Mead, Abigail

Mead, Abigail
(1960– )
   In 1980 VIVIAN KUBRICK’s documentary about the making of THE SHINING was first broadcast on the BBC. Seven years later she composed the background music for FULL METAL JACKET, under the pseudonym of Abigail Mead. The name is a reference to Abbot’s Mead, the English country house where she and her sisters grew up. She employed the pen name, which appears in the film’s credits and on the album of music from the film’s sound track, so that her work would be judged on its own merits.
   VINCENT LOBRUTTO reports in his biography of STANLEY KUBRICK that in early January 1988, when the Academy Award race was drawing attention in the press, Robert Koehler, a journalist for the Los Angeles Times, identified Mead as Vivian Kubrick, the 27-year-old daughter of the director. Kubrick had asked Vivian for a sample of some music that he might use in the film. He liked what she came up with so much that he commissioned her to compose the film’s score. When her original score was submitted to the music branch of the Motion Picture Academy for Oscar consideration, John Addison, chairman of the committee, declared that the movie’s music did not stand up as a substantial body of music for dramatic underscoring on the grounds that pop tunes were used throughout the film and only 50 percent of its music was composed by Mead. Vivian Kubrick told Koehler that she thought it unfair to deem her unqualified for consideration. She contended that her original music accounted for 22 minutes and 26 seconds of the music on the sound track, while the pop tunes ran only 17 minutes and 39 seconds. The committee, however, counted 4 minutes of onscreen music, consisting of a marching song sung by the marine recruits (led by the drill sergeant as they tramp along a road), as part of the film’s scoring which was not contributed by Abigail Mead; that brought the amount of music not composed by Mead up to nearly 22 minutes. This factor allowed the committee to maintain that 50 percent of the score was not original, thus disqualifying Mead’s music for an Oscar nomination.
   The committee invoked a clause in the rules governing the music category for Oscar nominations to prove their point—a clause which was in fact inserted in the committee’s rules the same year that Vivian Kubrick’s score was under consideration: “Scores diluted by the use of . . . pre-existing music” not written by the composer “are not eligible. ”Addison stated flatly that the new rule was designed to make the guidelines more useful in assessing scores for outstanding achievement.
   JAN HARLAN, executive producer of Full Metal Jacket and Kubrick’s brother-in-law, countered that his niece’s music, a synthesizer score performed on a Fairlight Series III music computer, made a substantial contribution to the movie in the way that it “advances the dramatic narrative. ” Be that as it may, the academy excluded Abigail Mead’s score from consideration for an Oscar nomination. In any event,Vivian Kubrick’s avant-garde underscore, when it surfaces on the sound track during the picture, is quite impressive, as even Addison was prepared to concede in his pronouncement about the academy’s dispute with Abigail Mead. For example, the electronic theme which accompanies the deranged Private Pyle, as he prepares to shoot the drill sergeant who has persecuted him throughout basic training, is suitably eerie and menacing. In addition, during the later battle scene the music features electronic percussion which at times blends very effectively with the sound of rifle fire. In addition, David Wishart comments in his program notes for the CD of music from Kubrick’s films that the “bleak tones” of Abigail Mead’s music,“cooly reflect the disorientating and debasing Vietnam experience. ”
   Vivian Kubrick’s final word on the subject was that her father would not have devoted four years of his life to Full Metal Jacket, “and then risked it all with lousy music” provided by one of his daughters. “He believed in me, that I would do a good sound track. ” Production designer KEN ADAM (who had also worked on DR. STRANGELOVE), a friend of Kubrick’s, told Peter Bogdanovich that Vivian Kubrick “adored Stanley,” but found him an “overpowering” presence in her life. So she left England “to make her own life in Los Angeles” in the mid-1990s. CHRISTIANE KUBRICK adds in Bogdanovich’s article that Kubrick “was extremely sad when she decided to go there. ”
   ■ Bogdanovich, Peter, “What They Say about Stanley Kubrick,” New York Times Magazine, July 4, 1999, pp. 18–25, 40, 47–48;
   ■ LoBrutto, Vincent, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography (New York: Da Capo, 1999);
   ■ Wishart, David, “Program Notes,” in Dr. Strangelove: Music from the Films of Stanley Kubrick (New York: Silva Screen Records, 1999), p. 5.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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