Yearly Archives: 2008

TV Guide’s show-listing cable channels
sold for $300 million today. The news reminds me of my youth, those old 1970s TV Guide TV commercials, back when your TV had 3 channels and your commercials had cold, sterile, outer-spacey synths in them….The commercial music (is it really music? maybe it’s better described as a “soundmark”) is frightening today, but as a kid I liked it OK. It was definitive, if nothing else. And urgent, like it really made me want to go to the store and buy it.

Not all the YouTube commenters agree:

“Love it??? It used to scare the hell out of me when I was little! So did all those supposedly ‘hip’ sounding synth soundtracks in commercials back then. They all sound really sinister, for some reason, not at all like the friendly sounding synth songs you’d find on records!”

Posted 10 years ago by John Piscitello

There’s a Tron remake in the works. I didn’t understand the original’s plot one bit, but I remember loving the lightbikes.

The scene is remarkable. Despite having primitive CGI, it’s perfectly exciting. I suppose directors could tell you why the scene is such good movie making. As far as I can tell there’s plenty of speed and tension, the rules of the scene are internally consistent, and the action is clear.

Against visual mayhem of the latest blockbusters, the scene is an unblinking stare. It pierces, something like how punk broke through after too many years of classic rock and disco.

The scene’s sound editing really makes it work. Notice the low-frequency wind-against-the-microphone sound when there is a closeup of a bike wheel. Or the whooshing heard during the hairpin turns in the maze. And each bike has its own engine sound.

It seems the original Tron writer/director is a producer on the reboot. That bodes well for fans of the classic…I hope they keep those evil arch-gate thingys and the killer frisbees!

Posted 10 years ago by John Piscitello

Wouldn’t it be cool if Clint Eastwood won? (I’ve heard composers say he must have had help, it’s just plain too good for an actor / director to have done!)

And isn’t it interesting that Danny Elfman scored a film like Milk?
Best Composer
Alexandre Desplat, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Clint Eastwood, “Changeling”
Danny Elfman, “Milk”
James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer, “The Dark Knight”
A.R. Rahman, “Slumdog Millionaire””

More awards

Posted 10 years ago by John Piscitello

Good for everyone: the academy, the composers, and the audiences.

Sounds like Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard had to do some real work to change some minds. Key quote:

“My basic argument was–composers are honest human beings,” (Zimmer) told me. “If we’re telling you that we, and we alone, wrote the score, why don’t you believe us? We were very candid. We said, ‘Why would we lie? And if you don’t believe us, go ask Chris Nolan, the film’s director. He saw who did the work.’ “

Even at the top level, composers can’t get by only on their music. You can’t escape needing good people skills and the ability to deal with conflict.

Now…who will get nominated?

Here’s the end credits music. Even without the context of the film, I think the music is very much in touch with the times.

Posted 10 years ago by John Piscitello
Film composers are often asked to write music that sounds similar to temp tracks teh director has chosen. It’s a big issue – how close is too close?
This IMHO would be an example of too close. I would place a bet on Joe Satriani picking up a big ol’ settlement check in his future:

Posted 10 years ago by John Piscitello

I’m in opera training. Not to sing it, just to enjoy listening to it.I’ve been researching traditional Japanese music, and of course you end up coming across the use of folk melodies in Puccini Madama Butterfly. And then you come across “Un bel di vedremo”.

This I believe is from this

1995 French film production, which is on DVD.

Watch the whole thing form the start, and the big payoff comes at 3:37:

Posted 10 years ago by John Piscitello
When you get a dedication like this:
Posted 10 years ago by John Piscitello

Like “Batman Begins” and “There Will Be Blood“, the score for “The Dark Knight” has been disqualified for having too many collaborators. From Variety:

Sources inside the committee said that the big issue was the fact that five names were listed as composers on the music cue sheet, the official studio document that specifies every piece of music (along with its duration and copyright owner) in the film.

The unanswered question is why does it matter if the Best Original Music Score has 1 composer or 10? The best score is the best score, leave it to the members to decide.
This does matter. Students of film composing look to the past, and a nominee from 30 or 40 years past is far more likely to be studied than an unnominated modest box-office success like There Will Be Blood. We lose something from future composers if we exclude successful scores from the competition.

The “The Dark Knight” most memorable music may be what plays behind Heath Ledger’s monologues. Strings gather into a cluster that then slowly glissandos upward, sort of a super-slo-mo version of those famous strings screeching in the “Psycho” shower scene. Just drawn out much longer, so it’s way scarier.

So delicious…why disqualify it over a couple of names on a cue sheet?

“Academy members, change thy rules!” sayeth the fan!
The music cue starts about 2:30 into this clip:

Posted 10 years ago by John Piscitello

I’ve been a fan of Michael Crichton for a unique reason – I was one of about 10 students who took a writing seminar he taught at MIT in Spring, 1988. I think the class was named “The Art of Revision”.
His assignments were brief – write directions, describe your bedroom. He graded by recording himself reading your assignment aloud with real-time commentary, which he handed back on cassette (this was the pre-iPod era).

What I learned can be summed up as:

Don’t repeat yourself. Say things once. Don’t repeat yourself.

He taught to use only one adjective at a time (write “an inspiring film” not “a

touching and inspiring film”). Also, adverbs tend to be really worthless.


I asked him what he was writing at the time (this was before Jurassic Park was published). He said a book on his travel experiences. I nodded and said “how interesting”, and in my mind thought “how uninteresting”.

Years later I spotted the book “Travels” in an airport. It’s more of an autobiography composed of episodic essays. He had incredible experiences.

Reading it changed my life. It’s the book I cite when people ask me what book had the biggest impact on me.

Awesome guy.

Posted 10 years ago by John Piscitello

Did anyone else notice the music in the McCain biographical video sounded suspiciously like the theme song from “Dallas”? Is this a subliminal cue that McCain will drill here, drill now??

Here’s the McCain video:

And here’s Dallas:

Take out the rhythm section and they’re close cousins!

I promised to review the McCain bio video’s music, here is a late review:

  • The music had an orchestral score done with electronic samples instead of real musicians. Using a “fauxchestra” can work, but it’s very, very difficult, and a lot of music simply can’t be pulled off convincingly (I’ve tried! It’s hard!). The video’s music wasn’t nearly up to broadcast quality.
  • While the Republicans had a good convention, I thought they were shaking hands with danger, if you will, with the budget music production. Between that and the brief green screen behind McCain, I was wondering if the production values were going to go off the rails completely.
  • The war stories – especially the sequence with the fire on the navy ship – were dramatic. The music in this section featured a sampled male choir. Good composing, but that choir was verrry fake. Distracting. Should’ve gotten a real choir.
  • But… McCain’s had a bounce in the polls, it seems that “good enough” music was plenty good enough!

Still, if I had to vote solely on the quality of the music in the candidates’ biographical videos, I’d have to give it to Obama. 😉

Posted 10 years ago by John Piscitello