As most of you know, I was orchestrator and conductor on “Elysium” which came out a few weeks ago. I had a great time conducting at Abbey Road and I’ll be sharing with you a few notes I made from my time on the podium.
ELYSIUM NOTE #1
The indication “Tr.1/2” could be interpreted as either half-step/semitone trill or only half the section doing a trill and the other half ord.
It is clearer and more universal to write accidentals with the trill sign like so.
Or if many notes are performed using trills in succession, to use “S.T. Trill” (semitone in UK and half step in North America), or “trill s.t.” instead of 1/2.
Using “1/2” which we read as “half” is really just for North America since we say “half step” and note “semitone”.
So if you are headed to Abbey Road, remember: semitone.
[/frame]I have heard this many times “you are so lucky to have your music played by live musicians. That is my dream.”
During the recording of the score for “Primary”, my friend Brian Campbell ( recording engineer) said he understood why composers use samples rather than live players: perfect intonation, no microphone bleed, no noises from chairs, clothes, breathing, papers or noisy instruments etc…I will tell you now, luck has nothing to do with it.
Using live musicians is a lot more work. And costs money. And takes more time.
Low budget productions don’t even consider live players these days. When I offered it for “Primary” the answer was “really? We would love to but there is no money.” I explained the costs and options and it became a possibility. The director was on board and we made it happen we what we had. Same exact scenario on “Comforting Skin.”
But it wasn’t luck.
- I found viable options to make it happen in terms of players, engineer and studio space. I have built some great contacts here over the years, so it’s possible.
- I sold the idea to the producer and he found a bit of extra money that I could budget with. The point is that most film makers want live music, it adds to the film; live is production value that goes on the screen.
- It was low budget so I did all writing, orchestrating, part and score prep. So that was a ton of work that meant I had to work twice as much.
- Using live musicians on a low budget means a lot of careful planning because of fewer options. More things to keep track and more can go wrong.
- The reality is that using live musicians I sacrificed time and money. I could have kept more of the money and had less work.
The other argument against live musician is a tight post production schedule, which happens a lot. I had to deliver an entire feature film score in a month, which is not the shortest schedule ever, but pretty short when doing it on your own. It broke down like this.
- Week 1: sketches and concepts for the score. Discuss with ¬†director and find direction. Choose instrumentation and start making phone calls.
- Week 2-3: Write the score. Send mockups and get approved.
- Week 4: Orchestrate. Score and part prep. Send MIDI/tempo map and time stamped pre-records to mixer to prep ProTools. (Note: I also had some orchestration work on a major feature during this time, so it was very busy and I had to pace myself ¬†well to make it all fit.)
- Record score.
- Week 5: edit and mix. Deliver.
The bottom line is: You want live musicians? I know I do. So do it.
For me, having been writing for real musicians for so long, I can’t stand being limited by samples. I don’t want to¬†write down¬†to samples. ¬†There are many moments while recording “Primary” that it was clear why live was vastly superior to samples.
While I was in the studio, listening to my expressive cello lines and tender clarinet tunes coming¬†to life through great players, all the hard work was worth it. I did feel lucky then.
PS: A side benefit of stubbornly using live musicians on my own scores is that it led directly to my gig orchestrating on “Elysium” and “Ender’s Game”.
I had great intentions to keep this site more up to date with analysis of music and film scenes, but things got a bit busy. And in the meantime this site has gotten more and more visited and popular.
So I have been thinking to provide small thoughts on film scoring in a more manageable format requiring less time and preparation, but still providing valuable insights.
I will start that asap, but in the meantime, here’s a look at what kept me busy for a bit: I was orchestrator and conductor on the big budget film “Elysium” by director Neill Bloomkamp (“District 9”.) The film stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster and is coming out in August.
I was in London at the famous Abbey Road in London conducting the orchestra there for three days. It was my first time there and as you can expect, it was a wonderful experience. Here are some pictures.¬†
Hello, hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day.
The film I scored a while ago called ‘Comforting Skin” had a run at Slamdance recently and is now heading out to a variety of other festivals, getting some well-deserved attention.
Here is a short video from the scoring sessions for “Comforting Skin”, conducting a chamber ensemble of very talented players.
You can read more about the film on my website where I have a page dedicated to the film.
The score makes use of many contemporary harmonic and orchestration devices. I am thinking that it could be insightful to share some of these in both score and audio form on “Getting the Score”, if that is something you might be interested in. Let me know in the comment box!