Harry Manfredini: The Sound Of Fear

When Harry met Jason.(Photo courtesy of Harry Manfredini.com)

When Harry met Jason.
(Photo courtesy of Harry Manfredini.com)

Composer Harry Manfredini has had a long and fruitful career scoring memorable genre movies like Swamp Thing, Wishmaster and House. The franchise he is most famously associated with is Friday The 13th; he scored parts 1 through 6 and 9 and 10. To ratchet up the tension and make audiences sit on the edge of their seats, he combined the manic strings of Psycho and the menacing bass of Jaws along with a spooky whisper sound (“Ki Ki Ki, Ma Ma Ma,” inspired by the line “Kill her, Mommy”) that let audiences know that the killer was lurking about. He also had moments of quiet suspense and even a deceptively romantic theme at the climax of the original. It’s hard to imagine any of the films, particularly the first three, without Manfredini’s signature music.

With the massive Friday The 13th: The Complete Collection out now on Blu-ray, A.D.D. sat down to chat with Manfredini about his work on the series. More of his comments can be found in my massive Friday retrospective at MSN Movies.

What are the funniest misinterpretations you have heard of the famous “Ki Ki Ki, Ma Ma Ma” whisper?
I have heard a lot of them, but my favorite funny one is “Ha ha ha, cha cha cha”…like the killer is dancing and laughing.

Who was the easiest Friday The 13th director to work with?
I would have to say Sean Cunningham was the easiest. We were flying by the seat of our pants, and we were able to just go with our imagination.

Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives allowed you to create a more frenetic and also humorous score, and you quoted the 13th Century Latin hymn “Dies Irae,” which was also used by Wendy Carlos in The Shining. What inspired that idea, and were there any other musical approaches you wanted to try with the Friday series but never did?
Well, I have to tell you the “Dies Irae” for me goes back way back further than The Shining, or for that matter even Berlioz. I was singing in the choir at church when I was in grammar school, and we sang all in Latin. On Good Friday the “Dies Irae” was a big piece. So I knew this way before I saw or heard it in other classic pieces or films. I wish, really wish, I had the budgets and the time to really have a big orchestra and just kick some butt with that, but alas, that was never the case.

“At the time I was not really that interested in what the critics said about the film or the music. I was happy that we made something that worked and was a success.”

What did you think of Fred Mollin’s soundtrack work on parts 7 and 8?
I have never met Fred, but I have heard that he is a really cool guy. I liked everything I heard. He has a good sense of scoring.

Were you surprised at how quickly the recent box set with your Friday scores sold out?
No, not really, I had been asked to do the box set for a long time, and I knew there were a lot of people interested.

We know how critics reacted to the series when it came out, but do you recall what kind of reception your music received?
At the time, I was not really that interested in what the critics said about the film or the music. I was happy that we made something that worked and was a success. I have been ambivalent about the critical reaction to it, but these are critics, and that’s what they are supposed to do. I have heard it was too derivative of Herrmann. Well, I can say that it is pretty much impossible to write almost any kind of score and not have a nod somewhere to Bernard. Now, I say thank you because anytime you get compared to him you are doing something right. I just wish that when these critics do this, they did it for everyone. I hear Stravinsky and Bartok and Herrmann in so many scores, and yet these do not get pointed out by the critics. Perhaps these are bigger films, and they are less prone to make such a comparison. Whatever, I am good with it all.

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