Category Archives: Interviews

TALKING TO COMPOSER, ARRANGER and PERFORMER JERRY GRANT.

Jerry Grant began his musical career as a rock/jazz musician, starting performing for what we now know as Motown records in Detroit. He has written for the concert hall and contributed scores for motion pictures and television series. I would like to thank the composer for taking the time to answer my questions and also for his many contributions to the world of music in general. 

 

 

 

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You were born in Detroit, and early in your career worked on a number of recordings for Motown, how did you become involved with the recording label and what recordings do you have fond memories of?

This was my first experience of putting on a headphone and playing for recording. The company was not yet called Motown and we sweetened some rhythm tracks that did not yet have a tune. And I heard that these tracks were given to several riders to create tunes for so we never knew what we were playing for.

When you were studying music you focused upon saxophone and also flute I understand, when you are writing a piece how do you work out your ideas, piano, saxophone, flute or PC?

I use a keyboard and a computer sequencer which I have used since 1986. Sometimes I will play my horn and come up with lines but mostly keyboard.

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How did you become involved in writing music for films and television and was this something that you set out to do?
I saw a movie called friendly persuasion when I was 14 years old. The films score Mesmerized me, and I thought, this is what I’d like to do. The road was long between that day and becoming a film composer, but the process gave me wonderful and invaluable experience to hone my craft. I got my college degrees in music with an MA in composition. I worked in the studios as performer & arranger for pop tunes, started my own 12-piece jazz fusion orchestra 1971 and use it as my laboratory. I used that group and a couple of other techniques to get my way into TV writing.

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Would you say that there is a vast difference between scoring say an episodic tv series and a feature film?

 
Composition is no different, creativity is creativity, but the orchestration differs vastly since a TV speaker was 2 inches and the cinema screen is large with a better sound system. A TV show needs to be done in a few days and you draw on the theme and the predetermined style of the show whereas in the film you create a much larger conception of interlaced and hopefully cohesive kinds of cues with a new style for the film.

 

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Do you orchestrate your music for film or do you at times have to utilise n orchestrator because of schedules etc?

I always orchestrated my own work. I was considered a very good orchestrator facile and quick. Plus, the budgets of the films that I worked on did not allow that luxury. I aimed for another level of film, but circumstances did not go in that direction.

Your score for HIRED TO KILL has just been released by Movie Score Media, did you have any involvement in compiling the tracks for the release and will we see any more of your film scores released in the near future?

I had nothing to do with the compilation of the tracks. Several shorter cues were combined to make a longer piece. My approval was asked and I thought whoever did the job did a great job.

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You worked on 65 episodes of THE SECRET WORD OF ALEX MACK, with a series such as this are the deadlines tight and do you ever recycle certain cues from previous episodes and use them in others?

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I may have used ideas but never actually cues since each individual Cue requires timings and certain hits so you’re better off starting from the beginning instead of trying to use a shoehorn to make a cue fit. I was lucky with Alex Mac even though the series didn’t pay a good fee I did negotiate the minimum time that I had to do an episode which was five days.

 

QUANTUM LEAP was quite popular in the UK when it was aired, what size orchestra did you have for this series or did this vary depending on what each episode required musically?

The orchestra varied depending on the needs of a particular episode it ranged from about 26 pieces to 40 pieces.

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When you started out you worked as a jazz/rock musician and you have fused these styles of music with the dramatic more symphonic kind within your film scores, do you perform on your soundtracks or TV scores?

I learned a lesson early in my career where I produced a dance album, did all the arranging and played on the dates. During the mix I thought, why did I let that go by and not re-record. So, after that I never played on any session that I was producing or arranging.

You have worked in many mediums, documentaries, movies, TV shows and also written for concert hall performance, I know none of these can be called easy tasks, but is it easier writing for the concert hall as opposed to writing a film score because there are no timings or sound effects etc?
No, composing is not any easier however, I get a little fussier with concert music only because I can. Sometimes that is a mistake because with TV writing, sometimes you have to say to yourself, that will work or that’s good enough. The reality is, I should do the same in concert music Because if I fall into the trap of saying, I’m going to write a great piece, I am doomed and can’t come up with anything because nothing is good enough.

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VIEW FROM THE MOUNTAIN is an album that you are involved with can you tell us about this and how it came about?
In Los Angeles I had a 13-piece jazz orchestra called the Nujazz Alternative. After a 25-year hiatus from my first fusion band, I organized it at the prodding of my recording musician friends. After I moved from Los Angeles to Grass Valley, the availability of L.A. level Musicians just didn’t exist. So, with my computer and synthesizer chops I decided to make the Nujazz Alternative a virtual orchestra. Since I was performing again, I played on the album and broke my rule number one that I made a long time ago, which was,” never play on something you arrange or produce”.

 

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What is your opinion of the increased use of electronics and samples in contemporary film music?
Use whatever is at your disposal. Stravinsky could take two spoons and make a good piece. However, in some cases it has allowed musicians with very little training to write for various mediums only because their uncle was the producer. Sometimes pushing a single note on the synthesizer with a great patch becomes a Cue. And I’ve seen that many times.

 

What composers classical or otherwise would you say have had an influence upon you and in the way, you maybe write or perform?
Certainly, Stravinsky, Bartok, Barber, Berg in the classical genre and Gill Evans, and a slew of other jazz writers including Gerry Mulligan and Progressive rock musicians like Emerson, Lake and Palmer add to the mix.

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Going back to HIRED TO KILL, what size orchestra did you have for the score and how much time did you have to write and record the score?
The budget was small because it was a small budget movie. However, I was able to create a 35-piece orchestra to do the job and also pre-recorded about 12 tracks of synthesizer to augment the orchestra to sound like about 70. Some of the cues only required a few musicians so I had a couple of sessions with small groups like maybe 6 to 10. Like so many other movies this was a package deal, so you need to make the decision about how much money you want to put in your pocket versus how you want the music to sound versus the requirements of the film.

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When you are asked to score a movie, how many times do you like to see the film before beginning to work out what style of music you will write and where the music is best placed to serve the picture?
I only watched most of the movies once and then went back and spot viewed them. Usually the film is spotted with either of the director or the producer so that everybody’s on the same page. However, Niko never sat down with me so the decision for spotting was strictly mine. I would pick his brain when I could, but he never actually sat down and decided where the music should go. As you can imagine, this is dangerous since the Director never hears the music until it goes to the dub stage.

What are you working on now?
I recently finished a prelude for a piano solo and a commission for a brass festival in Portugal. That piece is for trombone, tuba and piano, Titled Sonic Games. I’m currently writing a couple of jazz pieces for trombone solo and strings since my trombone friend loves strings. This is kind of a flavour, but it gets me to stretch a bit too.

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TALKING TO THE COLLECTOR.

RANDALL D LARSON.

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What was the movie that got you interested in film music and was this your first soundtrack purchase or acquisition?

That’s an easy one – it was ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST that first woke me up to both the power of cinema storytelling, and the power of music to really electrify the dramatic intersection of film and music. My general musical awakening began with The Beatles in 1964, and I’m still a rock and roll geek, but the emotional dynamic of film music when I watched the restored ONCE UPON ON A TIME IN THE WEST on its TV debut that evening in 1972 is what really changed my life, and launched my collective passion for both film music and cinema.

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I quickly discovered a record store in San Francisco that carried imported soundtracks and shortly the LP was mine. It wasn’t the first soundtrack I bought, my budding interest in movies led me to acquire a few previously but I don’t remember what they were; but Morricone’s OUATITW is the first soundtrack I bought that mattered. I was a die-hard collector from that moment on. I’ve since found that most members of my generation got into film music via maestro Morricone – or if not him, then John Barry’s 007 scores did the trick to open our minds into the excitement and pathos of film music.

 

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I know you have a really varied taste when it comes to film music, new, old etc. Do you have to see a movie before you decide to buy the score on a recording, or is it a case like most collectors that you buy on past scores by composers?

It’s usually the composer that attracts me to buying the soundtrack, although there have been plenty of times I’ll see a film and my liking of it or its score will prompt the quick acquisition of the soundtrack album. After a while, though, in order to maintain my professional familiarity with film music when I began writing, reviewing, and publishing about the medium, I pretty much tried to buy all the film score soundtracks as I could. Of course that was easier back in the 70s and 80s than now, when nearly every film has a soundtrack release in one form or another. I still try to keep up.

What composer or artist would you say dominates your film soundtrack collection?

Morricone, easily. My collections of most other major composers are pretty complete but because of (a) Morricone’s sheer prolific output and (b) my near-life-long love of his music, I try to keep up with his work above all others.

There have been many formats on which soundtracks have been released: record, tape, 8 track, mini disc and CD/download, what format do you favour and did you or do you sometimes purchase vinyl?

I grew up in the era of 8-tracks but never got into that format. When I started out, of course, it was vinyl all the way. These days, with few exceptions, I can’t afford to buy modern 80-gram collector’s release quality vinyl soundtracks, but I respect the medium and agree the analog purity of the sound remains the most honest interpretation of music outside of live performance. But I collect mainly on CD, mostly because of the clarity of its sound quality – no pops, scratches, or other noise inherent to vinyl to distract me. I’ve never really collected on cassette tape, except when that was the only form used by some collectors to privately trade unreleased scores with. Through financial necessity or the medium of choice for promo copies to reviewers, I’ve been making due with digital releases – and finding as my ears get older that the sound quality of digital mp3/wav downloads is more than acceptable. With neighbors nearby and pets in the house I rarely have the opportunity to crank up the speakers and really get to shake the shelves anyway.
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What is the most expensive soundtrack you have purchased and have you ever regretted not buying a soundtrack when you had the opportunity to do so?

Oh yes, I’ve kicked myself early on when I didn’t or wasn’t able to buy a collectible soundtrack when I should have. As a collector I’ve learned that if I find an expensive but affordable deal on a rare soundtrack, I better pick it up right then because if I don’t, the likelihood of finding it again at that price probably won’t come around again. The most expensive box set I bought was the “Danny Elfman & Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box” in 2011, and second to that was the DOCTOR WHO “50th Anniversary Tardis Box Set” in 2013.

Aside from those “routine” expensive box sets, I think the most I’ve paid for a single rare soundtrack CD has been around $100-ish.

 

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As well as music from movies I know you are passionate about the horror genre. When did you first become interested in horror pictures and what films do you normally go for, classics or maybe the newer more gory productions?

I like almost all kinds of movies – but I tend to specialize in horror/s.f./fantasy genres because I grew up as a huge fan of them, and so it’s become a niche that I focus on as a film music journalist. But I love all kinds of movies in all genres and all periods, although I do tend to favor action thrillers within those genres more than dramas, with some notable exceptions. I’m not a huge fan of gore by the cement-mixer-load, but I’m not adverse to it either.

 

There’s a place for the moody style of James Whale and Val Lewton just as there is for Clive Barker and Eli Roth, and I respect and enjoy both. A non-genre film, CASABLANCA, is my favorite early-to-mid 20th Century movie, but then HELLRAISER is in my top ten my favorite horror films. Space for lots more in between. I also try and keep up with European and Asian film music as I can.

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Do you think that contemporary film music is as good as say movie scores from the 1960’s through to the 1980’s or would you say that because film music is evolving all the time, we must be more acceptable of differing styles etc.? Do you lament the way in which contemporary scores seem to omit any real themes as music to open the movie and to close it?

I tend to like more styles of film music than I don’t, and I’m not a strict critic as long as the music is pleasing, engaging, and functions appropriately. I find as much to love about contemporary film music as I do about that of the Golden and Silver ages, and I welcome all approaches is they meet that pleasing-engaging-and-functional standard. While I do miss the use of melodies and real themes in a lot of modern film music I am not opposed to the rhythm-based/sound-design-styled approach where it’s warranted. That said, I do find that some modern scores lack honest musicality in favor of seemingly random noodling on acoustic or electronic instruments, much of which I consider a functional failing; but I’ll willing to give them a try. I feel that sound design scores have really amped up the fear factor in horror films, for example, and that works great – but not all horror films need or deserve that kind of approach. A favorite horror score is Humphrey Searle’s THE HAUNTING, which has the benefit of utilizing both styles quite effectively. I also respect and admire Zimmer & Co’s film music as much as I do that of the old masters; I grew up with rock and roll so I can admire the tonal rhythm-based approach even though I’m a sucker for a melodic orchestral score – both have the power move me emotively.

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There are many soundtracks that remain unreleased, if you could release any of these what would be your top five list, and maybe tell us why?

My top pick for an unreleased score is definitely Gerald Fried’s score to ROOTS. With all due respect to Quincy Jones’ music for the African scenes, Gerry Fried gave us the heart and soul of the story once it reached the U.S. His main theme is a heart-breaking melody and his folk- and Americana-based material is wonderful. A second would be the previously mentioned Searle score for THE HAUNTING which has been criminally ignored for decades. Equally of personal interest albeit not on par with either Fried nor Searle are the scores of composer Jaime Mendoza Nava who provided some very memorable and effective scores for dozens of low-budget genre films during the ‘60s and ‘70s, but all of his film music has been evidently lost, as far as we’ve been able to tell. A lot of Hammer horror scores can use a visit from Tadlow, as only a few of them have been issued on CD or compilation soundtracks. I used to add the Universal horror and science fiction scores to the list, but Messrs.’. Morgan and Stromberg have done a fine job of availing these scores in thunderous re-recordings, though there’s still a lot to mine from these genre jewels.
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Before the arrival of the CD how many LP Records did you have in your collection?

That’s hard to remember nowadays, as I have not kept any records of my records, so to speak. Most of them have been sold when CD versions replaced them. Probably a few thousand I’d guess.

How many soundtracks would you say you had in your collection, all formats?

I keep a database of all my music collections (I also seriously collect a dozen or more genres of rock jazz, blues, pop and other forms of music) so I am assured that as of today I have 12,381 soundtracks in my collection in all formats including digital. I’m a collector at heart, of course, for both personal and professional reasons, and try to maintain a wide collection since I write about film music daily and need to maintain my expertise current and up-to-date.

 

 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER ARTURO CARDELUS.

Arturo Cardelus is one of the brightest rising stars in the film music arena, his scores are emotive and filled with passion and haunting themes. Born on December 27th 1981, he is an accomplished pianist as well as a talented composer and conductor of  music for film and TV and the concert hall.

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Can you remember what your first memories of any type of music were?

When I was three years of age I had an accident that almost cost me my left eye. Because of that I had so many surgeries and was not allowed to play sports with other kids. I had to spend a lot of time in the hospital or lying on the couch and thanks to that I started listening to music. My dad had a classical music collection. I became obsessed with Beethoven, and that was the only music I listened to for several years.
What for you is the most important thing that music can do for a film?

To create emotional depth, to add what images can’t explain.

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ALTAMIRA THE ORIGIN OF ART is such a beautiful score, what is the musical line up for the soundtrack, I mean by this what is the percentage of conventional instruments compared with any electronic support?
It is mostly conventional instruments. There are a couple of tracks where we blend synths and orchestra, but it’s mostly classical.
In 2012, you orchestrated the score for the film THE PAPERBOY, was this your first foray into film music and how did you become involved on the film?
It was my first involvement in a feature film. I was working at that time for Mario Grigorov (the composer of the film), mostly assisting with technical issues, and he asked me if I would be willing to orchestrate for him. I was thrilled! It was a great opportunity.

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Do you think it is more difficult scoring a documentary as opposed to a fiction film?

Every movie is difficult in its own way. I find the process both fascinating and terrifying. Scoring a film is not an easy task.

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What musical education did you have, and whilst studying did you concentrate upon one area of music as you are a pianist I am guessing you also studied the instrument whilst you were studying music?

I studied classical piano performance before switching to composition. I studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music, Franz Liszt Academy and the Conservatoria Superior of Salamanca, then I switched my focus and studied composition and film scoring at Berklee College of Music.


When you are writing the music for a movie, do you approach it in any set kind or order, for example main title through to end themes or is there no set way of working?
It depends on the director. I prefer to start on the main theme and grow everything from there, but some directors like to work differently.

 

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Do you work out your musical ideas at the piano?
Unless it’s an electronic score, I like to start at the piano. To me it’s the most natural way to start the flow of ideas.

 

How many times do you watch a project before beginning to create the score?

Before starting two or three times, and once I start, probably a thousand. 🙂

 

 

Are there any moments within any of the films you have worked on where you felt that it was probably better not to have any music?
That’s usually my default approach. I like movies that use very little music or almost none. My “battle” with every director is that I always feel we are using too much music. We are getting used to scores that work almost wall to wall. I think that devalues the power of film music. It becomes like noise in the background and therefore less meaningful.

 

How much time were you given to score ALTAMIRA and how much music did you compose for the film?
Around 5 months, and I think it was around 40 minutes of music.

The CD release will be released soon of ALTAMIRA have you been responsible for compiling the tracks for the release, I see there is also music included on the release from another project, SWIMMING IN THE DESERT, can you tell us about that movie also?
Swimming in the Desert is a short film directed by Álvaro Ron. It tells the story of a little girl and her grandpa trying to make a plan to get water for a river that’s drying out.

 

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When you are asked to become involved on a project, for you what is the best time to start on it, maybe at the script stage or is it better to wait for the rough cut of the movie?
I’ve started with the script in a couple of projects, and it’s great because I can start planning and creating themes, but I don’t really know the score I’m imagining until I see the images.

 

What artists or composers would you say had an influence upon you and maybe your approach to writing for film?
My biggest influence is classical music. I try to listen to a lot of different styles of music, and I enjoy and learn with most of them, but nothing inspires me more than Beethoven, Bartok, Mozart, etc. As for film music, my favourite composers are Rota, Morricone, and Badalamenti.

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BUNUEL IN THE LABYRINTH OF TURTLES is such an impressive movie and your music is charming and emotive, what size orchestra did you have for the score, and where did you record the soundtrack?

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We recorded at Abbey Road (Studio 2). We used a small ensemble (23 musicians) and a 50-piece choir.
Do you think animated movies need more music or at least more expressive music?
I think music in animation plays a crucial role. You need more music, and the music has to be more active and flexible. You often have two or three cues per minute, while in live action that’s not that common.

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Do you conduct at all and do you orchestrate your film scores or listen from the control room?
I do both. For Buñuel I conducted some cues, but most of the cues were conducted by my friend Alfonso Casado, an amazing conductor. I prefer to listen from the booth so I can have a better sense of the big picture.

Your scores are very lyrical and filled with rich themes, what do you think of the current trend in film music to employ a noise over a sequence or a collection of drone like sounds?
I’m not a big fan, but I have to admit it usually works great with the images.

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Do you perform on your soundtracks?

I perform most of the piano parts.

 

Call me FRANCIS is a four part series for NETFLIX when you do a series such as this is do you score the episodes in the order that they will be shown, or do you score sections of each episode, and will there be a CD release of the score as it is again stunning?


Thank you very much! I don’t think there’s going to be a CD, but I can ask. Call Me Francis was a double project, first a movie and then a TV miniseries. I composed the score for the movie first, and then I added some extra music for the TV show.

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You have written music for concert hall performance, is writing for film more restricting do you think for the composer?

 
Yes. There are a lot of decisions that are made before you even start writing, and then it’s a very collaborative process.

 

What is next for you?

 

Working on a thriller and a dramedy. I’ve never done anything for those genres and I’m very excited about it.

My thanks to the composer for taking the time to answer my questions at such a busy time.

TALKING TO COMPOSER,ARRANGER,CONDUCTER AND PRODUCER JOSEPH RENZETTI.

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Composer Joseph Renzetti, has worked on a variety of motion pictures, but started his career in music working on different genres of music that were related to the world of popular music, he worked with numerous artists including Barry Manilow, and was responsible for a number of songs that we refer to as classics nowadays. 

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You worked with director, Gary Sherman a number of times, did he have specific ideas about wat role the music should have within his movies and did he suggest the style or sound of scores that he thought his movies required?
Gary had many excellent ideas of what he wanted the music to do dramatically, to have input into the style of the music of course – Rock, instrumental, electronica, Orchestral, etc. Gary would leave it up to me how I fashioned the music emotionally to the film.

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You were born in Philadelphia, but re located to Hollywood, where you worked on THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, I understand you not only worked on the score but trained the actors in how to play instruments, but did you move to Hollywood specifically to start to write music for movies?
Yes I did. I had a very successful recording career as a guitar player and as a record arranger. After I arranged “Mandy,”(Barry Manilow) and it was a big hit, I decided it was a good time to move into LA and cash in on my success, it worked.

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What musical education or training did you have? 

I was for the most part self-taught and I studied hard. I studied composing, music theory, film scoring from the Henry Mancini book. Fortunately I got to write for all the instruments in the orchestra and the Rhythm section by arranging records for people. It was a time when because of technical advances in recording, you didn’t have to be a big record company to get into the record business. An arranger was the “software” of the day. He was the person who could actually write the music for the musicians to play, and make it sound like a hit record. No synthesizers, no Pro-Tools needed-just a pencil, score-paper and a good copyist.

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Were there any or indeed are there any composers or artists that you think have played an important role in influencing or inspiring you?

The first time I heard a group of professional musicians recording in one of the great studios in Philadelphia, playing arrangements by Dave Apple, I was hooked. The sound was like nothing I ever heard, and I wanted to do that. Dave Apple was my first mentor. He was the type of guy that would allow me to hang around the studio and see how things were done. Also, there were two brothers in Philly at the time, both excellent musicians, Tony Louis and his brother Don Louis. Both were musical geniuses and they shared their knowledge with me.

 

CHILDS PLAY contains a great score, how did you become involved on the movie and were you aware that Bear McCreary utilises elements of your central theme into his score for the re boot of the film?
I had scored a lot of cult films; Basket Case 1 and 2, Vice Squad,
Frankenhooker, dead and buried, the exterminator, wanted dead or alive, and the Studio Film – Poltergeist 3. So when my friend, the Musical supervisor on the Film David Chackler, recommended me I was Brought right in.

By the way I don’t think McCreary used any of my music in the film score. I believe it was just in the album cut, unless you know differently. I haven’t seen the film.

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Do you think that it is possible for a good score to improve a movie that is probably not that good?
If it’s the type of film that’s just on the borderline, yes music can turn it into a good film. I have done it. However if the film is truly not interesting, not dramatic, of no relative interests to moviegoers, music can’t help. I’ve also done one or two of those.

On the other hand, and this is more common, bad music can actually ruin a good film. I see those efforts all the time. This is usually caused by directors who think that music is basically sound effects. They don’t have the experience to work with a film composer. A FILM composer understands drama as well as Music.

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At what stage of production do you like to become involved on a project?

I like to read the script before they start shooting if it’s possible. In this way I could start to gather some sounds and do some demos. Often because of the subject matter in the type of film , it’s important to do some research. You must know the subject matter that you will be dealing with.
I like to create some synthesized Mock-ups In my Project Studio Using midi sequencers, synths, outboard gear etc. In this way you get a jump on what the director and producers might want to hear when they finish shooting, when post production starts. This temp-Music might serve them to play on the set to inspire the actors. It might serve as temp-music in the score as the editors are cutting it. And this way you’re not waiting for the last possible moment to get the score done. Everybody wants the score yesterday.

If it’s a musical type film like the Buddy Holly Story , then of you have to get involved in pre-recording the music, supervising the play back on set. It’s a different kind of involvement. It’s total immersion.


In recent years film scores in general have become more soundscape than actual musical soundtrack, what is your opinion of the increased use of the DRONE effect in film scores?

 

The drone is ancient, a basic part of music of all countries, times and cultures.
Where would Bag pipes be without them? Basically it’s a long tone. There are short notes and long notes, and some in between.

It’s not that drones are bad, it’s the people who use them. There have been many great films, scores written using drones. It’s all in the execution.

I like to play them in real time following the drama of the film. I watch the film and manipulate the volume and expression of the drone to match the Emotions in the scene. I did a lot of that in Childs Play, the original.

Also keep in mind that a drone is not necessarily one note, or one instrument droning on, it could be a combination of textures and tones. These can vary within the drone for a very dynamic dramatic effect.

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Staying with contemporary scores for movies, the main theme or central theme as we know it is also becoming something of a rarity, do you think that this is just a phase that the industry is going through, or maybe the theme as in main title is gone for good?
I see themes from the perspective that there are no limits to what devices the composer today can use. In the early days of cinema, it was almost a given that a theme had to be incorporated. Yes, this is less so today, but still often used.
A theme doesn’t have to be a phrase of notes. It could be a musical sound cluster, an instrument playing, playing anything. The instrument then becomes associated with a character, storyline, it becomes a theme.

 

How long do you get to work on a score for a feature film, or does this vary on each assignment?
It’s all about time and budget. There is no one standard answer to that question. I literally have done the score over a weekend, ( Vice Squad) a very basic score only using four Instruments. I’ve done films using a full orchestra. They took two months to write and record. (Under The Rainbow & Child’s Play)

With any film the composer never gets enough time. That’s why I prepare in advance; have ideas sketched out; start doing some cues and playing them for the director to see if I’ m in the right direction. Rather than waiting to the last minute.

 

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Do TV and Feature films differ a great deal in the way you work on them, or is it a case of scoring them in pretty much the same way?
I think I take the same approach in both. I always try to create the best that I can and I like challenging myself that way. I think the budgets, the time constraints, The quality of the show, the experience of the other creators involved, that makes the difference from one score to another. Of course there is the obvious; a film is usually over an hour and 40 minutes long, whereas TV shows are a half hour or one hour in length.

 

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Do you have a set routine in the way you work on a project, for instance is it important to have a central theme to use as a foundation for the score, or do you prefer to tackle the less thematic cues first?
I like to try and do one of each type of cues. For example if there’s three or four chase scenes, I like to do one and use it as an example of how I intend to handle all the chase cues in the film. In this way you’ll know that the director likes the way you’re going to handle a chase or not. And if there’s corrections to be made all you have to do is correct that one Chase as compared to doing all four.

Then carry that out; do one of the romantic cues, one of the comedy cues, one of the horror cues, etc. etc.

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What were your earliest memories of any kind of music or maybe an instrument that you were attracted too and were you from a family that was musical?

 

The guitar. Later I fell in love with all the instruments in an orchestra. As for a musical family, No, but a lot of artists were in my family. They could sing harmony, play a little bit of mandolin or a ukulele, so music was always around me as a child.

 

 

How many times do you like to see a movie before you begin to formulate ideas about the style or the placing of the music?
When I first see a movie I try to watch it as a regular audience member. Because you only get first impressions once. I write these impressions down so that as I score the film I can refer to them as a guide; what type of cue is needed where. As you’re scoring, you can’t help but to watch the film Many times. So you get to know the film quite well.

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TALKING TO COMPOSER ALEXANDER BORNSTEIN.

Alexander Bornstein is a composer who has created numerous haunting and innovative musical scores for film. Alexander is an award-winning composer who is currently based in Hollywood. His attractive and compelling musical scores have been heard on both television, independent films, feature films, web series, documentaries in the festival circuit, and also concert halls around the U.S. His style is not one that is instantly recognisable but it is one that is always inventive, enriching and inspiring. The composer has also been at the forefront of new multimedia platforms, composing music for one of the first Virtual Reality television series. He has also provided additional music cues for various TV shows and movies working in collaboration with a number of well known movie music Maestro’s. SCHEMATIC, Alexander’s debut album, was released in 2017 and is available on various music outlets online. 

 

 

 

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The first thing that struck me about your score for FIRST TO THE MOON was the sound and the style that you employed, it is a contemporary sounding work but also has to it a vintage of silver age film music sound, by this I suppose I am saying it contains real themes that are developed and have substance, which is something that is becoming rare nowadays. What size orchestra/electronic components did you have for the score and how did you become involved on the project?

A: I’m really glad to hear the silver age stylings came out! As a composer, I tend to not get too mired down in what style or other composer I might be emulating—there’s usually not much time to be so self-reflective. However, the silver age is where my love of music began so it’s definitely an undeniable inspiration even if there might not be such an ostensibly obvious homage. For FIRST TO THE MOON, I discussed with the filmmaker early on that I wanted to definitely have a more modern sound which usually means synthesizers and many layers of percussion. However, it was essential that there was a main theme to tie all those disparate things together. We also were able to record some of the score live with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra which obviously adds a completely unmatched power. Samples have come many light years in quality, and I work with them daily, but feeling live musicians performing your music can just never be matched. However, we were cognizant to not lean too far into sounds people already associated with space—in one instance, a solo trumpet. I hope that the resulting work is an interesting hybrid of a few different styles.

 

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What would you say are the differences between scoring TV projects and motion pictures?

A: I think TV puts a composer in a much longer form style of writing, where you can develop themes endlessly over many seasons if the show is successful. I also really enjoy the consistency and ability to become very efficient at writing music on a tight timetable—a challenge facing composers for centuries! Conversely, movies can allow for infinitely large palettes, a closer ended musical structure, and have the opportunity to be seen in a movie theatre which is still probably the most exciting way to watch a story.

 

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Going back to FIRST TO THE MOON, the soundtrack was released on digital platforms and also a compact disc I understand, do you involve yourself in the compilation of the soundtrack album at all?

A: Very much so. FIRST TO THE MOON’s soundtrack album was assembled by me after finishing the film. My goal was to take what I thought were the highlights of the score and assemble them into what I thought made the best musical impact away from the film. An example of this is placing ‘The Good Earth’ as track three, even though it isn’t used in the film until the final third. That particular cue is also a favourite of mine, so I also wanted it to be heard closer to the start of the album.

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What musical education did you have, and what would you say were the first memories of any kind of music?

A: I studied Jazz Piano/Arranging at the University of Central Florida before attending New York University to get my Master’s in Music Theory/Composition. My emphasis at NYU was in film scoring, but I also wrote a lot of concert music since there is such an incredible pool of talent in New York that wants to play new music by living composers.

BECOMING APOLLO 8, is a standout cue on the score for FIRST TO THE MOON, (the entire score is excellent) I think this is very much in the Jerry Goldsmith style, what composers or artists would you mark as influences for you?

A: Thank you for the kind words! I’m really glad that cue had an impact on you and is definitely a highlight for me as well. Goldsmith is one of my favourite composer’s, so your comment is extremely high praise! In addition to him, I’m very enamoured with silver age composers like Lalo Schifrin, James Horner, Elmer Bernstein, Basil Poledouris, Alan Silvestri, and Bruce Broughton. More contemporary favourites are Joe Hisaishi, Hiroyuki Sawano, and Johann Johannson.

 

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Do you have a set way in which you approach a score, by this I mean do you tackle larger cues first and then work on smaller cues, or do you prefer to have a central theme and build the remainder of the score around this?

A: My goal at the beginning of any project is to come up with some foundational idea for the score, be it sonically or thematically. Ideally, I am able to lock down both but there are times where one influences the other or the palette is abstract enough to not be traditionally thematic. I remember on several projects where I would have a theme, but the overall “sound” didn’t materialize until well into my process of composing. At that point, I then have to retroactively apply these things to previous cues so there’s continuity.

Have any of the movies or projects you have worked on had a temp track installed, if so is this a tool that you think is useful or maybe distracting?

A: I typically find them to be very useful tools. As musicians, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is versed in the ability to communicate what they want my music to be doing. Temp tracks alleviate this collaborative struggle significantly and ultimately allow everyone to arrive at a solution faster.

 

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What was you first assignment as a composer on a movie, and how did you become involved on this?

A: A very good friend of mine was making a feature length film in college and he asked me to be involved in composing the score. It was a terrifying and thrilling experience having to come up with almost an hour of music, but at the same time pretty much cemented that this is what I want to be doing for a career. I constantly remind my friend that without his encouragement it’s hard to say where I might have ended up.
What would you say is the purpose of music in film?

A: I don’t think there is any “one” correct answer per se, but in my opinion music is there to act as a character in the film. Like characters on screen, it develops, reveals more of itself to the audience along the way, and ultimately arrives at some kind of climax. Music needs to be participatory in the film it’s in so the audience can feel themselves fall into the world that the filmmaker is trying to create. The difference between us and the actors on screen is that we are simply performing out of sight.

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Is orchestration an important part of the composing process?

A: Absolutely. I always orchestrate as I compose and when things get handed off to an orchestrator, I am explicitly clear with what I’m trying to achieve. A great orchestrator also brings their expertise though, and many times improves or enhances what you’ve already done. That being said, simply knowing something like how and when to use a synth pad or where you can play a melody on a certain instrument is related to orchestration. I find this even more true as composers are writing in sequencers with gigantic instrumental palettes at their disposal. We have to be versed in many instruments and arranging styles to make sure they have the greatest impact possible.

How do you work out your musical ideas, by this I mean do you use piano, keyboard or a more contemporary method?

A: I work things out at a piano for a bit since it needs to be compelling at any level of arrangement, then dive into Cubase and begin composing. DAWs are completely ubiquitous in composition now, so the cue will always be born in that software. On particularly dense or long cue’s, I will always do a piano sketch that indicates what needs to happen (be it with synthesizers or a full orchestra from winds to strings) then arrange into the orchestra or ensemble for that project.

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Have you ever given a concert of your film music, or performed it in concert, and do you perform on your film scores?

A: To be honest, I don’t think I’ve amassed enough music worth a concert! Maybe someday!