NPR logo

Petra Haden Covers Classic Film Scores With A Single Voice

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Petra Haden Covers Classic Film Scores With A Single Voice

Music Interviews

Petra Haden Covers Classic Film Scores With A Single Voice

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Petra Haden had a problem when she was a child.

PETRA HADEN: I remember watching Looney Tunes cartoons and having the music stuck in my head, like (humming).

SIMON: And the problem kept getting worse. Soon, it wasn't just TV songs but movie scores too. Now, Petra Haden is the daughter of a famous jazz musician, Charlie Haden. She's also an accomplished musician - former violinist and vocalist in the rock group That Dog. And she's sung with Beck, Foo Fighters, Mike Watt and Bill Frisell. But for her new album, she went back to that old affliction. Cue "A Fistful of Dollars" and "The Man with No Name."


SIMON: For "Petra Goes to the Movies," she decided to mostly ditch the instruments, though her dad and Bill Frisell do join her at times. This album and its 16 movie scores, from "Psycho" to "Goldfinger," is largely a cappella.


HADEN: The bass line is the anchor for me. And I started with a bass and either doubled that and then added the harmonies, sometimes out of my own harmonies that I've always wanted to sing on the song. And then it just went on from there, singing violin parts and trumpet parts and just trying to emulate the sounds of the instruments.


SIMON: Petra Haden makes recording an a cappella version of songs written for orchestras sound easy, but she admits there are some odd pitfalls.

HADEN: You know, after a while, hearing some of these songs, I think I sound like a chicken or something. Like (Humming). You know. But I think not really.

SIMON: You know, that I can see that in an ad. She sounds like a chicken, Rolling Stone.

HADEN: I can't believe that I just said that. I sound like a chicken. Great. Buy my record, everyone.


SIMON: Another cut we want to ask about. The superhero that defines them all.


SIMON: John Williams' theme from "Superman." It struck me as fitting. It almost sounds like a chorus of kids' kazoos, not the London Philharmonic.


SIMON: And the more I heard it, the more I thought, you know, somewhere in this world today there are probably is a chorus of kids going (Humming), you know, probably doing it that way.

HADEN: Oh yeah. That's - it's my favorite movie, it always has been.

SIMON: Which version are you talking about? The one that came out, the original Christopher Reeve?

HADEN: Yes. I've had a huge crush on him since I was little. I have had Superman posters. I had two vinyl records of the soundtrack. People knew how much I loved the music. And anyone that I watch it with, I'll recite all the lines. I know every single line in that movie. It's pretty funny.

SIMON: Isn't there the moment when Lois says to Superman on the balcony, how big are you?

HADEN: I mean, how tall are you? And she goes and how much do you weigh? And he says, oh, about 225. And she says, 225? But by the way, just how fast do you fly? I don't know really. Never bothered to time myself. Well, say, why don't we find out?


CHRISTOPHER REEVE: (as Superman) Why don't we find out?

MARGOT KIDDER: (as Lois Lane) You mean I can fly?

REEVE: Yeah, actually, I'll be handling the flying, if that's OK.

HADEN: I know the whole scene.

SIMON: Oh, mercy. I'm very impressed, very impressed.


SIMON: Petra Haden, the musician of a thousand instruments - mostly her voice. Her new album, "Petra Goes to the Movies." Thanks so much for being with us.

HADEN: Thank you.

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.