Max Steiner

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Max Steiner

Max_Steiner’s Biography

Maximilian Steiner was born in Vienna in 1888, where he trained musically, studying at the Viennese musical academy with characters like Gustav Mahler. Soon it was linked to the Viennese operetta, creating great compositions and being publicly recognized in an important way. But the attacks of the First World War forced him to move to the US, where he will start working on Broadway, getting his success just as fast.

His work in the Rio Rita orchestra was the reason for him to be called by Hollywood, in order to adapt this work, from which he will no longer be separated until his death. It began in RKO, and its success with the score of King-Kong (M. C. Cooper and E. Schoedsack, 1933) along with its friendship with O’Selznick made him leave this producer; but he needed to work with a more powerful company that could support the volume and level of work he was able to develop. He came to Warner where he became director and vocalist of the musical department until his retirement and his subsequent death in 1971 in the land that he consecrated, Hollywood.

He was a teacher and a forerunner of the watermark of American cinema, the framing music, the invisible music but capable of significantly enhancing the meaning of the images. For all this it deserves a privileged place among the musical composers of cinema. He wrote compositions for more than three hundred films, of which one of the most representative is Gone with the Wind (V. Fleming, 1939). In addition it is the preconizador film of the end of the classic symphonism being at the same time its maximum expression.

In it, up to sixteen leitmotiv are created to sound each time the characters appear and even when they are spoken of (as in the dialogue sequence of the window, which occurs in the dance, where when speaking of war, his leitmotiv is introduced). It is remarkable as this fact of attributing a leitmotiv to inanimate objects, it is pioneering and of great importance since Tara and War are of enormous value for the development of history, becoming Tara the element on which the whole story revolves (this it will be highlighted in the famous scene of “To God I am a witness …” where his leitmotiv appears in a splendid way). It also makes use of onomatopoeic sounds, as in the case of the Atlanta bombing sequence where there is an amplification of sounds in a dramatic sense.

Note the composition made for The Searchers (More Heart than Hate or Centaurs of the Desert) (J. Ford, 1956), one of the ten best cinematographic works of all time, where music becomes the device that highlights the images, that is, discovers us without creating new meanings. This musical presence would not be to the liking of John Ford, since he advocates a total transparency in which the visual becomes the sole driver of the story. Ford preferred to work with Alfred Newman, but one can not deny the great musical composition made by Max Steiner.

In short, Steiner is the maximum representation of classical symphonism and source of inspiration for the great composers of today belonging to self-referential symphonism, such as: John Williams (Shark, Star Wars, ET, …), James Horner (Titanic, Legends of Passion, …), Basil Poledouris (Conan the Barbarian, The Hunt of the Red October, …), etc.

He settled in Hollywood around 1929, when he started the sound film and, I get, the music in the movies. He is one of the great composers of soundtracks, with masterpieces such as ‘Gone with the Wind’, precursor of the inclusion of the leitmotiv or musical theme dedicated to a specific character or situation, King Kong, or additional music for Casablanca, among others. He was nominated for an Oscar 20 times, getting it 3 times for The Tell-tale (1935), La extraño pasajera (1942) and Desde que te fuiste (1944).

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