Music, Memory & Macca

Hi all! Quick note on this very worthy website & touching example of the potency of the linkages between our life experiences and the music that has had the most effect on our lives. If you haven’t seen this yet, please do check it out! Smiles and tears in equal measure ahead:

It’s pretty obvious the role that music has had in this man’s life; the change in his face and posture and level of animation tells it all! It’s probably a fair guess to say he’s a musician besides – the man certainly can sing. It’s very moving to see this man’s responses, and is also a very sad commentary on the level of personalized care that we provide to many of our seniors, when something so simple can immeasurably improve quality of life.

For those of us fortunate enough not to be languishing in a faux-vegetative state (yet), there’s a lesson here as well. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had these kinds of experiences with music, where certain songs can instantly transport us back to a particular place and time. For me, this one places me at the Pine Cone Trailer Park in Sussex, New Brunswick (and some very flattering reviews of the park can be found here – nice to see it’s still a great, kid-friendly place!), playing pinball in the rec center, in the summer of 1976.

So double nostalgia on a day like this, when the days are getting longer, Spring is in the air, and even though I haven’t been in school for years, I still feel like summer vacation is just around the corner. Such is the power of a simple tune, and such is the power that music can bring to your production, be it a film, game, advertisement, TV show, or most any other visual medium! Got musical needs? We oughta talk.

In the meantime, though, what about you – what songs transport you? Let me know either here in the comments section, or here, or here!

Fifty Five Years!!!

Today, in keeping with thoughts over the past few weeks about the nature of collaboration, I just want to raise a toast to this man:

According to the Internet Movie Database, John Williams first began writing music for visual media back in 1956 for the TV anthology Playhouse 90, and now, 55 years later, the man has two films opening in a couple of weeks (Tintin, the trailers for which can be seen here and War Horse, which you can preview here). That the man has been so blessed to be plying his trade for so long is amazing…that he has been a pretty much constant collaborator with Steven Spielberg, the director whose work he is most associated with, since 1974′s The Sugarland Express is incredible. That both of the abovementioned films are Spielberg films, mammoth projects that must have had incredibly complicated, overlapping production schedules, is beyond comprehension! The creativity and energy these guys bring to the table is estimable, to say the least.

So, how does something like that happen? It’s a combination, I think, of good fortune, of two people sharing a common vision, of persistence and flexibility, and, after a long enough period of working as team, of the emergence of a sort of “shorthand”. Here’s Spielberg’s thoughts on this very process, in a recent interview with Mark Harris (and thank you to MSN Entertainment for streaming it!), about “War Horse”:

While I haven’t been in the fortunate position be have a long-time collaborator like Mr. Williams (I haven’t had 55 birthdays yet, let alone a career that long), establishing trust and a musical shorthand is key to any collaboration, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to build a vocabulary with some friends and partners, particularly with forces to be reckoned with like Lara Cassidy, Bunthivy Nou, and Joshua Young. As 2011 winds down to a close, I want to thank these folks for their trust and openness and eagerness to communicate – and hope that 2012 will bring many more creative partnerships like the ones we’ve shared so far – if you want in, I’m an email or phone call away!

Happy Holidays!

Collaborations both Old and New

Hey guys! Two things of note this week. First of all, for those of you fortunate enough to have TCM as part of your cable subscription (sadly, not me), here’s some news about some very cool programming. I make no bones about it, hands-down my favourite film composer of all time is John Williams. There are others who are, perhaps, more eclectic in their instrumentation or compositional styles (Thomas Newman comes to mind), or who have cornered a niche and style so thoroughly they’re almost a genre in themselves (hello there, Danny Elfman!), but for sheer “goosebump moments”, I can’t think of anyone who’s contributed more to the art of film composing, having managed to make both great films into iconic pieces of pop art, and elevated so-so films into something truly memorable just through the power of his music. The actual screening date for this episode of “The Art of Collaboration” has already passed, but I’m assuming that reruns are plentiful on TCM, so you might want to keep an eye out for this (I’m counting on it screening over the holidays, when I will be around folks to have TCM…yes, I’m looking at you, father and sister). Looks terrific!

Introduction to the Art of Collaboration

Oh, and I have an additional little treat I want to share with you all! My good friend from New Brunswick, author and illustrator Tony Bastarache, took it upon himself to make me a mascot! Well, actually he made me mascotS. Here’s what the man (totally unsolicited, I should add…as in the case with the “Wheel of Fate”, I consider myself very blessed to have such generous friends!) came up with:

"Mad Scientist" Evil Twin

"Mad Scientist" Evil Twin

"Mad Conductor" Evil Twin

"Mad Conductor" Evil Twin

Nifty, huh? I’ve added a poll to my Facebook Page asking which one people prefer, and I’ll toss the same question out here. If I had to go with one official Evil Twin character, which would you choose. Either offer a comment below or drop me an email with your favourite (“Mad Scientist” Evil Twin vs. “Mad Conductor” Evil Twin…or is there a third variation you think would be even better?), and I’ll announce the final decision early in the new year!

Incidentally, Mr. Bastarache is busy preparing his children’s books, but is hoping to have an official website and blog running very soon. In the meantime, if you have any words of encouragement or messages you’d like to pass along, please let me know, or post them here – he follows the blog, so will be delighted to hear from you!

And that’s it for this week…see you in December, folks!

Tunes that go bump in the night…

Hi Friends!

Throughout the weeks to come I’m going to be offering a mix of my own thoughts and experiences in the world of music for the media, and at other times, I’ll be treating you to some odds ‘n’ sods ‘n’ bits of internet flotsam that come across my desk. This week’s entry felt like a good place to start because it’s about a genre of music that’s near and dear to my heart, because Fall is just around the corner and it’s never too early to post some Hallowe’en-ey thoughts, and especially because it’s a wonderful example of the vital role that music plays in supporting visual images.

Great and indelible motion picture images are often paired with unforgettable music – think about some of the iconic scenes from classic thrillers, and imagine them without their underscore. Imagine Janet Leigh being stabbed by Norman Bates without Bernard Herrmann’s slashing strings…imagine how less palpable the sense of dread of an anticipated shark attack would be without John Williams’ infamous “duh DUH duh DUH duh DUH duh DUH” ostinato…imagine trying to relate to Damien Karras’ crisis of faith before going mano y mano against the Prince of Darkness in The Exorcist without Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells to support it.

The article from The Guardian that I’m sharing today is a great little primer on some essential horror film scores – I really like how it focuses on some of the innovative work that lesser-known artists like Goblin brought to the table in the ’70s, plus a bit of a clarion call for how innovative compositional and sound design tools ought to be employed to bring new sounds to this most venerable of film traditions as we move further into the 21st century.

Check it out and let me know what you think. What’s your favourite horror film score?

From Goblin to Morricone: the art of horror movie music | Film | The Guardian.