Lawrence of Arabia


soundtrack cover

The creative efforts of producer Sam Spiegel and director David Lean brought to the screen The Bridge on The River Kwai, one of the greatest pictures of all time. Bridge won nine Academy Awards and more than one hundred other international honors. It also brought to the world Colonel Bogey March, the whistling, marching tune which achieved instant popularity.

For their next film together after The Bridge on the River Kwai, Spiegel and Lean chose to bring to the screen the romantic adventure story of T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, the man whom Winston Churchill wrote: "I deem him one of the greatest human beings alive in our time."

After two years of production in Jordan, Spain, Morocco and England, Lawrence of Arabia emerged as a magnificent desert adventure story, hailed by critics as "one of the greatest motion pictures ever made".

To create the music for Lawrence of Arabia, Spiegel embarked on a search for a composer that led him to an examination of the work of the leading men of our time. What was needed was an artist capable of translating into musical terms the amazing enigma of Lawrence, the loneliness of the desert and the wild drumbeat of the nomad Bedouin tribes lead by Lawrence. The music had to capture the fierce mood of the allied fighting forces played against the counterpoint of a man leading and being led by his own destiny.

All of this was accomplished with the selection of young French composer Maurice Jarre. Jarre holds a high place in contemporary French music, both popular and classical. A dedicated musician, he interrupted his months of work on Lawrence only once, returning to the continent to receive an award for his opera "Les Filles du Feu".

In composing for Lawrence of Arabia Jarre knew that the standard instruments of the classical symphony were needed but, in addition, he felt that only through contemporary electronic musical instruments could he recreate the mystery of Lawrence the Man against the background of the violence of desert war and the solitude of desert stillness.

Jarre imported an Onde Martinote from his native France to the London scoring stage. The Onde Martinote is an electronic musical instrument with a keyboard like a piano, but capable of an auditory range beyond all other instruments in use today. So unique is this instrument that special musicians capable of playing it had to be flown in from Paris. Used primarily in the desert sequences, the unusual sound of the Onde Martinote adds all of the romance and mystery of the desert to the score. The cithare, a companion electronic instrument with a more idealized tonal quality, is also used in the orchestration.

Throughout the film Jarre depended on three major themes, punctuating them with his electronic instruments and a high degree of percussion to mold the desired mood. The "Lawrence" theme illustrates Lawrence's love of the desert and his internal psychological conflicts. The "Arab" theme, used extensively in many variations, suggests the ever-changing moods of the desert people and their barbarity, humor and isolation. The recurring "home" theme epitomizes the ever-present longing of every man away from his birthplace.

And finally, Jarre utilizes a march, "The Voice of the Guns", composed by Kenneth J. Alford, who wrote the popular "Colonel Bogey March".

David Lean and Maurice Jarre