Monday 31 January 2011

Sound of the Cimbalon - on the death of John Barry

The Cimbalon is the twangy, Danubian-sounding harpsichord-type instrument which gave The Ipcress File its characteristic sound, most notably in its main theme 'A Man Alone' (such an apt title, too!).

The man whose cracking idea it was to use it to sum up the tension of Michael Caine's Harry Palmer, an agent out in the field unable to know who to trust and knowing his next move could be his last, was of course composer John Barry, who died yesterday aged 77. Known most famously for his Bond themes and other amazing sound tracks such as that for Born Free, he was clearly an artist who had a knack for crafting a melody that fires the imagination.

As Michael Caine wrote subsequently after the global success of the Ipcress movie:
"If you want to see an example of what music does for a movie, go and see The IPCRESS File. Then you'll understand what John Barry's all about."
Precisely. A very, very talented composer.

A fuller tribute to the man and all his works is found on Armstrong Sabian's ever-excellent Mister 8 blog - go check it out. Also providing thoughts on Barry's influence on the world of Bond is The Double O Section blog.


  1. A great composer, we will miss him.

  2. If I'm not mistaken, the cimbalom was also used in Roy Budd's great music for "The Sandbaggers," a short-lived Granada series about the Special Operations section of SIS.

    CIA folk maintain that it's the most accurate dramatic portrayal of intelligence work.