Aggie's Music

I usually blab about film scores on this blog, but I don't mind the occasional tangent towards other interests. :)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Composer Expo, August 4th

I'm just going to quickly plug the Composer Expo that's happening at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on August 4, 2006.

"The artistry and technical craftsmanship of film, television and multimedia music will serve as the focus of the inaugural COMPOSER EXPO, a first-of-its kind event being held Friday, Aug. 4, in the Academy Ballroom of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Presented by Turner Classic Movies and Film Music Magazine, this 12-hour symposium of seminars, panel discussions, networking and learning opportunities will bring together the best and brightest composers, music supervisors and other industry professionals."

I was planning on going, but due to finding this out at the last minute and my molar extraction a week earlier, I'm going to have to pass it. I hope it does well so it can be an annual event; I would definitely go next year. Man, I'm gonna miss David Newman.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Post related to random things #1

Can you ask for anything hotter? The way Elvis sings the word 'witchcraft'... ooooooooh yes! If I get into them harmonizing, I'll faint so let's just move on...

THIS is now in your local music/DVD stores. I'll give you an opinion on it when my mailbox gets it (it'll be in random post #2), but the trailers on John's blog have easily bought me... like witchcraft! Get this DVD now and support more Ren and Stimpy episodes in the future!

I recently bought the score to The Natural (by Randy Newman). I'll review it after I see the film in August with my sissie and bro-in-law. Note: Don't be stupid and review a score without watching the film, okay?

I'm working on a score with an independent Toronto studio called Pinebender Films. I love calling the two guys a 'studio'... hahaha... it sounds big. It's going to be different from what I usually do, but I'm doing what I can to give them the sound they want.. it's their film after all. I might post samples when all is sweetly done.

Enjoy your weekend, fellas.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Listening to Movies: The Film Lover's Guide to Film Music

Listening to Movies: The Film Lover's Guide to Film Music.
Written by Fred Karlin, Foreword by Leonard Maltin
I bought this book in late '05/early '06 in a second-hand bookstore. The price was sweetly cut in half. I finished reading it during my cottage trip a few weeks ago... I'm pretty impatient when it comes to reading... it actually takes a bit of effort now. Maybe if people wrote better novels/stories...
If you're looking for an in-depth analysis on film scoring, this isn't the book you're looking for. Wait until my review for Complete Guide to Film Scoring (by Richard Davis). This is more of a 'jolly good' read for film lovers... anybody, even if you're not musically trained, can understand it. The book deals with a lot of issues when making a score, such as the planning, recording, and mixing.
I'll stress it out now that this book was published in 1994, so it's not up to date with the technology used in studios today. However, I did have a nice time reading the 'flashbacks' of the scoring timeline. Some film composers are more highlighted than others (examples include John Williams, Miklos Rozsa, and Bernard Herrmann) and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, I was hoping to get more info on those who aren't as well-known.
The book is filled with so many examples involving what the great film composers went through, that it makes you feel like you haven't watched enough movies or listened to enough film scores. There's an entire chapter dedicated to analysing eight specific films. I haven't seen a single one of those films, so I had to skip the chapter. They're on the 'to watch' list now.
The book's around 400 pages, but you won't be reading that much. The last half of it holds a short chronology of films (basically quotes and reviews), personal profiles (not that many), and a long list of credits that including many film composers and their films (a star beside a film means it was nominated for an Oscar/Emmy, two stars means it won). I like looking up the list in order to find certain scores, and am currently highlightning the ones I have and putting a dot next to the ones I need to buy eventually.
For the most part, I enjoyed reading it. I'll most likely take quotes from it (like the Herrmann one from the Vertigo post) because they're funny. If you're a film lover and are curious about the process a film composer goes through, maybe you won't mind spending 10 bucks on it. It's pretty old, but covers a lot of basic things. Here's the Amazon link:
"It is almost impossible to make movies without music. Movies need the cement of music. I've never seen a movie better without it. Music is as important as the photography."
-Bernard Herrmann, composer

Monday, July 17, 2006

Ben Hur clip, and a little discussion

What a scene... the way the music runs with the beat of the hammer... catching up to it as it goes faster and faster. This clip is from Ben Hur (1959)... the score was by Miklos Rozsa, another favourite.

Lately, I've been growing more and more of a fan of the classical film composers. Some of the main film score geniuses are Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, and Miklos Rozsa. I have yet to decide on Alfred Newman... I'll need to hear more of his work.

These guys in particular had a lot more knowledge than current composers... strangely enough. I can imagine how much research Rozsa had to go through when he worked on the score for Ben Hur. What's great about them is, simply, their style. They all had something that pretty much no other film composer has today, and a lot of it has to do with their classical approach. I'll need a fresh new post to discuss it in detail.

There's no point in becoming a film composer if you haven't mastered classical music theory... it's oh so important, and I've only finished my first year! With these guys (Waxman, Herrmann, etc.), it's like listening to Beethoven or Dvorak... even greater geniuses! I don't know what happened in the latter half of the 20th century that made this kind of film scoring disappear...

Some exceptions are Randy Newman, David Newman (during the 80s, anyway), and Patrick Doyle... I think they understand the term 'phone-in' better than most film composers, and how to avoid it.

These days, a lot of film melodies are recycled. Take James Horner, for example. I remember, back when I was a kid, I loved his work... had a lot of respect for him. Nowadays, I hear two or three notes of music in a film and I know it's him. It's boring now. I yawn at anything 'new' from him, and that's just... sad. Alan Menken also had that going for a while with Disney in the 90's (eg. Beauty and the Beast – The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

Yay, I left this discussion wide open. Now I can just point at a paragraph and expand on it on a later day. I'm just too lazy right now.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


A positive thing about having a part-time job during the summer (besides the moolah) is it keeps me from unnecessary drinking. Man, I'm bad.

Anyways, this clip is the opening scene from Hitchcock's "Vertigo". The score is done by one of my favourite film composers, Bernard Herrmann... the genius.

Vertigo is one of his best works, even though people will easily put it behind his score for Psycho. Here's a funny exerpt from a film score book I'm currently reading:

As specific as he was, Hitchcock expected his wishes to be taken seriously. Bernard Herrmann, however, followed his own sensibilities. When he saw powerful dramatic values in the edited version of Psycho, he realized it could be a special film. "Hitchcock... felt it didn't come off," Herrmann recalled. "He wanted to cut it down to an hour television show and get rid of it. I had an idea of what one could do with the film, so I said, 'Why don't you go away for your Christmas holidays, and when you come back we'll record the score and see what you think.....?' 'Well,' he said, 'do what you like, but only one thing I asked of you: please write nothing for the murder in the shower. That must be without music.'"
(taken from Listening to Movies: The Film Lover's Guide to Film Music, by Fred Karlin)

Of course, we know the outcome. Sometimes a director will put too much pressure on a composer, with temp scores, personal taste, etc., but Herrmann definitely kept his independence. That's probably the only time I'll talk about Psycho. Back to Vertigo.

The score, at times, can be very complicated classically (the film itself is a lot harder to follow then, let's say, Rear Window), so I'll only talk about the main title scene, which is easily the 'prettiest' part of the score... yes, I'm including all those 'amour' moments. This track has a dizzy-like motion... you don't just hear it... you feel and see it through the spirals on the clip. And then you see the title is Vertigo and you think, 'holy shit, of course!' And after a quick major version (cue the 'prettiness'), the harp comes in and eventually goes faster and faster, spinning almost out of control. It hits you right from the beginning... that's what film scores are supposed to do.

I bought the score to Vertigo about a week after watching the film. If you don't like the prices in the real world, you might like the Amazon price a lot more:

I'll talk more about it in a later post. I wish youtube had some clips from The Natural... oh well. Maybe Requiem for a Dream.