Yearly Archives: 2010

Contractor’s Routine is premiering tomorrow (Saturday) in Buffalo.

There has been some coverage in the local press. There is a mini-review here:

Crisply photographed on well-chosen San Francisco locations and sharply edited, this engrossing first feature by Russian immigrant Yuri Tsapayev makes up in visual appeal what it occasionally (and I assume intentionally) lacks in narrative clarity…

Well, I once saw the DVD commentary say the same thing about Tarkovsky.

More here about the festival. Scan down for a couple more tidbits about the film.

Finally, here is a teaser trailer:

The music here is actually pretty closely related to the music I wrote for the film. Only here in the trailer I’m trying my best to go from absolute zero to complete thermonuclear destruction within 60 seconds. The film itself, intensity like this only comes in brief dramatic bursts.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

An unsustainable business model at the Cleveland Symphony:

The numbers for the year ended June 30, 2008: Conductor Franz Welser-Möst received compensation of $1,316,120. Concertmaster William Preucil (the orchestra’s most highly paid member) received a salary of $414,159 and benefits of $19,658. The mean compensation for players was $140,200. Benefits include 10 weeks of paid vacation and 26 weeks of paid sick leave. The orchestra’s 2009-10 budget is $42 million, down from $45 million during the prior period. Net assets during 2008 were reported to have been reduced by $27 million; published financial information seems to indicate an operating loss, perhaps in excess of $7 million.

I noticed the expenses for the San Francisco Symphony’s Keeping Score program is rather high. They raised nearly $10 million in 2005, and the total budget for the project is $23 million. So far, they’ve produced 7 episodes of the show. The show’s very engaging, even if you’re getting into classical music as a form of cultural vitamins (although the historical re-enactments in the Berlioz episode are…how do I say this? thrifty….). Put it on your Neflix queue. Noe enjoy this San Francisco controversy from 2008:

The San Francisco Weekly lately got word that Michael Tilson Thomas’ salary is what the news-hounds figured was a whopping $1.6 million.  After reading the article, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, in a fit of pique, now promises to cut off the city’s $1.8-million subsidy to the symphony, according to a follow-up in the Weekly.

Philip Glass is promoting a piano concert tour in the Northwest this week. I liked this quote about his film scores:

“There are some talented guys in Hollywood, but they’re not treated well,” he once said. “They’re always asked to write fast music for a chase. Why not slow? I like a distance between image and music, something not too literal, not right on the image but loose.”

I guess that’s why he didn’t get offered the Clash of the Titans soundtrack. But The Hours rocks (WARNING! This is the final scene!)

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

Music links

A Danny Elfman interview on Alice and Wonderland. There’s a great nugget on  why he doesn’t start composing based on a script:

And what I discovered over the years is that every time I started early and wrote music , none of it ever survived, not a note, when I actually saw the movie. Because what I came to understand is that there’s so many ways to shoot the same script.

Music critic Jay Nordlinger on Samuel Barber, “A Romantic in a 12-Tone World“. Atonal music has been very fashionable for a very long time, but I see it as a long-outdated form of futurism. Like flying cars, or everyone wearing aluminum suits. If you agree, you’ll like the article. Nordlinger writes:

I called Barber “great.” Great like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven? No, of course not. But if we are more liberal in our attribution of greatness – yes, indeed.

And some guy is claiming to have produced a soundtrack to an abandoned Tron sequel called “Rise of the Virals. If nothing else, the album cover looks cool. The composer has been kind of to post come cues here. There appears to be some debate as to how true this is. I think the lead sound on track #1 sounds kinda Dark Side of the Moon-ish to me.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

As I’ve developed this blog and my music web site, I’ve gone through a couple of iterations on how to design a site oriented on music. Here are some tips based on my experience.

Focus 98% on One Thing Only
This should generally be your best demo. Put it front and center. If you’ve got a music video, great, put the Youtube embed of it on your home page. If not, just an image and a music auto-play will do.

Everything else – your extensive discography, your Twitter account, your bio, photos, tour dates, press clippings and film credits – put those in the 2% part of the design.

A great example is Swedish popstar Robyn’s website. No mistaking what she’s all about when you see it.

Music Players
This can be tough. I’ve tried a number of things. My favorite is a $12 Flash Music Player available on ActiveDen. It’s pretty flexible. I discovered it on composer Felix Bird

‘s web site. It’s awesome. You will need a web person who can handle Flash to implement it, but once set up its easy enough for non-techies to maintain.

Wimpy player is popular and widely used, and but I found it very brittle when trying to customize it. Mixpod is a free site that creates an embedded music playlist, but many users have problems with uploaded tracks refusing to play back in the player. YouTube isn’t bad, but if you’re not doing a music video it’s a little awkward to present your music with a still photo in your video.

Site Designers

Best I can say – ask your friends for a designer and find someone you get along with. For a band’s music site, an individual is best.

Now my plug for you NoCal folks: if you are looking for a Bay Area web designer, I had a great experience working with Amy Lee at Sequence Mediaworks. She’s a musician herself. What I like is the “portfolio” Javascript implementation – basically we embedded a series of YouTube and Flash-based music players in a sideways-scrolling list. This was my version of putting 98% of the emphasis on the music and nothing else. You can see it on my film music demo site and my wife Aliona Kazakova’s artist web site.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

Post-production is still wrapping up, but Contractor’s Routine will show at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival on April 17th. Saturday night, 9pm. The director Yuri Tsapayev plus cast and crew will be attending.

Cinesource has an interview of Yuri about the film.

Shot and produced almost entirely in San Francisco, the film follows a carpenter Jacob Borchevsky struggling to tamp down his psychological turmoil – personified in his mentoring alter-ego Esau – before it explodes into irreparable cataclysm. Tsapayev, who wrote, directed, and produced the debut indie is presenting his film – still without distribution – throughout the festival circuit. With impressive acting performances and skillful direction talent, the film is an obvious choice to be picked up by a leading indie distributor.

More here.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

Not a shocker. Even though The Hurt Locker was racking up awards, everyone talked about how they cried during Up’s 4-minute sequence showing of Carl and Ellie’s life together, and the music was prominent.

Up’s score is refreshingly old-fashioned – prominent themes, exhuberant instrumentation, and unafraid to express the emotion of the characters. There are musical allusions to classic films like the Wizard of Oz. The music breaks through. So many Hollywood scores are like wallpaper – tasteful wallpaper appropriate to the scene – but very few connect emotionally like Up. I’ve been a fan of Michael Giacchino ever since he scored the PS2 video game Medal of Honor: Frontline.

The Hurt Locker‘s score, by Marco Beltrami, is practically the opposite. It’s restrained to the point of being sound design as much as it is music. Dissonances and middle eastern modes make the deserted Baghdad streets dangerous and alien. Beltrami’s scores can be very restrained (including the recent remake of 3:10 to Yuma). Both films have characters who are strung out, thirsty, without sleep, and near death. His minimal style suits scenes of such exhaustion.

One hears complaints among composers that we’re in a very “cool” period for film scores – meaning that directors don’t want melodies, or anything that might be showy or obvious. Perhaps out of fear of condescending to the audience. Or perhaps out fear of sounding corny. The Hurt Locker, and also No Country for Old Men, are very much in this camp.

Either way, these 2 composers have styles that were well-matched to their respective films.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

A cursed Scabble board brings its words to life. Events turn predictably sinister. I’ll be scoring an upcoming version of this film with a group of San Francisco filmmakers led by John Howard.

It’s based on a short story by Charlie Fish, which turns out to be a rather popular as a short film subject. Googling around for Tile M for Murder and Death by Scrabble turns up a trove of amateur short films recasting this story.

Note to self: don’t chew on Scrabble tiles.

I’ll post more news as this project gets into post production.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

The Amazon blog Armchair Commentary comments on film score music in the figure skating competition:

Last night’s pairs figure skating competition had a lot of people going “Where HAVE I heard that song before?” particularly during Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig‘s short routine, set to the “Portuguese Love Theme” from Love Actually. (Ironically, this piece of music, which is used on 1 out of 5 romantic film trailers and in Oscar montages, is not actually on the soundtrack, nor available for purchase as a track. Grrrr.)

Actually, I managed to find Portguese Love Theme this online. It’s true: itunes has only a 5-song version of the soundtrack, and Amazon US has a 17-song version. However the UK version (available on Amazon UK) has 20 tracks, including the Craig Armstrong Portugese Love Theme.

And then there’s YouTube:

This piece is now 7 years old, but it perfectly expresses the film culture. The music is straightforward, and it over the course of 3 minutes it really builds to a climax. Kind of like the best pop songs when you think about it.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello
Budweiser cribbed some of Alan Silvestri’s score for Forrest Gump for it’s Fences ad in the Super Bowl.
It starts about halfway through the ad:

And here it is in Forrest Gump:

Alan Silvestri’s score was probably Oscar-worthy (it was nominated), but had to compete against The Lion King that year. The score sounds very up to date, it’s probably the single thing that got me interested in film scoring, and is extremely listenable. Try “Run Forrest Run” towards the end of your running playlist. 😉

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

Dixie Dynamite has another screening coming up, this on is in El Paso, Saturday night, Jan 14th, at UTEP. This is the closing film of the Binational Independent Film Festival. The director Bob Clark

will be there to discuss the film with the audience.
I liked this excerpt from the article:

Festival director Cesar Alejandro, who hired Clark as director of photography for his 2005 low-budget film “Juárez: Stages of Fear,” has been trying to get Clark in the festival for years.
Alejandro said “Dixie Dynamite” is a perfect example of the eclectic and very independent nature of his festival. He thinks the movie, with its unusual animation and offbeat story and music, will be a hit here and elsewhere.

“We’re lucky to find some jewels sometimes,” Alejandro said, noting that a couple of previous festival entries have gone on to win Academy Awards.

That would work for me. 😉

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello