served as its director from 1957 to 1988.

Many like me who grew up watching the adventures of Jacques Cousteau in his television series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau were obviously enthralled by his discoveries in episodes such as “The Sleeping Sharks of Yutacan” and “The Legend of Lake Titicaca”.

The captivating scenes of deep sea divers kitted out in their diving suits, goggles and acqua-lungs as they explored the surrounding marine environment which Cousteau’s films usually insisted was uncharted, were of course memorable, and indeed, formed one of the supreme delights of watching television in colour.

Perhaps under-appreciated by children such as me was the accompanying music with its signature fanfares and cadences which communicated the wondrous and exotic world of reefs, oceans and sea creatures. The music was created by the likes of Walter Scharf, Leonard Rosenman, Lyn Murray, William Goldstein, John Scott, Kenyon Hopkins and Gerald Fried. Lalo Schifrin and George Delerue were perhaps the most famous contributors.

Sadly, little by way of the original music is available for purchase in the original vinyl format or in digital form. However, a few months ago, I discovered an album composed by Scharf, who received two Emmys in 1970 and 1974 for his work on the series of documentaries produced between 1965 and 1975. Entitled The Legend of the Living Sea, it was an original symphonic work specially commissioned in 1971 for a Cousteau museum exhibition aboard the Queen Mary moored off Long Beach in California.

It was recorded in Bavaria, West Germany with Scharf conducting the Graunke Symphony Orchestra of Munich.


© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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