Lalo Schifrin | Souds of Suspense | Cultural Conversation | By Marc Myers – WSJ.com
Considering that Lalo Schifrin scares people for a living, he hardly looks the part. Coming down the stairs of his home two weeks ago, one of Hollywood’s leading creators of suspense-movie scores seemed almost bookish—with black-frame glasses, longish silver hair and a face creased as though he spends most of his time smiling.
“When I write a suspenseful score, I need to make audiences forget they are in a safe place,” said the 80-year-old composer, conductor and arranger, settling into a sofa in the dimly lit den of his home, which once belonged to Groucho Marx. “Movie composers, they are like magicians. The music is there to contribute to the make-believe. With suspense, you must create concern where none exists.”
Mr. Schifrin knows a thing or two about making palms sweat. Since 1963, he has written more than 100 suspenseful themes and scores for television and the movies—including “Mannix,” “Bullitt,” “The Cincinnati Kid,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “The Eagle Has Landed,” four of Clint Eastwood‘s five “Dirty Harry” films, “The Amityville Horror” and the “Rush Hour” series.
This month marks the 45th anniversary of Mr. Schifrin’s most famous soundtrack—”Mission: Impossible,” which won him two Grammys and set new standards for TV and movie suspense music. On Tuesday, a four-CD set—”My Life in Music” (Aleph)—will be released, surveying Mr. Schifrin’s prolific composing and recording career in film, jazz, bossa nova, classical and opera.