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Alan Menken: The legendary American composer behind Henko

Music has always been linked to human beings, a language that our first ancestors already used as a tool of communication and survival. They created associations that allowed them to predict dangerous situations and with which they developed social skills by communicating in a common language. Our relationship with her reaches such a point that is capable of altering our emotional state.

alan menken selfie

Our brain has been evolving throughout a process that has included sounds as a fundamental piece with which to create patterns along with emotions and, thus, decode our environment. In this context, there is a small group of people who dazzle us through their musical talent, and they are the ones we must thank for works and films that have made us fall in love and have allowed us to experience that extraordinary sensation of feeling transported to another place. to another way of experiencing life. One of them is, without a doubt, Alan Menken. Let's see who he is, what works he composed and what his musical style is.

Who is Alan Menken?

Born July 22, 1949 in New Rochelle, New York, Alan Menken is an American composer and pianist whose captivating scores have helped revitalize the Walt Disney Company's animated films. Success has always accompanied this musician who has weighed about 30 kilos at the 'Oscars'. With eight, it is the living person with the most statuettes from the American Academy, thanks to milestones such as Under the sea, the emblematic song of the crab The little Mermaid (1989) or Beauty and Beast. Thus, due to his contributions to film music, this New Yorker has great responsibility in the second golden age of disney, which took place back in the early 90s.

Alan Menken

What did Alan Menken study?

Alan Menken was born into a typical American family in Manhattan. The son of Judith and Norman Menken, he developed an interest in music at a very early age and studied piano and violin. In his youth he enrolled in a pre-medical program at New York University, but eventually graduated with a music degree.

He later earned money performing in clubs, composing advertising jingles, and providing accompaniment for dancers' rehearsals. The change in his career came when playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman chose him to collaborate with him on the 1979 play God Bless You, Mr. Roserater, based on a novel by Kurt Vonnegut. Although they achieved some success with this production, it was not until 1982 that they achieved significant commercial and critical recognition with the Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors. The duo later adapted its score for the 1986 film.

alan menken the little shop of horrors

How many Oscars does Alan Menken have?

This New York composer achieved fame and recognition for having composed the music for numerous films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Under this company he designed the music for great classics and films. as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas, with which he obtained two Oscars for each of them.

He has also composed the soundtrack for other Disney films such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Home on the Range either Tangled. Menken has won a total of eight Oscars and has been nominated twenty times.

Musical style of renowned composer and pianist Alan Menken

Alan Menken's musical style is marked by his early predilection for classical music. During his childhood he learned to play the piano, violin and guitar; In addition, he was the concert teacher in high school. The concretion of his own style was born in his youth, a time when he spent many hours sitting at the piano and, both his parents and the teachers who taught him, thought that he practiced. pieces from the great classics, such as Beethoven and Brahms. But he simply had fun playing improvisation with those scores, something that usually happens in other styles such as Jazz. This is how he began to write his own classical pieces for piano and create his own style.

alan menken with his turtle

Other of his influences are rock and the music of the great Broadway composers, which I already knew. Thanks to the fact that his father sat at the piano and played, he also became influenced by the music of the 60's, which resulted in Alan having a very diverse musical culture. Already during his adolescence he began to compose his first songs, with the intention of entering those great Broadway musicals, which have always been his great passion. He thinks that was largely due to the fact that his family loved musicals and took him to see them from a very young age.

He also worked in bars in hopes of becoming a recognized singer and songwriter. But he realized that what really satisfied him was the challenge of writing for characters and adapting stories; In addition, he had the gift of writing for theater as well. There, the first song he composed for a montage was: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, which was not a great commercial success, since it premiered in 1979, at the same time as the musical Avoid, by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice. A few years later the offer to work with Disney would come.

Menken himself describes his style like this: “My goal is to create a sound world that has a purpose and that can be shared by viewers. And for that I need my style and that of other composers to meet halfway. I need to be a chameleon.”

alan menken photocall

What kind of music does Alan Menken make?

The secret of Alan Menken's success is due, in part, to a style as rich in nuances as it is in classical forms, which is capable of flooding the piece of music with a bombast as well as simplicity, which manages to move the viewer with just two chords. His great texture of rhythms and wide compositional variety enrich and elevate any work in which he participates.

This is a composer whose cultural impact has been so great that he has earned a place in the Olympus of film music. A musician capable of harmonizing carnivorous plants, musicalizing magic carpets, give voice to Jamaican crabs and discover colors in the wind.

Alan Menken, the master of the great Disney classics

Many of Disney's films wouldn't be the same without Alan Menken's soundtracks. It was in the late 80s when he came into contact with the Walt Disney Company industry. In 1989 he put music to the endearing story of The little Mermaid, based on the character created by Hans Christian Andersen. He won two Oscars for it and great success at the Golden Globes.

alan menken the little mermaid

Two years later, again, two Oscars, two Golden Globes and all the success for Beauty and the Beast, for many his masterpiece, a love story that shows us that beauty is within us. Its milestone was being the first animated film nominated for best picture at the Oscars.

alan menken beauty and the beast

Just one year later, in 1992, came unanimous applause for Aladdin, a famous film based on Arabian Nights. Two more new Oscars, two Golden Globes and four Grammy Awards are his resume, including Best Song of the Year. In this way we arrive at 1995, the year of the premiere of Pocahontas, which won a Golden Globe, Grammy and Oscar for the soundtrack and original song, for Colors in the wind. No one doubts that this impressive composer will once again make magic with his notes and chords.

Where to enjoy music composed by Alan Menken

In short, Menken is one of those composers whose music must be enjoyed live, at least once in a lifetime. Therefore, from Film Symphony Orchestra we want to tell you that you can come to Enjoy an incredible evening with us with your friends or family.

From this, the FSO official website, we want to invite you to get your tickets to see first-hand our new Henko tour, and thus live the music composed by Alan Menken. In addition, spectators can listen and see the exciting staging of the orchestra, playing wonderful songs such as those contained in the OST of 007: Skyfall, Mulan, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The rock, The Godfather and many more! Do not miss it!

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