Yearly Archives: 2009

The Long Beach Comic-Con screening went quite well. Another one just happening in Atlanta at a post facility, just wanted to make a note of it here. I’ll keep a lookout for reviews which turn up online. From Creative Loafing:


(NR) (2009) This independent animated film comes from two Georgia-native screenwriters. The classic kung fu myth told with Southern flair debuted at the Portobello Film Festival in London, where it received a nomination for Best Animation.

Free. 6:30 p.m. Thurs., Oct. 15. Lab 601, 997 Brady Ave. N.W., #100. 404-876-4601.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

I’m working with 2 directors who are using the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in their films. Never a bad choice. The piece is cinematic in the extreme, even though it was written a hundred years before film was invented.The BIG moment in Misery uses it. Certainly because the Moonlight Sonata is expressing something deep about romance and obsession. The scene unfortunately adds a layer of strings to the melody, but that seems not to detract from the, er, impact of the scene.

(This is NSFW, only because if you haven’t seen it before, you will likely shout quite loudly when the big moment, um, hits…):

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

I just finished a score for “Goodbye Mr. Jordan”, which is a Scary Cow film directed by Marc Stayman.
The film will show at Victory Theatre, 2961 16th St, San Francisco at 3pm on Sunday October 4th
Scary Cow’s doing a good job of bringing together Bay Area film artists (they have an info session this Wednesday if you want to get involved).

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

Recording the score for Dixie Dynamite was quite a bit of fun – we recorded over 70 minutes of music with Japanese instrumentalists playing with a southern rock band. There is one cover song – Freebird, for the climactic kung fu fight – which I arranged with a taiko ensemble and an epic shamisen solo.

Dixie Dynamite is playing in London at 1pm at the Tabernacle, as part of the Portobello Film Festival‘s final day this Sunday the 20th.

Dixie Dynamite will also play at the Long Beach Comic-Con, as part of the film festival there. The film’s animation has a real comic-book look. It’s playing Sunday October 4th at 1pm (you can download the schedule).

I will be at the London showing and probably will make it to Long Beach too.

Here’s one of the songs from the score, “Bad Luck Man”:

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

The music in this clip is satisfying on so many levels…of course the obligatory fast tempo for a chase, but then the metal percussion and chord changes inside the pipeline, the triumphant brass when Coyote catches Road Runner, and the timpani roll as the camera looks up at the giant Road Runner.Sure, it’s a bit obvious, but it’s just so darned fun. Dean Elliot scored lots of kids cartoons in the 70s and 80s, this clip is from 1980:

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

From Hayden To Ives, a sampling of dramatic musical pauses.

My favorite from the article is Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture (it’s the 4th clip in the article).

However the drama of the pause does somewhat depend on tempo. Here’s a version where the tempo is much faster, and the silence somewhat less dramatic:

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

When does a film not need music? Sometimes, the lack of music explicitly helps the story.The Office’s pretend-documentary format is more convincing without music. And the humor depends on rapid dialogue punctuated by awkward pauses. Music fits concept and style.

No Country for Old Men is practically without music (very light music creeps in only occasionally). Anton is evil and remorseless. He doesn’t feel anything, so why would we need music to underscore his feelings? Meanwhile, the Sheriff is so humble he thinks his dreams are boring to hear about. He’d be embarrassed to have an orchestra soundtrack his emotions.

Here’s one example – “Bleach” is a short film by Brand Tangonen which won a peer review award on We talked about possibly adding music on his story, but he decided against it.

Here it is :

You could argue that the flashback scene could have used some dreamy guitar, or some punk rock on the credits.

But the lack of music supports the story. It complements the scene’s dry humor. And the hero is clearly holding a grudge and doesn’t want to talk about it. We look at him differently if there is no music in his memory.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

So as a disclosure of sorts, my wife and I chose Moon River as our first dance at our wedding. We actually picked it from a CD of waltz music as we were taking dancing lessons for the wedding.

I hadn’t really known that the song was from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We just happened to pick it out from a stack of DVDs at my parents’ place.

  • Nearly the entire score is built on the Moon River theme. You really don’t need a lot of material to win the Oscar for Best Score. The theme returns at different tempos, with different arrangements (including a wicked bossa nova on a record player). Audrey Hepburn even sings it on her fire escape.
  • Moon River is nearly perfectly constructed for Holly Golightly’s character. The title music begins with opulent strings, harp, and vibraphone. We see 5th avenue at dawn. Then melody enters…on harmonica. The contrast expresses Holly’s character – a New York society girl who came from humble roots in Texas (it also happens to be very sad, very romantic, and a real masterpiece of a song). Instrumentation can be a useful tool when planning a score – these kinds of choices can support the story and give the movie a unique sound.
  • As I’m watching more classic films I’m continually amazed at the borrowings and influences. Don Draper and Carrie Bradshaw are obvious examples of Holly Golightly characters. Reese Witherspoon’s Sweet Home Alabama is more explicit in its homage, with a marriage proposal inside Tiffany’s. Even 9 1/2 weeks borrows – you see shades of Holly and Paul’s shoplifting adventure when Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke are fool around in department stores and smoke shops.

Here’s the title sequence. What an opening shot.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

This has been making the rounds on Facebook. Bobby McFarren demonstrating how audiences intuitively can sing the pentatonic scale:.

What’s being shown in the video is really the reason why music is universal to all cultures. The audience knows what notes McFarren is jumping to because they can literally feel them.

Here’s the brief bit of physics behind it:

The major pentatonic scale is formed by taking the 5 “fifths” in succession. If you start on C, you get the notes C, G, D, A, and E. Put those into a single octave and you get the scale of C, D, E, G, A. (In solfege, this is “Do, So, Re, La, Mi”, rearranged to “Do, Re, Mi, So, La”).

These “fifths” are formed by a fundamental ratio in nature of 3:2. (If middle C rings at 291 Hz, then the fifth above it, a G, rings at 392 Hz). The notes’ waveforms will literally line up in space.

That lining up is felt in our bodies. That’s why the audience can sing those notes.

It’s also choirs will nearly always go out of tune only on the 2 notes *not* in the pentatonic scale – in C major, that’s F and B (or Fa and Ti).

McFarren knows this well, it should come as no surprise that the melody to “Don’t Worry Be Happy” is pentatonic. Which is why it’s so catchy and memorable.

If you want the pentatonic scale to make you feel happy today, just visit here:

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello
Just finished playing in the orchestra for a local production of The Wiz (a friend was the music director).

Based on the liner notes in the drum parts, the music was heavily influenced by “Shaft”. It holds up great. A Broadway revival has been attempted, but so far the show only had a 4-week run at the NY City Center (starring Ashanti).

The film version, directed by Sidney Lumet, wasn’t well-reviewed, despite Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and director Sidney Lumet. Which is too bad, because the trailer looks great:

UPDATE: The previous video of the trailer was taken down from YouTube, here instead is the oddly static “Ease on Down the Road” scene.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello