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!

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