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In addition to producing the Night of the Living Dead documentary Autopsy of the Dead, Jim Cirronella produced the definitive soundtrack release of the stock music culled and edited into the film by director George Romero.

In Part 2 of our conversation, Cirronella discusses the production of the CD, and he provides details of the long-gone Capitol Hi-Q music library, whose music was used in TV as well as feature films, such as The Incredible Petrified World (1957) and Teenagers from Outer Space(1959).



Mark R. Hasan: How did the CD release of the Capitol Hi-Q stock music used in NOTLD come to be?

Jim Cirronella: I was always interested in the music, and [a compilation CD had never been done before]. Even getting into Capitol Hi-Q music, there’s not a whole lot known about it. There’s no history that you can find anywhere; it has been written about, but not in any great length.

Capitol Hi-Q is a huge part of American culture. It brought production music in from many different sources – European composers and so forth – but that music is embedded in the psyche of a lot of people that grew up in that era. It’s a reference point for a lot of people because it was used on so many productions. That kind of orchestrated mood music just resonates with a lot of people.

At the most, maybe 50% of the music from NOTLD was put out; it’s very mysterious [because] they just tacked a lot of composer names to it, and there was never any kind of further research. There was even some erroneous information put out there for one reason or another (some of it deliberate), so I felt that stuff needs to be cleared up. I think we need to have a better idea of where this music came from, why it was used, and how it was used

MRH: With the Capitol Hi-Q library, I didn’t know that it was established by David Rose and William Loose, the latter recognizable to fans of Russ Meyer films.

Jim Cirronella: The way Capitol Hi-Q worked (and this is kind of hazy), is that for some of the people at Capitol, this whole idea of a production library was becoming a popular thing. It was good business because it allowed a lot of low-budget productions (especially TV) … [to] pick from all this music, and get it at a relatively inexpensive cost.

Some of the main players at Capitol had this idea to go into production music, which they called Capitol Custom Music or something along those lines. They had a division for it… and it was John Seely and William Loose who… were going to center it around a package of material that they were buying from a composer named David Rose, and the catch was that he had to sell it outright; there would be no royalties, he would get no credit, and they were going to pay him good money for that.

I guess there was some contention, maybe from the other people at Capitol, that this was not worth the money that was being paid for this, but they felt it was, and so they went ahead and did it anyways. From what I understand, even John Seely financed it himself, and the other part of that equation was that William Loose was going to write just as much material, and they would package this complete thing as the Theme Craft Label, or whatever you want to call it.

Capitol Hi-Q used different codes and names for various packages of music, and that’s how they put everything together, and that’s how they could determine where the royalties went. They were buying all this stuff royalty-free [from composers], and they would be the ones that would be credited, and they would be the ones that would receive payments when this stuff was used. That was the business model they decided to go with.

It’s not an original business model (there were other libraries doing the same thing), but this one was being done in America, and it ended up being so big because they started getting other music packages that they would represent and pay the royalties out to, so this encompassed a huge amount of music over time.

MRH: You mentioned in the CD liner notes that some of the NOTLD cues had been altered and edited for the film, but the CD features the complete cues, and for myself, I was struck by the quality of the music, and the incredible atmosphere that they have which runs quite deep.

Jim Cirronella: Again, the information is cloudy, as to who picked what.

For example, it’s always been said by Karl Hardman that they manipulated the cues, but at some point George Romero decided to use the stock cues… The cues have not been altered. There are some examples in the film of altered tracks – we don’t have them on the CD – but it’s minor stuff: it’s more or less delaying a stinger with a tape delay so that it will give this strange kind of electronic, mechanical, sustaining ambience over the entire scene that they’re trying to cover.

When Barbara goes up the stairs and is confronted by this corpse [in the farmhouse], it’s a stinger that’s been electronically processed… That’s one of the examples of where they needed something very specific, so they created it themselves. Unfortunately, all that stuff would’ve been on tape, and that’s all been lost, but luckily 95% or so of the music and all the musical ambient things are stock cues, so that’s what I decided to stick with for the CD.

MRH: I think Romero’s use of the stock cues is very strong in NOTLD, particularly when you compare it to The Crazies (1973) or Dawn of the Dead (1978).

Crazies has a lot of stock music that qualitatively and stylistically is all over the place, and some of it is just wholly inappropriate for the chase sequences; in Dawn of the Dead¸ there are vintage orchestral cues (particularly in the “Cannes Cut”) plus the original prog-rock cues by Goblin. NOTLD, though, has an organic feel, and there’s cohesion among all those atmospheric cues.

Jim Cirronella: Don’t forget, there may be one cue from one of these LPs that is surrounded by another dozen or so cues that sound very similar… Somebody knew instinctively what to pick, and from everything that I’ve seen with this film and researching it and studying it, I have to give that final credit to George Romero… No one cue sounds out of place, no matter how diverse they are.

Some people have problems with some of the choices in Dawn of the Dead because it’s not a horror movie; there’s an underlying horror to the whole thing, but the way it’s scored, some of it’s like a parody. That’s what he chose, but he still has a lot of pieces in there that he really got into editing bits and pieces together to make brand new cues.

Some of the things that he edited together sound like one piece of music, but it’s amazing to hear the actual cue: you would never think any 2 of them would together but he’s stitching together 3 or 4 of them.

MRH: In putting together the CD, were they any unique issues, such as music rights, the restoration, or even the distribution?

Jim Cirronella: Pretty much everything was a unique issue!

The problem with the music rights was that at the time they were making the movie, you could just go to Capitol Hi-Q and you could license all this stuff from one source… It was pretty much a simple thing: you’re going to put this background music to a new work, and you were basically buying synchronization rights for broadcast and theatrical, and that was a done deal, and nobody realized that later there’s going to be a demand for this – that a completely different kind of market would spring up.

Even in terms of exhibition, the filmmakers or distributors weren’t thinking that these movies would have the type of following they would have 40 years later; that wasn’t planned for, even 5 or 10 years later. Romero & Co. have even said ‘The movie went out there and did business for a couple of years,’ which they thought was great, and they figured that was the end of it. It wasn’t until the mid-seventies that there was this revival of NOTLD, and then it turned out it had more legs. They never anticipated anything like that would happen, and that it would become a classic on the midnight movie circuit, which didn’t exist back then.

When the movie was first made, it was just ‘get your movie out however you can,’ get it into drive-ins, get it into the small theater chains; they didn’t anticipate anything like this, so that created trouble with the rights.

Now, there is no Capitol Hi-Q; there is no one place you can go to license everything, so you have to track down who owns what… There have been lawsuits over ownership. There were partnerships between various composers [but] I don’t now if they were actually writing together as much as just forming a partnership to make a package of music available; and again, there was no thought to the future that 40 years from now people would even find this to be interesting. Most of the time whenever I contacted someone or a publishing company they would say ‘What are you talking about? What do you want to do?’

I don’t think until I looked into it anybody actually knew which music was used in the movie. There was an idea of the cues, but just overall; the publishers that were aware of it just knew that while a package of music was used, they owned maybe 20% of the music used in this film, but they really didn’t keep track of which cue and where it was used, and how much of the cue was used and so forth. The cue sheet for the movie was not correct. I didn’t do all this myself; I had to bring in other people who have much more expertise in this area than I do.

In terms of the restoration, I definitely didn’t have the best materials that you would want to work with, and a lot of that was frustrating, more than anything. In some cases I had both an LP and a reel, and I was able to compare the two; in some cases the LP was much better-sounding than the reel, but there was a frustration in that you don’t get that with every cue that you’re working with… Sometimes all these things have been used multiple times, and sometimes you have to try and work around irreparable damage, so having more than one copy of the LP helped, but it led to frustration in other areas because you only had one thing to work with, and you had to make do with it.

MRH: Ad in terms if distributing the CD, this is the first soundtrack album you’ve produced?

Jim Cirronella: Yes. I don’t consider myself a record label or a soundtrack producer, this was a means to an end. This needed to be done.




In Part 1 of our lengthy interview with producer Jim Cirronella and director Jeff Carney, the filmmakers discuss the production of Autopsy of the Dead (2009), their documenary on the making of George Romero’s zombie classic.

Further info on the composers who contributed to the Capitol Hi-Q library can be found via these message board posts at Film Score Monthly, Soundtrackcollector.com, and this Google search.


KQEK.com would like to thank Jim Cirronella for his generous time in discussing his projects.

For more information on Zero Day Releasing and their catalogue, click HERE.

All images remain the property of their copyright holders.

This interview © 2010 by Mark R. Hasan


Related external links (MAIN SITE):

CD:  Dawn of the Dead aka Zombi (1978) — Dawn of the Dead: The Unreleased Incidental Music (pre-1978) — Dawn of the Goblin (2005) — Night of the Living Dead (1968)

DVD/Film:  Autopsy of the Dead (2009) —  Night of the Living Dead (1968)


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