Yearly Archives: 2009

The news has come from If Magazine that Nic Hooper won’t be scoring the final Harry Potter films. This has touched off a lively discussion on MuggleNet (most seem to want John Williams back).

The San Francisco Classical Voice blog took the opportunity to contrast the John Williams and Nic Hooper styles in the series.

On John Williams’ wall-to-wall scoring style:

In fact, the only unscored scenes are when Harry is with his adoptive parents in their humdrum daily existence. There, Harry lives in a joyless world without magic, without hope, and without music. When the magic arrives, in the form of Hedwig and the fateful letters from Hogwarts, the music comes along with it.

On Nic Hooper’s broader stylings:

The appearance of the Dementors brings a dramatic flare from the strings, and a grunting chorus and string line that could have been drawn straight out of a Schoenbergian atonal work. Harry’s magic spell is accompanied not by the celestes and glockenspiels of Williams’s score, but by an unidentifiable electronic sound. And when the attack is over, the music again fades down to nothing. A whole sequence with no immediately identifiable musical structure: such a concept would have been unthinkable in Williams’s musical soundscape.

(By the way my favorite Harry Potter score is definitely #3. And I don’t agree with the premise that John Williams’ style can’t accommodate darker themes. Remember Anakin’s dark deeds in Revenge of the Sith…)

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

Soundworks Collection is making high-quality web videos profiling sound designers. They’re a bit slick (and the first 2 minutes are pure promo material for the films), but they settle in to useful interviews of hte sound desiners in the film.

Some interesting bits from their Star Trek profile: the designers often reused original series sound effects (the original phaser blasts were made from Zube Tubes), where you hear Russian train toilet flushes in the film, and the clever choice of sound for ships going to warp.
Plus there’s plenty of Michael Giacchino’s score to be heard in this 6-minute profile:

“Star Trek” Sound for Film Profile from Michael Coleman on Vimeo .

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello
Could be my favorite Will Ferrell moment at 1:29 into this clip……
Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello
Aw what the heck. I’ll be putting this more properly on my site, but here are 5 clips from the film I did this fall, Contractor’s Routine
. I’ve included an image below. Here’s the site and imdb listing. These clips aren’t up there yet, but here they are for now:

Here’s a still from the film, by Paralux Productions:


Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

David Byrne has a bit of a must-read post

spurred on by the $32M LA production of Wagner’s Ring cycle. He makes the case that money spent on recreating past works of art would be better spent on music in education:

Take that money, that $14 million from the city, for example, let some of those palaces, ring cycles and temples close — forgo some of those $32M operas — and fund music and art in our schools

The money line:

The dead guys won’t write more symphonies.

His argument is more nuanced than that one pithy phrase. I find myself in partial agreement, but here is here I diverge:

…it’s more important that someone learn to make music, to draw, photograph, write or create in any form than it is for them to understand and appreciate Picasso, Warhol or Bill Shakespeare — to say nothing of opry. In the long term it doesn’t matter if students become writers, artists or musicians — though a few might. It’s more important that they are able to understand the process of creation, experimentation and discovery.

Calling for kids to make music “in any form” is too low a standard. One can argue playing Guitar Hero teaches musical rhythm. Sure, it’s fun, but it’s rote. Why not aim high?

And as to the value for a student to “understand and appreciate” works of the past, I would submit to you this rather traditional, old-fashioned painting:

The artist? Pablo Picasso.

Before he invented Cubism, Picasso took the time to understand, appreciate, and indeed master what came before him. He was fifteen.
More David Byrne:

Bach, Mozart and Beethoven I never could get, and I don’t feel any the worse for it. There’s plenty left to love and enjoy. This whole rant, I guess, derives a little from the fact that I resent the implication, and sometime-feeling, that I’m less of a musician and even a person for not appreciating those works. It’s not true!

Absolutely. But we shouldn’t be quick to dismiss the dead guys. After all, we’ll all be dead too someday. And if you’re David Byrne, can you really object if garage bands in the year 3000 are jamming to “Burning Down the House”?

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello
I was rooting for Unchartered 2, but Halo’s music has evolved quite a bit since the original game. There’s a wider range and more depth. The overture has a wistful intro that is downright Copland-esque. One can quibble with some of the orchestral sounds being a little synth-y, but it’s all in how the music moves the player during gameplay, and Halo does it better than any other game.
Composers are Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori:
Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

Gaming has reach. Farmville’s theme song sounds like the sitcom themes of my youth. Does this game really have 70 million active users???Enjoy a live performance of the theme by Steve Kirk below. More


Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

Here’s an early review of Dixie Dynamite from the co-writers’ hometown paper:

The film doesn’t take itself too seriously — instead, it’s content to provide the maximum amount of laughs and bizarre scenarios possible in 90 minutes. The score, which fuses Japanese music with Southern rock, supplies an even greater “what the heck?!” feeling to the proceedings. That includes one of the coolest versions of “Free Bird” I’ve ever heard.

Gave it a Grade ‘B’. More here.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

One panel at GameSoundCon discussed how testers of a major racing game were playing on a new build. The controls were so improved in the new version that their race times were down by 2 seconds.

The testers asked the developers – did they implement new engine control in the game? They hadn’t. The only change that day was a set of new sound files.

Greater sound realism improved the players’ driving.
So there’s a big benefit to accurate-sounding cars. Let’s say you have 50 cars in a game and want to simulate 24 different courses and road conditions. Combinatorially, you can’t take all the cars out onto all those roads. So the trick is to combine isolated engine sounds with isolate road sounds.

Enter the Tesla. The electric engine’s so quiet, it won’t interfere with clean recording of screeching tires and air rushes. So gaming sound engineers are all over these toys.

CrunchGear has an article, with photos.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

Goldfrapp scored Nowhere Boy (an indie UK film about John Lennon’s youth), and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeas scored Where the Wild Things Are. From the article:

Although there’s next to no money to be made in writing for film, and all along the line the musician’s vision is subordinate to that of directors, editors and producers, the chance to be a mere cog in a much larger machine seems to offer welcome relief from the essentially solipsistic nature of songwriting. All that autonomy, freedom of expression and relentless self-analysis can be burdensome.

Depends, I guess, on the kind of songwriter an artist chooses to be. You can be a storyteller who aims to entertain, in which case, film-scoring is kind of a natural complement.

The more personal your style, the more you have to break away from your habits to help tell the story of a film.

And there’s this:

There are no plans to release the Nowhere Boy score because, says Gregory, the music isn’t song-based. “I’m not sure how relevant it is without the film. It’s a lot of long, held notes and plinks on the piano.”

It’s a big challenge to stay out of the way of a scene and still be listenable away from the film. Sometimes it’s good to write the music away from the picture, and then go back arrange to fit the scenes.

Here’s some Goldfrapp:

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello