I stumbled upon a fantastic little video the other day, and my friends and I have been discussing it at length. Before we move forward, take a look:
Now, I basically agree with the narrator on all points except for one: there is one memorable Marvel theme. Alan Silvestri’s theme for Captain America:
This is a character theme at it’s best: memorable, triumphant, larger than life. It shows up frequently, even in some of the movies the video criticizes, such as The Avengers, when Captain America saves the Jew:
I particularly love the soulful violin that harkens to Schindler’s List. I’ve always argued that Silvestri does a great job at going for the emotion when he doesn’t have much room to work with (because of sound effects, pacing, whatever). What do you think? What is your favorite Marvel score?
Last summer, I had the opportunity to work on an incredibly ambitious, dramatic sci-fi webseries, The Partitioned. Set in a dystopian future, The Partitioned is more a character study than anything else, even though it has heaping helpings of action. As such, I jumped for joy. How often do you, as a composer, get to write character themes these days?
I wrote a few themes that served the story well, but easily my favorite is Eeli’s Theme. When I first saw the episode where she was introduced, she struck me as so out of place from the grungy, oppressive tone of the show. Sure, we notice almost right away that she knows how to defend herself, but there is an innocence and untouched beauty that one did not expect. It almost felt like a fantasy for a brief moment, rather than dark, gritty science fiction. As a result, I tried to get away from the shows typical musical identity of gritty marcato strings, found percussion and Omnisphere, and instead introduced her character and theme with a solo flute. It worked better than I hoped for and I fell for the melody so hard that I later developed it into a full theme, complete with a B section:
I can’t tell you how much fun it was to work on this amazing show. We all grew together as artists. I definitely learned a lot about what to do (and not to do!) in a way that Film Scoring school, useful as it was, couldn’t prepare me for. It also helped me to find ways of being creative on a tight deadline, especially when a large body of music was needed. I am looking forward to working on season 2, because it is only getting better and better.
In the meantime, feel free to check out the show. It’s entirely free to watch on youtube!
One of the projects I am most proud of being a part of is What Would Beethoven Do? This groundbreaking documentary explores the most important issues classical music and musicians face in the modern world. And it does so with style.
I have long believed that classical music is for everyone; it’s just that there are certain obstacles for the layman that prevent them from devoting any kind of interest or attention. And who could blame them? One of the biggest ones is the snooty, exclusionary attitude many in the professional classical world tend to exude. This film tackles that issue head-on and explores how professional musicians, conductors, composers and teachers can make classical music fun and inclusive. Why not be excited to share its wonders?
Another obstacle is the tendency for professional musicians to be preservationist about classical music. While this attitude is a bit more understandable, it is ultimately counterintuitive to what that music was all about. At the time it was written, it was pushing the boundaries of music and moving the entire craft forward. Yet when modern composers do the same, such as Dinuk when he writes classical/Hip Hop fusion, it is treated with contempt. If orchestras were a bit more open to programming new works that move forward in the same spirit as Beethoven or Mahler, then perhaps more people would be interested, and classical music wouldn’t be such a long-haired pursuit. Indeed, many composers adapted folk tunes and “popular” music of the time into their compositions. Why is the same practice now frowned upon in classical circles?
Ultimately, this film is about how amazing and accessible classical music can be, and how we as professional musicians can ensure its survival. But it is also for people who want to learn more about classical music, and it does exactly what should be done: welcome those people into the fold. This is an incredibly important documentary, and I am very proud to have been a part of it.
By the way, should you be in the LA area on June 4th, there is an LA premiere scheduled to take place. You can find the information below. Hope to see you there!
2015 was a fantastic year, and a busy one to boot (hence the delay in my blog posts). I found a job in the music industry right out of graduate studies, which is really quite fortunate.
What was also fortunate was that I had the privilege of collaborating with fantastic directors such as Robert McDermott. This is a director that recognizes not only how powerful a score can be in a film, but also that resources can and should be devoted to music. Instead of flatly telling me there was no budget and that I would have to do it all on the computer (which very rarely sounds as good as having live players), he instead told me that he wanted whatever was best for the picture, and that we would figure out the finances later. This is precisely the kind of relationship you want with a director, and I was thrilled to hear this from my friend.
The script went through several interesting revisions. The version he ended up with was one that I was pretty excited about, simply because it gave me the most room to do some big musical things. We ended up hiring fifteen live players, which is a blockbuster score for a USC student film. The soloists were absolutely fantastic, and I couldn’t have asked for better performances. You can find the final cue below.