Today marks the birthday of American composer David Raksin, born in 1912 in Philadelphia. He studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg, was friends with Igor Stravinsky, and has written a wide range of concert music. Yet Raksin is best known for one haunting tune — the theme he wrote for a classic 1944 film noir entitled "Laura."
David Raksin said the true story behind this music sounds like something out of a Grade-B movie. The very weekend he faced a deadline and simply had to come up with a theme for "Laura," Raksin says he received a "Dear John" letter from his wife stating she was leaving him. Unwilling to believe she was serious (she was); he stuck the letter in his pocket and tried to lose himself in his work.
"By Sunday night," recalled Raksin, "I realized I had a very painful case of writer's block. From the time I was a boy, when the music wouldn't flow, I would prop a book or a poem on the piano and improvise. The idea was to divert my mind from conscious awareness of music-making… I took the letter out of my pocket, put it up on the piano and began to play… and then, without willing it — I was playing the first phrases of what you now know as the 'Laura' theme."
Music Played in Today's Program
David Raksin (b. 1912)Laura ThemeNew Philharmonia; David Raksin, cond.BMG/RCA 1490