Film on the Stage

Sunday I had the tremendous pleasure of hearing music I wrote for an animated short nearly three years ago come to life on stage in its first ever live performance to picture. The film, Evenfall, tells the story of a young girl wandering through a forest full of neon creatures that both watch out for her and frighten her. Coming from the mind of the wildly talented animator Carolyn Chrisman, this project was our first collaboration and garnered Ms. Chrisman a place in the regional finals for a Student Academy Award. You can see the original project in the video embedded above.

Sunday’s performance was special for two reasons, one being that it happens to be close where a good chunk of my family resides, which means they were able to share in the performance with me. The other reason is that it was also the debut of groundbreaking new software developed by Minnesota based conductor Scott Winters and his company, Ion Concert Media. In film scoring, music is created using very precise techniques to make sure that it falls exactly where it needs to capture moments in the film. Recordings with musicians are made using click tracks so that the precise tempos used in composition translate to the live players so that all of that meticulous timing transfers accurately to the recording. Often for live concerts involving film, the same click technique is used; if you see the orchestra performing with headphones, that is exactly why: they are playing to a click. Again this makes sure all those musical hits line up precisely with the picture.

The software that Scott has developed turns this process on its head by making the film itself an instrument that can follow the conductor. So, rather than having to take such painstaking measures to conform the music to picture, the picture can actually be conformed to the music. Using an iPad on stage with the rest of the orchestra, Scott can adjust the playback of the movie to follow the baton of the conductor. In eliminating the need for click, you give back the nuance and interpretation that isn’t possible when playing to a predetermined tempo track. It’s truly remarkable technology that I honestly don’t quite understand. But what I do know is that it has the potential to create a whole new platform for filmmaking and composition: films created for the purpose of live musical accompaniment. I’m sure my colleagues will agree that such a prospect is wildly exciting.

Evenfall in Florida
Special thanks to Greg Raven for this photo

Musical Interlude | Body Politic

This week’s Musical Interlude is the main title for a web series I worked on called Body Politic. Director Steve Rousseau, who is also my neighbor, created this very compelling political drama set in Los Angeles. Musically, it called for a palette that embodies mystery with an urban flavor – sort of a modern take on a film noir score. The series honestly didn’t need a whole lot of music, mostly just key moments and transitions. Two scenes required a full bevy of music, one being the opening title sequence, the other a montage. The track I’m sharing today is the opening titles, which you’ll hear has quite a lot of energy. Unlike some main titles, this one actually had story development/dialogue throughout. So, my job was to keep the energy but stay out of the way – let the picture do the talking. I fused together the atmospheric colors with a fully fleshed out theme. You’ll also hear a live saxophone, played by my friend Brooks. It’s always important to me to have at least one live element in a score. The sax I thought would be a perfect color to identify the series. Luckily Steve agreed. You’ll also hear live shaker and guitar played by my friend Adam. Hope you enjoy!

Musical Interlude | Mad Dance

Welcome to a new weekly tradition I’m starting – “Musical Interlude.” Since I have the “starving” part of my blog covered, I want to make sure I represent the artist side as well. So, each week I’ll be posting a different track of mine from soundcloud and sharing the story behind it. Sometimes the track will be brand new, sometimes it will be from years ago – I’m going to change it up and keep it interesting.

This week I’m sharing Mad Dance. This is one of the first serious pieces of music I completed and had professionally performed. Written in 2007 while in graduate school at the Aaron Copland School of Music, it was and still is one of the few times I named a piece after completing it. Living in the world of film and visuals (even before I was actually writing for film), the inspiration and hence the title would always be first, then the music would come flowing from that idea. For this piece, the opening motif came to me without any pretense and the rest of the piece came tumbling out thereafter. I ended up completing it in less than two weeks. This live recording is from the original premiere performance in 2007 – still by far the best one I have. Even now, six years later, I still love it. Reminds me of all the fond memories I have of my wonderful teacher Bruce Saylor, my fellow music colleagues, and living in NYC. Sigh. Hope you enjoy!

Still Here!

Hello, faithful readers! Thank you for bearing with me through almost an entire WEEK of silence. Shameful! The good news is I’ve been hard at work on some music projects. You can hear one of my latest efforts in the player above. Not only have I been busy, but I have to tell you, being in the dead of summer heat has rendered me culinarily useless. Not to say I’m not still cooking for myself – the starving artist is always throwing tasty meals together. But, the truth is, you’ve seen most of them already!

Fear not, I have some new recipes coming your way in the next few days. Budget is tight for me these days, but I have managed to save up for the August beer garden at Tender Greens, which is this Sunday at 5pm. Very excited and, as always, you can expect a full report here.

Meanwhile, enjoy the music and you’ll be hearing more from me in the coming days.