A Copland is found in the attic

Aaron Copland’s last film score will receive its first commercial release on Tuesday -- 42 years after it was recorded.

“Something Wild,” a 1961 film starring Carroll Baker, was a box-office flop, so distributor United Artists nixed a proposed soundtrack album despite its composer’s fame. His suite from the score, “Music for a Great City,” was premiered in 1964, but the complete score all but disappeared along with the rarely screened film.

Then New York film-music buff Mark Leneker, doing research into Copland’s music four years ago, discovered that Copland had assembled a 35-minute soundtrack album mockup and that a handful of copies were privately pressed and given to friends.

Leneker contacted the film’s director, Jack Garfein, who now lives in Paris (and who, at the time of the film, was Baker’s husband). It turned out that Garfein’s current wife had discovered a sealed copy of the LP in the family attic.


That’s the recording, digitally transferred, that will be released by Studio City-based soundtrack label Varese Sarabande. “This is the album that Copland had envisioned and hoped for,” says Varese producer Robert Townson, right down to its sequencing and previously unpublished liner notes by the composer.

Copland conducted a 55-piece orchestra in the music, which is stylistically different from his earlier, more familiar Americana scores like “Of Mice and Men” (1939) and “The Red Pony” (1949). Because the film’s subject matter is grim and violent -- Baker plays a suicidal rape victim in New York City -- the composer’s idiom is more contemporary, incorporating jazz influences, serialism and occasional dissonance.

-- Jon Burlingame