At the USC SMPTV program we did a composer-in-residence workshop with composer Marco Beltrami and his musical collaborator Buck Sanders. They brought in the 2005 film The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and the 20 students in the program each rescored a scene from the film. Marco and Buck gave their feedback. We recorded at their in Malibu (Mix magazine profiles the studio in a recent issue).
A few notes about the session:
- First of all, if you haven’t seen “3 Burials”, go watch it. Tommy Lee Jones directed, and of note is Barry Pepper playing a border patrol agent who suffers mightily. You also get to see January Jones playing a bored chain smoking housewife (and this was before Mad Men).
- The story takes place in the desert on the US/Mexico border. Beltrami’s film’s original score evokes the barren, alien landscape of the film.
- For the workshop, we recorded with an ensemble similar to the film – violin, cello, 2 guitars, accordion, percussion, and some sound design samples (the original film had a small string ensemble as well for a portion of its music).
It’s a small film with excellent drama, it’s a good model for what indie filmmakers can accomplish with limited resources. Many scenes are just 2 guys talking (the drama of course comes from the conflict between them).
The original score of the film uses the small scope to its advantage with a unique “soundprint” via instrumentation. Though the sound is very different, the motley ensemble recalls Morricone’s combination of human whistling, wah-wah vocals, and ocarina in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
I’ll post a follow up when I finish the mix for my recording from the session. For now I’ll just call attention to this quote from mixer John Kurlander from that Mix article on Pianella Studio:
“All the orchestral studios and recording venues in Europe, particularly in London, have ambient spaces where the reverberation time is much longer,” with decay times of more than two seconds. “The converted soundstages of Southern California, however, are closer to 1-second RT. They definitely have a dead sound. It’s just a different mindset.”
Ain’t that the truth, we got a very live sound from the room there. Not like working in completely quiet studio rooms that I’m used to. When I get it ready I’ll post a mix on SoundCloud.