Monthly Archives: January 2011

I spent a lot of time listening to John Barry’s Dances With Wolves soundtrack during my “wilderness” years working as an engineer after college.
This is the kind of film music so good the listener doesn’t have to know anything about the film to be moved by it. So simple, stately, and gently orchestrated.

More John Barry clips at the LA Times blog. Doesn’t that Midnight Cowboy theme sound perfectly like it’s from a 1969 time capsule?

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello
Always, always, always write your climax at the 2/3rds point through the piece (OK, not always, but it’s hard to go wrong if you do).

You’d think the climax goes at the end, but it turns out not to be the case in many orchestral masterworks.

Take this Wager overture to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. I put it on and noticed it was 9 minutes long. My head perked up when the big moment came – yep, 6 minutes in:

Many music professors will say there’s a reason for this: the golden ratio. Ever since Pythagoras, music theory has been influenced by idea that there is intrinsic aesthetic beauty in this number.

I actually believe there’s something to that. But I also think a great composer like Wagner didn’t think about it. Guys like him were simply scary good at hearing (in the way a Monet was scary good at seeing). He could “hear” the golden ratio and write it as music. As an audience, we can hear it too, perhaps not as well, but good enough to get a shot of brain pleasure when we recognize it.

To what purpose, who knows? But it’s cool anyway.

(By the way, I searched some Beatles songs to see if any of them observe the golden ratio – nope. One could theorize why not…one could say that 45s were too short, and you couldn’t write a song long enough to be worth bothering. But then all those Bach inventions are like 2 minutes long and they got the golden ratio on the brain…let’s save that for another blog post someday).

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

I’ve just started scoring a 30-minute short based on “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”, one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most popular short stories (it’s the original “Mean Girls”, and a good read, the full text is here). This production has some nice twists in how it updates the story.

Later I’ll be starting on a feature-length documentary which started filming in the Ukraine last fall. You can see a preview of the film here (this was a trailer put together by the filmmakers to raise funding for the film). National Geographic did a feature article on this story in 2004.

I’m in awe of these projects, can’t wait to see to the finished versions.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello
I don’t know why this is, but my sample set of three soundtracks in my iTunes collection shows everything to be in D minor.Pirates of the Caribbean is in D minor:

Transformers is in D minor:

Vantage Point is in D minor:

Tron Legacy is in D minor:

Keys like C sharp major and B flat minor aren’t getting calls from their agents right now. Thousands of sharps and flats are out of work, people!

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

I recently moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and I’m in the market for info on where to eat. My wife and I are at a loss. I’m resorting to buying a Zagat guide, but I figured if anyone is moving to San Francisco, I can tell you where my favorite places are in San Francisco.

In no particular order:

1. Pizza: Tony’s Pizza Naploetana  in North Beach. Friends in the restaurant business turned us onto this place. It’s a fairly new place, right on Washing Square Park. No reservations, and you will have to wait. It’s unfreakingbelivably awesome. Not only the pizza, but the whole list of salads and appetizers as well. Go.

2. Italian: Chiaruscuro next to the Transamerica building. High end, modern Italian food with an open kitchen. This place is also relatively new. We had a friend on the waitstaff, and each time we visited the place was busier. Word is getting out. My favorite is the Trilogia pasta. It sounds simple – three kinds of pasta with different sauces – but it’s very high end stuff. We also like the profiteroles for dessert. Good for a business lunch / dinner, or a nice date.

3. Coffee. Blue Bottle in Hayes Valley. This is a tiny little kiosk in a garage in an alley off Gough. I’d stop here on the way into San Francisco Conservatory early in the morning. The staff is charming, there’s a little stand where you can down your espresso shots. This is my favorite iced coffee, but everything’s good, even the scones (try the maple-sausage).

4. Sandwiches. Ike’s in the Castro. This places gets a huge line, all day every day, which has caused some controversy price of clomid without insurance with the neighbors. They want one million bucks for Ike’s to stay. Huge, messy sandwiches with “dirty” sauce. Go on a warm day, then eat on a blanket in Dolores Park. You’ll won’t get hungry until the next week.

5. Ice Cream. Bi-rite Creamery in the Mission. Long lines here too, but apparently no lawsuits (so far). I believe they expanded to the next-door shop so they could get more of the line indoors. No matter, it’s worth the wait. Inventive flavors like Lavender, but I like the brownie sundae. Go when it’s hot. Not for the weight-conscious.

6. Brunch. Brenda’s French Soul Food in the Tenderloin. It’s tiny and cramped, and if you go during prime time on the weekend you’ll wait over an hour on one of the most freezing and gross blocks in town. So call in sick, sleep in, then laze on over and get the beignet flight with chicory coffee.

7. Chinese. Eric’s in Noe Valley. It’s not very traditional. The quality of ingredients is high. Parking is a bit tough, but at least it’s on the J line. Get crab rangoon, any of the soups, and the Shanghai Chicken (which comes with a mound of seaweed). It’s hard to go wrong with anything here, and I would  come up with any excuse to drive across town to hit this place.

8. Hamburgers.

In n Out. Did you really think I would suggest anything else? However, it’s kind of a zoo at the Fisherman’s Wharf location, so it’s you’d rather relax while you  stuff yourself with red meat, the second best is probably Barney’s in Noe Valley (IMHO it’s better than the Marina location).

9. Vietnamese. Tu Lan at Sixth and Market. Worst ambience ever. Horrid location. Food’s great, though. Filling. Julia Child was a fan, and her image graces the menu. It’s not for people who like to eat light. I liked the Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong, which has deep fried imperial rolls, charbroiled pork, and lemongrass-flavored rice noodles.

10. Gourmet. Gary Danko near Ghirardelli Square. This place is pretty much the opposite of Tu Lan. Some folks would recommend French Laundry for a top-of-the-line celebration, but Gary Danko is closer and quite a bit less expensive. And the room is beautiful.

If you enjoy any of these places, and you know LA, send me some Westside recommendations.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

Tron:Legacy seems to have composers buzzing about the Daft Punk score. Hearing pulsating electronic music in a movie can be refreshing for folks who don’t hear a lot of music with synths.

On the other hand, composers also spend a lot of time talking about the latest string sample libraries, like Hollywood Strings, and LA Scoring Strings. The whole point of the discussion is how to sound as much like live players as possible when scoring a film on your computer.

I bring this up because I was just listening to a recording on which I played electric bass. It’s called “Tribal”, by guitarist Tommy Osuna. Buddy Miles played drums. This is the kind of recording session where words like “foul” and “stenching” are used as co-congratulations.

If you take a listen – the big thing I was doing on this track was sliding in and out of nearly every phrase I played on bass. Not something that would be easy to play on a Rock Band controller.

Click to play Tribal by Tommy Osuna.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello