Films about music

Arena:Produced By George Martin – 2010

One of great joys of my life has been to meet George and Judy Martin and make a documentary about George’s life. He is of course best known, and rightly so, for his work with the Beatles but I wanted to make a film where that didn’t overwhelm the rest of George’s achievements. Instead I wanted to show how his whole life fed into being part of the greatest cultural phenomenon of the second half of the 20th Century. In this clip he and Judy look back through the Abbey Road studio booking diaries of Parlophone, the smallest of EMI’s labels. George met Judy at Parlophone when he became assistant to the head, Oscar Preuss. He went on to replace Oscar as head of the label. The clip shows the range of music that George produced in the period before The Beatles- so many of them are completely woven into popular culture – my favourite is ‘Nellie The Elephant’.

Howard Goodall’s 20th Century Greats – Bernard Herrmann – 2005

I’ve made 11 films with the composer Howard Goodall – subjects included the Beatles, Rhythm, Harmony and the great film composer Bernard Herrmann. Howard has a natural gift for explaining the complexities of musical composition. Often with music we know instinctively that a piece moves us but we don’t know why. We’re not aware of the techniques the composer has used to elicit this response. Howard, in film after film, explained in detail how composers go about their business in a manner that everyone could understand. Communicating highly technical information and making it easy to grasp is very difficult, Howard made it look effortless.

Nigel Kennedy’s Polish Adventure – 2010

This was a film tracing Nigel Kennedy’s re-location to Poland as he moved to Krakow with his Polish wife and put together a jazz group which ran alongside his career as a classical violinist. What was fascinating was discovering how jazz had became a symbol of political opposition in Iron Curtain countries. Its improvisational roots and free form structure meant it resisted being co-opted by the state authorities. This was a sequence shot in the workshop of a traditional violin maker on the Polish-Czech border.

20th Century Greats – Lennon and McCartney

In this clip Howard shows just how radical The Beatles were – turning the recording studio into a truly creative space and taking techniques pioneered by the avant garde and using them for their own revolutionary purposes. The Beatles changed everything – as Neil Innes said when I interviewed him for an Arena on Magical Mystery Tour, “The Beatles weren’t on the bus, The Beatles were the bus!”


One of the landmarks of British Arts Television  – PROSPECT

If only all arts shows were this goodMAIL ON SUNDAY

If future instalments are anything like the Beatles programme, they’ll be unmissable. – IRISH INDEPENDENT

This is an exemplary documentarySUNDAY TIMES

A brilliant seriesSUNDAY TELEGRAPH

Spellbinding stuffEVENING STANDARD

Informative, provocative and compellingTHE INDEPENDENT

A precise, musically illustrated and inspiring programmeDAILY TELEGRAPH

It’s all brilliant!THE GUARDIAN

How Music Works – Rhythm – 2006

Shot in the very atmospheric Chatham Naval Dockyard, here’s 8 Howards playing Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 5. Beautifully filmed by one of the most talented camera people I ever worked with – the late Colin Case.


This is thrilling, absorbing and instructive to watch. A winner.THE OBSERVER

It’s an absorbing, fascinating programme. How Music Works is proper, copper-bottomed, quality television. GUARDIAN

Who’d have thought that what’s essentially a lesson could be so riveting. TIME OUT PICK OF THE WEEK

This is simply excellent. FINANCIAL TIMES

How Music Works was a positive credit to the telly. TIMES

How Music Works is brilliant. THE MAIL

To see more music clips from my films check out this portfolio page:

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