Yearly Archives: 2009

If you’ve watched a major sporting event in the past few years, you’ve heard the music of Boris Zelkin. He immigrated to Brooklyn from the Soviet Union in the 70s. Now he scores segments for ESPN, everything from the Masters to the X Games.Boris tells the WSJ how he got his start:

A buddy of mine, who was editing [television coverage of] the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, asked for a CD of my music. A week after the Olympics he asked me to work on ESPN and Disney projects. They’ve been using me since.

This Master’s clip is surprisingly artsy, like when the hyperfast minimalist arpeggios kick in to suggest the acute Zen mental awareness of a golfer in mid-swing.

There are conventional elements as well. The deep-in-thought piano tones at the end could segue into an insurance commercial without missing a beat. And you know insurance advertisers love golf fans.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

The music isn’t at all out of date on the all-time classic Wendy’s commercial. You hear the same style of music in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Why is the tuba the perfect instrument for scoring cranky people?

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

Of the John Williams Harry Potter scores, he seems to like Prisoner of Azkhaban best:

I started by listening to a lot of the John Williams score, particularly from the third movie, “Prisoner of Azkaban,” which I loved and I suppose is closest to what I was trying to do. I used some of his themes, particularly his Hedwig theme. After that, we all decided that it was best if I moved into my own way of composing rather than trying to emulate John Williams, which is impossible. I did a different kind of score for “Half-Blood Prince,” really. It was simpler, the way I write music is simpler.

Well it’s not a Harry Potter score if you don’t have Hedwig’s Theme. Which, by the way, is finding itself onto more and more concert performances:

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

It’s not just to save time during the Oscar show…:

It’s just that very little new music is created specifically for new movies. Tinseltown used to employ a small army of tunesmiths; now it primarily pays for song rights, not songwriters. Most directors prefer to rely on off-the-shelf songs as an evocative way to establish mood and context. For the movie “Goodfellas,” Martin Scorsese used a parade of songs from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s to set the scenes of each era.

Well you could never pull off a Goodfellas (or a Casino) without pulling from 100s of songs from the era.

Huge music libraries makes it hard for new songs to break through. Every year the worst song on American Idol is the one original tune written for the finals. Even on Broadway, all the new shows seem to be based on 80’s pop songs.

I liked this bit:

The original songs from the Golden Age were often little more than diversions. A standard shtick was to have one of the female characters be a nightclub canary. The romantic lead comes to talk with her backstage, but first he has to sit and listen to her sing something.

Like Marylin Monroe in Some Like it Hot? I for one wasn’t convinced she could play that ukelele:

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello
Willy Wonka meets Woodstock…

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello
Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello
Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

“A good composer does not imitate, he steals.” – Igor Stravinsky

You can findthis quote attributed

to Stravinsky around the web, but the source of it is hard to find.

I wanted to use the quote, but thought I should double-check the source. Well, he didn’t say it. This Google Books result spots it in a T. S. Eliot essay about literary debts. The original quote:

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different”.

And why it gets attributed to Stravinsky:

Due to a spoof feature in Esquire magazine in 1962, “Immature artists imitate; mature artists steal” is sometimes misattributed to Lionel Trilling. Pablo Picasso has been credited with “Mediocre artists borrow, great artists steal” and Igor Stravinsky with “A good composer does not imitate; he steals”.

Ah, so it was a joke. So I’ll quote the Eliot version from here on.

I love the sentiment of it. Indie directors often say to a composer “we want something like a John Williams, or Ennio Morricone, or Nino Rota…” Which is all good. But is the director seeking to imitate the source, or to build on it?

For example, many folks like to criticize Quentin Tarantino’s borrowings from earlier films, but he certainly doesn’t set out to imitate:

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

Getting your music score mentioned by Roger Ebert? Priceless.

If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.

I dunno, the music sounds pretty good to me:

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

My friend Tommy Osuna has finished an album I made a contribution playing bass. You can check out my bass playing, but Tommy’s guitar playing is the main attraction – especially on Tribal and Eagle.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello