Sunday 19 November 2017

My cultural life: David Arnold

David Arnold. Photo: Julie Edwards
David Arnold. Photo: Julie Edwards
The Black Balloon

David Arnold was born in Luton to a Dublin-born father and London-born mother. Early exposure to film soundtracks and both classical and pop music led him to pursue a career in all three industries.

Early student film experiments with his childhood friend Danny Cannon opened the door to a feature film, The Young Americans, which Danny directed, and the song Play Dead which featured vocals by Bjork. The success of these projects resulted in Roland Emmerich hiring David to score Stargate, which in turn led to Independence Day, James Bond, Narnia, Sherlock and a host of others. He has written for theatre, did a West End musical (Made in Dagenham) and recorded with Shirley Bassey, George Michael, k.d. Lang, Scott Walker and many more. In 2012 he was the music director of the London 2012 Olympics Closing and Paralympics Closing Ceremonies which were watched live by 1.5bn people. David Arnold joins the RTE Concert Orchestra for an evening of his music on Friday, May 19 and introduces a screening of Independence Day with live orchestral score on Saturday, May 20, both at Bord Gais Energy Theatre.

Film: Pee-wee's Big Adventure


What could I watch again and again for the sheer fun of it? I think out of a handful, Pee-wee's Big Adventure is the one I'll watch at least once a year. It's so full of enthusiasm: Danny Elfman's first big score, Tim Burton's first big movie - you can feel the energy. And it's endlessly quotable - and silly. Not an ounce of cruelty or meanness in the whole film.

Design: iPhone packaging

I love the packaging of the iPhone. Just the box - the way it ever so slightly hisses when you lift the perfectly fitted lid off, that every aspect of the packing is a treat to look at and a thrill to remove. Every section perfectly moulded and cut to fit the plugs, cables, earphones just right, as if they've been vacuum sealed. The bits it reveals I don't really care about (it's a phone, right?) but the box... is it just me or does anyone else keep them, as throwing them out seems like a criminal act? They'll be showing up on the Antiques Roadshow in 100 years' time.

Painting: The Black Balloon

When I was 16 I saw an exhibition of Michael Andrews's work. I was immediately struck by how enigmatic, tentative and dreamlike it felt. Like I wanted all of his paintings to be my album covers. (I still do.) His Lights series uses the image of a balloon and all we see is its shadow, but in The Black Balloon we see it in full form, albeit in shadows itself, quietly watching the world from a distance.

Record: Songs in the Key of Life

Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder is, without doubt, the single greatest record ever made. As I've got older, I've decided that this is an actual fact. Every song a drop-dead, stone-cold classic, no emotion left unexamined, vocal and musical performances beyond belief, production unbettered (I hope that's a word: if it isn't, it should be, like 'bigly'). I listen to this so many times every year, it never feels old - I'm just eternally grateful for it.

TV: MasterChef


TV is a way for my brain to switch off for a bit. I'm not against a challenge but more often than not, after a day of writing I'll settle for easy, which is why I'm hooked on cooking shows. MasterChef is probably my favourite.


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