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Friday, August 28, 2009

My Goldsmith Moment

Jerry Goldsmith was the first composer I really noticed. It happened when my older brother had purchased one of Goldsmith's Star Trek scores. While he listened to it in his room, he asked me if I wanted to see a picture of Goldsmith from the disc's package. I agreed, expecting to see a man in his thirties. I never expected to see what I thought was an old man. His music seemed to energetic, so youthful.

Years passed. I begin purchasing my own CDs, collecting quite a number of Goldsmith's works. As great as it was to hear his music on a disc, I very much wanted to hear his music live.

The Henry Mancini Institute announced a series of summer concerts. I requested a couple of tickets for one of their concerts devoted to film music, having never attended a film music concert before. It would be an even greater treat since Jerry Goldsmith would himself be conducting the event.

It was a beautiful summer afternoon in the city of Los Angeles. The sun was setting into the sea. The occasional cloud drifted lazily in the sky. The campus of UCLA seemed far from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

UCLA is a large place. Having never been there before, I got horribly turned around, ending up in some empty loading/ unloading area. I decided to ask the very next person for directions. As I turned around, a black Mercedes pulled up and parked a few feet from my position. I assumed that meant the person in the car worked at the university and could therefore give me directions. I would ask this person for some assistance.

As the elderly man stepped out of his vehicle, my heart raced. I could not believe that Jerry Goldsmith himself was just a few feet away.

I tread nervously toward him. I had no idea what to say. I could have pleaded for his autograph, or told him I worshiped him as a god, or uttered a thousand other things about his career or the honor it was to be in his presence.

Instead, I cleared my throat and asked, “Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to the Royce Hall box office?”

He politely pointed the way. “Go down that hall and turn right. The office should be there.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

I walked away, having met one of the finest composers of all time.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some Music from the Editor Of ReelMusicOnline

Amateur composers often post their compositions online. I figured I might as well give it a shot.

The first piece, Venture into the Unknown, is an attempt at serious music.

I wrote the second piece of music as a ring tone for a relative's cell phone. I then attached it to a series of short films made for my numerous nieces and nephews.

I used Finale PrintMusic for both pieces of music.

Feel free to comment on them. There will be a regular post on Friday as usual. Thank you for your time.

-Martin Dougherty

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Friday, August 21, 2009

The Disappearing Composer

Nicholas Hooper is gone.

After scoring the two most recent films in the “Harry Potter” franchise (Order of The Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince), the British-born composer has announced he will not return to score the last two pictures.

It is nearly certain maestro John Williams will return to complete the series, after having expressed interest in doing so. While Williams' work will most certainly please both Potter's and Williams' fans, nonetheless it is regrettable to hear of Hooper's departure.

One question comes to mind: What will become of Hooper after “Harry”?

The forked road takes two paths: one towards fame, the other to obscurity. The former is a hard road, traveled successfully by only a handful of people. The latter road is the final destination of many a talented artist. It is the fate of the disappearing composer.

The disappearing composer can be defined as one who scores a popular film or series of movies, then fades away shortly thereafter. This composer may continue to score films, but these later works do not generate the same amount of public interest.

Take Composer X, for example. This composer (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) scored a series of revolutionary science fiction films earlier this decade. The score themselves were revolutionary; packed with postmodern, orchestral atonality and fast-paced electronica, capped by a set of bold, energetic themes. Composer X became the talk of the town. A few years after the series concluded, Composer X's name disappeared off the cinematic radar. One can only hope he will return to score again.

Nicholas Hooper 's notoriety is due mainly to the Potter franchise, and as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart told Harry in “the Chamber of Secrets”, “Fame is a fickle friend”. Just as Composer X lost the limelight, Hooper, too, could find himself out in the dark.

The path to obscurity beckons.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sampling a New Musical Cuisine

Having talent does not guarantee fame. Hundreds of composers go about with little recognition from film score fans. Having fame means having exposure. Fame evades many composers, and therefore they remain in the shadows.

Listening to music from an unfamiliar composer can be like sampling a new cuisine. There are many who would rather not venture out into the unknown, and decide to stick with more familiar territory. For those who do tempt fate, there are so many items on the menu, it is difficult to choose where to begin. It helps to bring a friend along, preferrably one with some knowledge on the subject. The selection is much easier with such help.

The internet can both provide composers with exposure and a fan base, as to give musical diners an idea of what is on the menu.

Here are a few examples:

Back in 2000, PBS aired a documentary titled “Lost Liners”. The documentary focused on such infamous nautical disasters as the Titanic and the Lusitania. It was a well-made presentation with an equally fine music score. Michael Whalen utilized a small ensemble and blended it with an array of sampled instruments. Memorable tracks abound, such as “An Age Gone By” and “Sailing Into History (The Lusitania Theme)”.

The score received a score release at that time. It is still available online. Try pairing this one with a fine book and a glass of wine.

When it was released in 2002, the independent film, “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing”, garnered much praise from critics and won some awards at film festivals. Being an independent film, it played in no more than a dozen or so theaters. It is a shame the film did not attract a wider audience, since composer Alex Wurman provided a fantastic musical commentary.

Wurman delivered an intense and intimate score for small ensemble. The piano and harps dance about the main theme, a playful, off-kilter piece. The reeds add another dimension to the sonic landscape, and provide a greater sense of depth to the score.

Wurman's music did not receive a commercial score release. It was issued as a promotional CD, and may be found in specialty stores.

These two scores are only a fraction of the full course that awaits. Consider these as appetizers to whet the palette for more diverse fare. Bon appetit!

Friday, August 7, 2009

ReelMusic Returns

Greetings. You have found my little site, ReelMusicOnline. Thank you for stopping by.

There exist many great sites covering the art of film music. I figured there was room for another. But first, an explanation is in order.

ReelMusic began as a magazine several years ago. We made contacts, held interviews with some big names in the industry and has a good time doing so. We could have continued if the market could have supported it, but as Egon Spengler said in "Ghostbusters", "Print is dead". Our magazine could not hope to survive.

The internet has taken over what used to be the domain of the printers. Several other film score magazines have since ceased publication. The internet has proven its dominance.

I often look back at the good old days, when I used to look forward to getting the mail. I would search for the latest issue of FilmScoreMonthly among the bills and various junk mail. The magazine kept me busy for the entire day. There was much to see and read in each issue. I expanded my knowledge of the industry, absorbing every little fragment from the numerous articles and reviews.

Although those days are long gone, I sincerely hope that they can continue in some form or forum. The internet is such a forum, where people can get together and discuss this wonderful world of film scores.

To this worldwide forum, I now add my own voice, my thoughts and my experiences.

And so ReelMusic returns.

-Martin