HomeNews Archive
About the FMS News & Events Membership Merchandise Resources & Links Contact Give Facebook
 
>Print this article  
FMS FEATURE...

September 26, 2007
Academy Hosts "The Music Soundtrack" Series
First of three-parter features top composers Schifrin, Fox and Kaczmarek by Jon Burlingame

Lalo Schifrin, Charles Fox, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek and Charles Bernstein

Lalo Schifrin, Charles Fox, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek and
Charles Bernstein

HOLLYWOOD — A near capacity crowd filled the Linwood Dunn Theater Thursday night to hear three top film composers – Lalo Schifrin, Charles Fox and Jan A.P. Kaczmarek – discuss their art and craft as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences launched a three-week series called "The Music Soundtrack: A Composers' Forum of Contemporary Scoring Technique."

Academy music-branch governor Charles Bernstein (the composer of such films as A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Oscar-winning documentary Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision) served as moderator of the three-and-a-half-hour event.

The evening opened with examples of different musical approaches to the same scenes, using the DVD of Torn Curtain with the rejected Bernard Herrmann score and John Addison's replacement music.

Schifrin – a six-time Oscar nominee whose work includes Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, Dirty Harry, Mission: Impossible and the Rush Hour films – talked about the changes that technology has brought to his part of the business as well as "the amount of insecurity" that now seems to afflict many filmmakers.

The result, he said, was two "detrimental" elements that occur prior to a composer recording his score: the "temp track," temporary music that is often assembled by "aspiring [or] mediocre composers," in his words, that often determines the musical direction of the film; and the "mockup" process, in which a composer is expected to create precise electronic demos of what the final cues (individual pieces of music) will sound like.

"This is not a way to work," Schifrin said, calling the mockups "sterile, antiseptic – they have no life. There are emotions that happen with live musicians," he pointed out, along with the "overtones" that are produced when real instruments are played as part of an ensemble.

Kaczmarek – the Oscar-winning composer of Finding Neverland, Unfaithful and Evening – agreed that the temp track can be "damaging" but also felt it could be a "helpful tool" when used properly. But these additional burdens, he said, sometimes make it "a never-ending battle to find your own voice" when composing a new score.

Fox – the Grammy- and Emmy-winner who is best-known for such songs as "Killing Me Softly" and TV themes like Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, but also a composer of such feature scores as Two-Minute Warning, Foul Play, The Other Side of the Mountain and 9 to 5 – addressed the issue of writing film music as just a part of a larger career. "You can't be a film composer until you're a composer," he said, noting that many individuals now come to film with little training in musical composition.

Both Schifrin and Fox indicated that, back in the 1960s and '70s, there was no "temp track" to be emulated. Directors would listen to them play piano demos of themes and selected cues but otherwise trust their composers to do what was dramatically right for their films.

Fox also pointed out that, when he first became interested in electronic music in the 1960s and began utilizing it in films in the 1970s (notably on the William Castle film Bug, originally titled The Hephaestus Plague), the idea was to "discover new sounds," not "emulating flutes" to save money on musicians.

Bernstein asked about the creative process when composers first begin working on a new film.

Kaczmarek talked about "instinctive, spontaneous reactions" to the film when he first sees it, writing music that he later revises when, as he put it, he goes into "a trance" near the end of the composing process.

"Music and film both happen in time," said Schifrin. "They have rhythm and pace. The mission of the composer is finding the rhythm." He cited his work on John Boorman's film Hell in the Pacific, in which he asked for the sound effects of the cicadas on the island in order to compose in the same pitch for piccolos.

He also elicited audience laughter when he discussed the problem of having already signed a contract to score a film based on a script and the film has turned out badly. "I lie to myself [and pretend] this is the best picture ever done," he said, in order to find sufficient inspiration.

Kaczmarek discussed the variations between European filmmaking techniques and those in America. He said American films contain much more music than those in Europe and was concerned about this because "you can kill the sense of drama by overloading" a film with music.

"I see us all as dramatists," Fox said later, "making the film better. A good director wants the creative input of the composer he's chosen," he added.

"The Music Soundtrack" continues on Sept. 27 with composers Mychael Danna, Mark Isham and Rolfe Kent, moderated by Bruce Broughton; and Oct. 4 with composers George S. Clinton, Michael Giacchino and John Powell, and music editor Mike Flicker.

©2007 Jon Burlingame

back to top
 
Search
 
Past Features
 

02.27.2017
Oscar Music Swept Up in La La Land

Ceremony featured Best Song performances by Timberlake, Sting, Legend

12.28.2016
Classic Film Music on Disc: The Best of 2016

Ellington, North, Goldsmith, Rorem, Schickele among top recordings

12.20.2016
Why the Arrival Score was Disqualified

Composers Johannsson, Richter explain what happened

12.16.2016
Thomas Newman, Diane Warren Honored as SCL Ambassadors

Composers Poledouris, Rose added to Hall of Fame

Feature Archives
 

09.26.2007
Academy Hosts "The Music Soundtrack" Series

First of three-parter features top composers Schifrin, Fox and Kaczmarek

09.12.2007
Beal, Fenton Score Again at 59th Creative Arts Emmys

TV Academy honors music from wide range of programming

09.10.2007
Erich Wolfgang Korngold Celebrated at USC

Concert and exhibit lead a two-month tribute to Golden Age composer

09.05.2007
Hollywood Bowl Salutes Paramount Pictures Music

Leonard Nimoy hosted; David Newman conducted-to-picture some of Hollywood's greatest scores

>2017 Archive

>2016 Archive

>2015 Archive

>2014 Archive

>2013 Archive

>2012 Archive

>2011 Archive

>2010 Archive

>2009 Archive

>2008 Archive

>2007 Archive

>2006 Archive

>2005 Archive

>2004 Archive

>2003 Archive

>All Archives

Home Copyright © 2002-17 The Film Music Society, all rights reserved.
About the FMS News & Events Membership Merchandise Resources & Links Contact Facebook