Mark McKenzie.

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Mark McKenzie studied composition with renowned composers Pierre Boulez, Witold Lutoslawski, and Morten Lauridsen. During his formal training Mark was recognized with the prestigious ‘Hans J. Salter Composition Award’, ‘The Norman Cousins Award’, and ultimately was honored as the ‘USC Outstanding Doctoral Music Graduate’. McKenzie was quickly drawn by a love of films to compose and orchestrate movie music. After orchestrating about 70 films, Mark became close to the legendary Academy Award Winning composer Jerry Goldsmith orchestrating his final 7 films and helping him compose when time constraints became impossible. Mark’s award winning original scores have a distinctive musical voice that is expressive and diverse. Directors speak of Mark’s incredibly stirring themes using words such as: “timeless,” “epic,” and “intensely human”. The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Variety, numerous film music magazines and websites often mention Mark’s gift for “ravishing melodies” describing his music as: “magical, majestic, soul-stirring, full of celebration, power, and deep emotion”. His seventeen original scores are available on compact disc through Intrada, Varese Sarabande, and Warner Bros’ Word Records and for digital download on iTunes and Amazon. Outside of film, Mark’s music has also been utilized on the Olympics, the Academy Awards, Disney World, California Adventures, Wimbledon, the Crystal Cathedral, and Disneyland Paris.

McKenzie has assisted other composers such as John Barry, Danny Elfman, Mark Isham, John Powell, Marc Shaiman, Alan Silvestri, and John Williams with his orchestrations. Those orchestrations are available on over 65 soundtracks including the Academy Award winning DANCES WITH WOLVES, Academy nominated MEN IN BLACK, GOODWILL HUNTING, and THE PATRIOT, and blockbusters such as SPIDERMAN I & II, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, BATMAN RETURNS, ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN, A FEW GOOD MEN, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and LILO AND STITCH.Mark is a member of The Motion Picture Academy music branch, The Television Academy, The Society of Composers and Lyricists, and the BMI performing rights organization.

John Mansell: May we concentrate on your latest scoring assignment, THE GREAT MIRACLE. How did you become involved with this project?
Mark McKenzie: First I must say up front that the English title of the movie for the theatrical release has changed and it will now be called THE GREATEST MIRACLE instead of THE GREAT MIRACLE. The Spanish version is still called EL GRAN MILAGRO. The music will still be available under the name THE GREAT MIRACLE on iTunes and Amazon.
As to how I came into the project, Doug Lefler director of THE LAST LEGION and DRAGONHEART: A NEW BEGINNING asked if I’d be interested in submitting my material as a candidate for replacing a score. His high school and college buddy Bruce Morris (Pocahontas, Hercules, and Finding Nemo), was directing EL GRAN MILAGRO (The Great(est) Miracle). When I saw the film, I fell in love with it and proposed that we attempt to create something that would take the movie to a much higher level emotionally. Fortunately director Bruce Morris, producers Pablo Barroso, Claudia Nemer Rodriguez and their partners were on board to invest in the musical forces necessary to accomplish that goal.
We all got especially excited about using the London boys choir ‘Libera’ which came to our attention in multiple ways. Pablo had their CD and I had recently met Libera’s music director Robert Prizeman at a concert in Southern California. We all felt Libera’s pure, angelic sound would add tremendous beauty to the movie. We ended up using their song ‘Far and Away’ as the Main title (check it out on You Tube). In addition, we used the Libera boys choir in three of the most important musical moments in the film: ‘The Benedictus’, ‘Offerings’ and ‘Ascension’. Robert Prizeman did a fantastic job conducting these boys even though they all had to trudge through the worst blizzard of the winter to get to the London recording studio. These boy sopranos and altos are just ordinary kids who love to goof around but when they open their mouths to sing…wow, hearts begin to soar!
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John Mansell: What size orchestra did you utilize for the movie?
Mark McKenzie: The largest group of musicians used was on ‘Offerings’ and ‘Ascension / Gloria Patri’ where we used a total of 129 musicians. For the overall score, we used an 80 piece orchestra, 32 voice mixed choir, 24 voice women’s choir, and then the 17 boys from Libera. Added to that were a large number of pre recorded tracks that included me playing piano, percussion, pipe organ, celesta, and all kinds of other bells and whistles from my studio. Engineer Brian Valentino recorded it and my long time engineer Armin Steiner brought his musicality to the 20th Century Fox Newman Scoring Stage where we mixed it. Marc Perlman, an extraordinary music editor, pulled all the various choir, orchestra, and synthesizer tracks together with painstaking editing.

 

 

 

John Mansell: THE GREAT(EST) MIRACLE is a 3D animated production. Are there many differences between scoring animated productions and live action movies?
Mark McKenzie: There can be large differences if the animated film is for kids with short attention spans where the classic Carl Stalling cartoon style is appropriate. THE GREAT(EST) MIRACLE or EL GRAN MILAGRO tells the story of 3 individuals who are mystically drawn to a Cathedral. As a service progresses, their eyes begin to be opened to the unseen spiritual dimension. In the midst of this, each character finds love, hope, healing and redemption. This film can be viewed by children or adults on differing levels. To Bruce and my way of thinking, the film demanded dramatic and heartfelt recurring themes that weave the visual drama, deep emotions, and transcendent spiritual content all together with unity and wholeness. With THE GREATEST MIRACLE / EL GRAN MILAGRO, you forget that you are watching an animated film. Stunning 3D animated visuals (by Imagica), a powerful story, along with my music introduce you into a realm of pure love, mysticism, hope and the miraculous.

John Mansell: The soundtrack has been released as a download only, this is somewhat unusual, why is this and will it gets a release as a compact disc in the normal way in the future?
Mark McKenzie: The music business has changed very dramatically. Many are trying to figure out how to keep their music viable financially with the widespread sharing, piracy and the plummeting sales of CDs. I’m thrilled and grateful to see some leaders in the European Union taking leadership with world wide intellectual protection on the internet. Till that happens, it’s no surprise that composers and record companies are looking for new ways to make good use of technology to maximize exposure and return on investment. With this score, I spoke to the producers about streamlining the soundtrack cutting out physical production costs. We’ll see if this was a good decision or not. There is no CD release planned but at some point that could change if the score receives awards or if interest and visibility of the score remains strong.

John Mansell: This score has been available a long time before the release of the film. Is there a particular reason for this?
Mark McKenzie: The film was intended to be released on Easter weekend in April of 2011 but at the last minute, it was delayed. The Soundtrack was already up and going so we decided to let it go. Of all the scores I’ve worked on, this is the one that is most personally rewarding to me. I think it has some of my best work. I’m hopeful it will find it’s way into the lives of people who are open to beautiful, uplifting, emotionally engaging, symphonic music.

John Mansell: Your score for THE GREAT MIRACLE is an inspiring and deeply spiritual work, I found the music to be very comforting recently at a time that was difficult for me and my family, it is filled with so many moving musical motifs and passages, it washes over you and creates a feeling that is tranquil and also fulfilling. Inspiration for the score must come from the images or the movie itself, but I think your music in THE GREAT MIRACLE goes deeper than that. Did you draw on your own personal experiences, beliefs and inner feelings to create and shape the music?

Mark McKenzie: My condolences on the loss of your son. In my own life I experienced an unexpected loss while composing the music to ‘Go in Peace’. I decided to dedicate the score to Thomas Patrick McKenzie, my close cousin who I’m sure has gone on to the greatest peace imaginable. Yes, I am a believer in the importance and power of faith, prayer, and in God’s unconditional and divine love for each of us. Gustav Mahler said: “Music must always contain a yearning for what is beyond the things of this world.” That “yearning” or calling out to the divine is one thing that intrigues me about music. Who knows where music comes from exactly? In a moment it suddenly appears; a thought, a feeling, fingers move, a pencil writes notes, musicians perform it with love and excellence and then something beyond description gets created. Love, beauty, life, and the spiritual realm seem quite closely connected in the greatest music. Beethoven achieves this in ‘Missa Solemnis’ and again in the 9th Symphony. Mahler achieves it in the 2nd and 8th symphony. Stravinsky in the ‘Symphony of Psalms’ and Faure in the ‘Requiem’ and Lauridsen in ‘Lux Aeterna’. I keep striving for it.

John Mansell: How many times did you look at the movie before you began to get fixed ideas about what music, how much music would be required, and where the music would be best placed to support the movie? How did you work out your musical ideas, piano, synthesizer, PC or straight to manuscript?

Mark_McKenzie_5Mark McKenzie: I sat with director Bruce Morris in my living room and we went scene by scene discussing the exact entry and exit points for the music, why each was important and what the purpose of the music was. It took us an entire day to do that. After that I jumped right into composing starting at the very beginning of the film. With this score I often would hear themes in my head while out on walks and then would flesh them out on my piano. I shaped them and reshaped them like a potter creating the perfect pot. Beethoven’s sketches show that he erased and changed his music continuously to the point to creating holes in the paper from the repeated erasures. I am not comparing myself to Beethoven in any way, but as a learner from the masters, I incorporate something very similar.
I do create complete symphonic renditions in my recording studio to audition for the director and producer. I’m grateful for Bruce Morris’ masterful direction and his encouragement. My scores are all created with my trusty pencils and my copyist Gregg Nestor copies the parts with great care. On the recording stage, we all worked hard to record expressive, memorable performances as quickly as possible.John Mansell: Did you conduct the music?
Mark McKenzie: Like many composers, I studied conducting and do conduct but I know the difference from a composer conductor and a real conductor who lives, eats and breaths conducting orchestras every single day. I notate the smallest expression, articulation, and dynamic details, and then give it to a great conductor. The two of us collaborate and I generally give my feedback directly to the orchestra. With this score, I was very fortunate to get the “Great Falls Symphony” conductor Gordon Johnson. Gordon studied with most if not all of the great conductors of our century and also has conducted over the past 20 years all the greatest soloists of our generation such as Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell and many others. He is an incredibly expressive and accomplished conductor who brought a tremendous sense of musicality, sensitivity, beauty and expression to all of the recordings and he did so in record time. I hope I can collaborate with him again.

John Mansell: Would adapting the score for concert performance be something that you would consider at all?
Mark McKenzie: Absolutely, I think this would be great fun to perform live with a choir and orchestra in a concert setting; maybe in Spain or here in Los Angeles? I will be submitting it for a Grammy and Academy consideration. If anyone is a member or knows members, I’d be honored to have them take a listen to excerpts at http://www.markmckenzie.org.

John Mansell: When is the film due to be released?
Mark McKenzie: The plan is for a limited release it in theaters in Mexico, South America, The United States and parts of Europe in October of 2011.  This film is a special “spiritual” and “art” film that will need to be treated very carefully so that date could possibly change. I’m sure the details will be found before too long at imdb.com and at http://www.doscorazonesfilms.com.

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Pino Donaggio.

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Pino Donaggio began his involvement with music at the age of ten years. Born in 1941, in Burano, in the Venetian lagoon Italy. Donaggio commenced studies in violin at the Venice Conservatory. He continued these studies at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, and by the time that he was fourteen had become the violin soloist for a performance of Vivaldi Concerti, later he performed with the chamber orchestras I SOLISTI and I SOLISTI DI MILANO. During the 1960,s Donaggio decided to change his musical direction slightly, and moved into song writing and arranging popular music. His work became much in demand and a number of his songs were recorded and performed by some of the worlds leading vocalists, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and Elvis Presley among them. In 1973 the composer was offered a break into film music by director Nicolas Roeg, the director asked Donaggio to score DONT LOOK NOW, which was based upon the chilling supernatural story as penned by Daphne de Maurier. After the success of this soundtrack, Donaggio was commissioned to write the music for an Italian movie entitled CORRUZIONE AL PALAZZO DI GIUSTIZIA ( aka- CORRUPTION IN THE HALLS OF —— JUSTICE, or STREETS OF ETERNITY ), which was released in 1974, The director of the movie, Marcello Aliprandi, and Donaggio would collaborate another five times in the period between 1974 and 1982. In fact Donaggio had scored two movies for Aliprandi prior to being offered a movie that would bring him to the attention of the film music community. In 1976, the composer was assigned to write the score for a Brian de Palma film entitled CARRIE. De Palma had originally wanted composer Bernard Herrmann to work on the movie, but whilst negotiating with Herrmann the famed film music composer was taken ill and subsequently passed away. This left De Palma without a composer, and also a looming completion deadline, De Palma and Herrmann had worked together on SISTERS and OBSESSION, so the director was obviously looking for something which was akin to the style of Herrmann. A friend of De Palma,s had been taken with Donaggio,s music for DONT LOOK NOW, and gave De Palma a copy of the soundtrack album. After listening to the recording the director was convinced that Donaggio was right for the movie, so Donaggio was sent a rough cut copy of CARRIE which had been temp tracked with selections of Herrmanns classic PSYCHO soundtrack, this was to give Donaggio an idea of what was required, the rest as they say is history, CARRIE the movie went onto attain cult status and was acclaimed by all who saw it, and Donaggio,s atmospheric and tension filled score gained much attention and recognition, and placed the composer firmly on the film music map.

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De Palma once said of Donaggio, ” Pino Donaggio is always able to create the right musical solutions for moments of suspense, but he also has the ability to maintain an aire of sweetness and lyricism which I feel is necessary in my films”.After this first encounter with the directorial talents of Brian De Palma, the composer was hailed as the logical successor to Bernard Herrmann, Donaggio worked with De Palma on a number of movies after CARRIE, and their artistic partnership always proved to be an original, interesting and fruitful one. HOME MOVIES, DRESSED TO KILL, BLOW OUT, BODY DOUBLE and RAISING CANE, are all perfect examples of image and music working together to create the desired and most effective atmosphere. Donaggio also worked with director Joe Dante on two of the filmmakers early projects, and provided the director with excellent soundtracks for his rather tongue in cheek horror flicks, PIRANHA and THE HOWLING. Both of which the director made before he hit the Hollywood big time with GREMLINS.Although Donaggio easily fits into the category of a busy and successful film music composer, he has not really scored any movie that can be called a blockbuster. The composer says that he puts this down to not moving to America, ” I suppose, I should have uprooted myself and gone to Hollywood when they asked me too, I instead decided to stay in Italy, and I must admit I missed out on doing further work with Joe Dante, which was a shame, I also missed the opportunity to work with Ridley Scott, and compose the scores for OLD GRINGO, THE BELIEVERS and SAIGON, to name just three, this is because when they called me about these movies, and proposed that I work on them I was always working on something else in Italy, which was invariably for a friend, and a small production”. Donaggio is certainly well know and respected for his film music compositions, and there is no doubt that the composers style or sound is particularly qualified for the horror and thriller genres, but like Bernard Herrmann, Donaggio is also capable of producing tender and subtle works that are rich in melody and highly emotive when employed in the correct situation. He is still one of the busiest composers that is working in film music today, and has well over 100 film and television score to his credit, and is able to bring something fresh, original and exciting to listeners with each new score. Although Donaggio was not part of the Italian western whirlwind that took Europe by storm, he like many Italian composers was involved in the scoring of westerns but it is probably his music for the horror genre that he is most recognized for, he continues to write for film and still has a busy schedule.

 

Enzo Masetti

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If Italian film music had its equivalent to Erich Wolfgang Korngold or Max Steiner, in terms of influence and talent, I would have to say that is was Maestro Enzo Masetti. This composer/arranger and conductor, was born on August 18th 1893 in the industrial town of Bologna in Italy. This was at a time when moving pictures were little more than a new creation and a new craze that was sweeping the world. Masetti displayed a natural aptitude for all things musical and enrolled at the Bologna music Conservatory. He graduated from there in 1920, at first the composer decided to dedicate himself to the composition of music for the concert hall, and penned various symphonic works and operas. Masetti set out to become part of the classical group of composers that would succeed Pietro Mascagni and Ottorino Respighi It was during the mid 1930,s that Masetti started to become interested in writing music for film. By this time filmmakers had woken up to the fact that music could play a very important role within the film industry, and to have a good score was vital to the success of a movie. Masetti, became the natural choice for many filmmakers, his classical training and also his discipline as a composer of symphonic works stood him in good stead with many film producers and directors. The composers first assignment as a writer of film music came in 1936 when he scored CAVALLERIA, which was for director Gofredo Alessandrini, this was followed in 1937 with the score for TOMB OF ANGELS and then in 1938 with LA CACCIA ALLA VOLPE NELLA CAMPAGNA ROMANA. As the 1940,s dawned Masetti became one of Italy’s most in demand composers, he would often work on 7 or 8 movies per year. He scored productions such as THE GORGON (1942), JEALOUSY (1943) and ENRICO IV in 1944. Masetti employed a unique style for his film scores, the composer leaned towards the romantic, but also was capable of creating dramatic and atonal music, which were the right credentials for a composer of music for the cinema. By the end of WWII Masetti was still one of the busiest composers in Italy, and scored a handful of productions that were given an international release these included the acclaimed THE GATE OF HEAVEN in 1945.
In 1946, Masetti was one of the first composers to receive the Nastri d’Argento award for Best Score for his music for MALIA. The Maestro also began to teach at this time, passing on his wealth of experience to aspiring musicians and composers. Masetti,s students included Mario Nascimbene, who went on to become one of Italy’s busiest and most respected composers. During the years1948-1949 he wrote a book entitled La Musica nel Film, which was published in 1950. This soon became popular and also was used as a standard point of referral for film music within the Italian film industry.
Enzo Masetti remained one of the busiest film music composers throughout the 1950,s and scored movies such as HERCULES and HERCULES UNCHAINED, both of which became popular both in and outside of Italy. was one of the busiest screen composers in Italy for another decade, His music for both of these peplums display the maestro at his best , providing the movies with rich and dramatically expansive scores, that also contained some lush and haunting romantically laced compositions. After scoring HERCULES UNCHAINED (1958), Masetti retired from writing film music. He passed away on Feb, 11th 1961.

Gianni Ferrio.

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Gianni Ferrio, was born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy on the 15th of November 1924. He originally intended to become a doctor and began to study medicine during the 1950,s completing his studies at the University of Padua. However the composer soon realized that it was music that he was destined to be involved with and not medicine. He studied violin with Mariano Frigo and also expanded his musical studies to harmony, composition and musical direction under the tutelage of Amerigo Girotto and Arrigo Pedrollo.

In 1953 the composer began an intensive period of recording activity with the CGD IN Milan. He worked with many artists during this period of his career these included Teddy Reno, Jula de Palma and Johnny Dorelli. In 1959, Ferrio scored his first motion picture, which was a war/comedy, GUARDATELE MA NON TOCCATELE, the movie starred Ugo Tognazzi and Johnny Dorelli and was directed by Mario Mattoli. This was followed by TIPI DA SPIAGGIA in the same year, which was also directed by Mattoli and had Tognazzi in the leading role. In 1960, Ferrio scored his first western movie entitled UN DOLLARO DI FIFA the movie was another comedy and was directed by Giorgio Simonelli and yet another vehicle for actor Ugo Tognazzi, although produced in Italy this was not what is now referred to as a spaghetti western as it was released before the Italian western genre as we know it had been created. The 1960,s was a busy and fruitful period for Ferrio, he wrote the music for numerous motion pictures during this period and began to create his own unique sound as a composer starting to put his own distinctive musical stamp upon numerous examples of films which encompassed many genres. Like so many Italian composers who worked in film during this period Ferrio scored many westerns at this time and although he was a composer that was involved heavily with this particular genre he never really conformed to the utilization of the “ITALIAN WESTERN SOUND“.
In fact it is probably true to say that Ferrio created his own unique sound for the westerns he worked upon, on many occasions infusing a style that was somewhat jazz orientated. Unlike many of the other Italian composers that were active at this time, Ferrio very rarely collaborated with any other writer on his scores, in fact the one thing that linked Ferrio to others involved in the western genre was the choir IL CANTORI MODERNI, as Ferrio often used these and their director Alessandroni on his soundtracks. He did collaborate with Ennio Morricone on FORT YUMA GOLD, but this was we are told not a collaboration in the true sense of the word, meaning that each composer contributed compositions to the movie, with Ferrio’s contribution being the greater.

The composer scored many key examples within the Italian western genre, these included, SENTENCE OF DEATH, DESPERADO, PER POCHI DOLLARI ANCORA, JOE CERCATI UN POSTO PER MORIRE, EL DJURADO,AMICO STAMMI LONTANO ALMENO UN PALMO, MI CHIAMAVANO REQUIESCAT and one of the last Italian westerns produced CALIFORNIA. Ferrio,s style is instantly recognisable, and the composer makes excellent use of the percussive elements of the orchestra, he invariably combines percussion and woodwind to achieve a sometimes dramatic and highly original sound. As well as writing for the cinema the composer has also written numerous scores for television and has worked prolifically as a song writer, composer and musical director for artistes such as, Astor Piazzolla, Toots Thieleman, Luis Bonfà, James Taylor, Jerry Lewis, Mina ,Caterina Valente, Ellis Regina, Ornella Vanoni, Milva and Gigi Proietti. His music has enhanced and supported approximately 120 movies and many television projects, he has worked with numerous directors, including: Ermanno Olmi,Luigi Zampa, Miklós Jancsó, Giorgio Capitani, Steno, Duccio Tessari, SergioCorbucci and Marco Ferreri. In his latter career Ferrio remained active and conducted the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra in a number of concerts. Ferrio is in every sense chameleon like when it comes to scoring motion pictures as he seems to be happy writing for, Westerns, Giallo,s, Comedies, Sex and psychedelic capers, Romantic tales and also horror and adventure stories. He is an original and also an accomplished composer but considering his immense output it is surprising that he is still virtually unknown outside of Italy and the European continent, unless of course you happen to be talking to a fan of Italian film music. The Maestro passed away on Ocober 21st 2013. He will be missed greatly….

Benedetto Ghiglia.

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Italian composer Benedetto Ghiglia was born on December 27, 1930 in Fiesole Italy. Information about this Italian Maestro has been very difficult to obtain as he has for most of his career avoided interviews and press releases. He came from a family that was very musically orientated, his Father was Oscar Ghiglia renowned and respected classical guitarist. Ghiglia began to score motion pictures during the early 1950,s his first soundtrack being for a documentary entitled DELTA PADANO. He then scored on another short documentary film entitled MADRIGALE D’ATTUNNO in 1954. The composers first foray into scoring an actual motion picture was in 1965 which was for the comedy LA BUGIARDA, directed by Luigi Comencini and starring Catherine Spaak.
During his career the composer has written scores for over thirty movies, these have been varied in genre but the Maestro has always produced original sounding works what ever the subject matter. Surprisingly he scored just five Euro/Italian westerns, but these were all key works within that genre. ADIOS GRINGO (1965),STARBLACK aka JOHNNY COLT and 4 DOLLARS OF REVENGE both in (1966) and A DOLLAR IN THE TEETH aka A STRANGER IN TOWN and EL ROJO both in (1967). Ghiglia had his own particular style when scoring westerns, the composer relied upon echoing and vibrant percussive elements within these scores and also created haunting and fairly simple themes which he fused together with Mexican sounding mariachis  to create supportive scores that served the movies well and were also entertaining away from the images. The composer worked steadily throughout the 1960,s 70,s and 80,s working on spy thrillers, robbery capers and adventure tales and scored his last movie in 1997, which was the documentary,
GALEAZZO CIANO UNA TRAGEDIA FASCISTA. But as the 1970,s dawned the composer did slow down his involvement with scoring movies and began to concentrate on his own particular work. Benedetto Ghiglia passed away on July 4th 2012, aged 89