Scoring for Alan

After all my work on film I’m finally doing some scoring. I’ve dome film adaptations of my work as a director and producer, and I’ve done producing and fundraising work on other people’s films, but I haven’t done any film scoring proper.

Alan Jeffries helped out with the Summer’s Twilight reading in December, and again on the documentary about Thornton Willis. Right now he’s finishing up a film about two clarinetists and their time at Juilliard, and he needs a couple sound cues to finish up the piece, which is screening at the First Run Film Festival in April.

We’re still pretty early in the process, but one thing I’m enjoying so far is that a lot of the skills that are necessary to do good film music on this scale are very similar to what I do most of the time with theatrical music, only easier. Let me explain. In my theater music I try, more than anything else, to match each musical moment to the story, and convey the character or the mood or the action. I know everyone will hear every note, and that the music has to carry most of the weight of the story, and so I pay a lot of attention to tiny details. For these scenes in Alan’s film, I’m trying to convey just the mood of the scene, and not the action or the characters. The footage and the interview text will do that. All the music is doing is adding color.

The main goal here is for the music to enrich something else, and then to get out of the way. And it’s kind of refreshing to be focusing on something that won’t be the principal focus of the audience. I still get to obsess over every detail, but there’s less pressure.

Also, the timescale I usually work on in theatre is fairly short. That is, each phrase tends be to different than the ones before and after. The music changes in character a lot. In these cues the music needs to stay basically the same for two stretches of two minutes each. That gives me a lot more time to play with chord progressions and go after all my favorite harmonies and melodic contours while staying in the same sound world. I love the music I write most of the time, that’s why I write it, but it’s nice to get to play around with this other approach.

And one last thing, the movie itself looks really cool. The subject is the life of a performing musician – is it viable? profitable? just plain ridiculous? And that’s close to my heart. What’s more, Alan’s a great filmmaker and this film looks like a really impressive take on the matter, and where we are now as a field of classical musicians. If you’ve got a chance, be sure to catch it at First Run.

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