First, apologies for not posting in a while. I’ve got a symphonic debut at Benaroya Hall (Seattle’s version of Lincoln Center) on March 18th, and I’ve been incredibly busy proofreading the score and editing parts. But it’s generated a lot of post ideas, so there’s some good stuff coming down the pike.
I just heard about an awesome-looking series of events called The Art of Music that take place a few times a year at the Bleicher Gallery in Santa Monica. The next installment of this educational and networking event, entitled Sound=Music, focuses on composers whose work blurs the boundaries between sound design and music. Special guest Diego Stocco, famous for making instruments out of trees and flaming pianos, will lead a “master class” on sonic innovation. And at precisely 7:14, composer Nat Evans, known for his mesmerizing and evocative soundscapes, will perform a poetic accompaniment to the Santa Monica sunset.
The event will also feature excellent networking opportunities, an open bar, a raffle (allegedly with prizes you actually want), and some great giveaways. The event is limited to 150 attendees and usually sells out, so reserve your ticket now.
I assume many of you out there use either Finale or Sibelius for your notation needs. If you’re not aware of fellow Seattleite Robert Puff’s blog, Of Note, you should be. It’s a treasure trove of tips and tutorials for both programs.
Recent posts include quickly deleting unison notes in Finale, two methods for creating Grand Pauses in Sibelius, and techniques for creating both boxed and free-floating aleatoric notation in Finale. If you’re like me, mastering your notation program can be a difficult path. Robert is a tremendous resource for anyone needing more out of their software!
Here’s an excellent post from Deane Ogden (of SCOREcast fame) on getting the most out of your creative day and maximizing your composing time. Deane discusses topics like preparing for work, composing tools, scheduling your time and avoiding TV and meetings.
This is essential reading for anyone who’s serious about their composing career. While you’re there, Deane has many other great articles about creativity and the music business to inspire you. But be warned: he tells it like it is and doesn’t sugar coat the truth. If you take his advice you’ll likely end up working a lot more than you are now, but you’ll work smarter and faster, and likely improve your music and your career immeasurably.
I recently discovered this wonderful set of ebooks by Montreal composer and professor Alan Belkin. He’s got books on musical form, counterpoint, harmony and orchestration, as well as several other articles and essays. I’ve spent the most time with the orchestration book (since I’m currently orchestrating a symphonic piece for a March performance), and it’s excellent. I found it to be simple, straightforward, and full of great advice. Some of it is fairly common-sense and basic, but I never mind being reminded of the fundamentals, especially for something as complex as orchestration. The other books seem similarly well-written and instructional.
Incidentally, Belkin also authored the annotations to the online version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Principles of Orchestration, available at NorthernSounds.com.
In researching the best scores of 2011, I’ve been doing a lot of rooting around on the internet. One of the sites I’ve spent a lot of time on recently is Filmtracks.com.
Filmtracks, produced by Christian Clemmensen, is a rather gargantuan and impressive undertaking for a single person. Clemmensen has allegedly written over 1.3 million words of soundtrack commentary in the site’s 16 years of operation. Filmtracks generally reviews more recent movies, especially top box-office draws. It does cover some older scores, but per their guidelines, rarely anything before 1975.
Clemmensen is clearly a lover of great film music, and is well-versed in it’s language and traditions. He can be harsh at times, but personally I appreciate a more stringent reviewing style as long as the reviewer has done their homework and uses consistent standards. As close as I can tell, Clemmensen does just that. He’s tough, but fair, and definitely does his research. He reviews the scores both in relationship to the film and standing on its own (a valid approach, since in my mind great film music must work both ways). In some cases, such as the Lord of the Rings scores, he even reviews the various editions of score CDs available—helpful if you’re looking for the best version of the soundtrack to buy.
All in all, I greatly appreciate the work that Filmtracks does, and I often consult the site before or after seeing a film to find out if their experience matches my own. I usually learn something in the process.
Here’s a cool website to check out: SoundWorksCollection.com. The site is mainly geared towards sound designers and not composers, but there are still a decent number of videos about music alone (or more often, sound and music).
Of particular note, there have been excellent videos recently on the music of Cars 2, The Fighter and 127 Hours, as well as the video games Angry Birds and Halo Reach. One quibble: clicking on Videos > Original Soundtracks doesn’t bring up a complete list of music-based videos, so you’ll need to search through the archives a bit to find the videos on film music.
I recently helped judge a best original score competition for a small local film festival. The entries were the definition of “a mixed bag.” Some were clearly the work of gifted film composers, while others appeared to have been recorded by someone’s boyfriend’s band. The differences between the two approaches was striking.
The film composers knew when and where to place music, and what to write to support the scene. The music followed the arc of the scene in what was sometimes a magical way, and several created an entire world for the movie, giving it a strong sense of place, time, or mood. The music enhanced the films in question, and elevated them above what they could have been otherwise. These scores sometimes even took a mediocre film and made it significantly better, causing it to feel more professional, more exciting, and better executed than it actually was.