We Were There

The new album of the trio Reijseger – Fraanje – Sylla
A review by Stephan Eicke

After more than a decade working with the Bavarian record company Winter & Winter, Dutch cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger now started working with Just Listen Records. His new record, aptly titled ‘We Were There’ is, hence, both a new start and a continuation of his work. While ‘We Were There’ presents new facets of his talent and eclecticism, everything that his followers have admired about his music for decades is present – as fresh as ever, as if the sky just spat him out and put him in a recording studio to present sounds no human had ever heard before.

Putting the spotlight on Reijseger does injustice to his colleagues, though. His long-time collaborators Harmen Fraanje and Mola Sylla “make” the album to equal degrees. There are no supporting players in ‘We Were There’. It is very much an ensemble play, a musical equivalent of Robert Altman’s films ‘Nashville’ or ‘Short Cuts’ where no one and everybody stands out.

‘We Were There’ continues the trio’s path on their journey to find new sounds, experiment with their instruments – a piano, a cello, and the human voice – to deliver something that is fresh while at the same time accessible; touching and intimate. But their new album is also different from their previous records. It is noticeably more contemplative, inward-looking; not so much a requiem for our times but a meditation on a requiem for our times.

Recorded as improvisations in one take, reacting to each other’s playing, to gentle movements and gestures, the pieces in ‘We Were There’ deny the listener (and the musicians, for that matter) any grand statements, those sweeping, at times crazed experimental solo passages for the players to shine in the spotlight and prove their unique talents (having written that, Reijseger’s solo album ‘Crystal Palace’ remains his masterpiece). ‘We Were There’ refuses any what Reijseger’s longtime collaborator, director Werner Herzog likes to call “cerebral” movements. In that sense, all three musicians have matured, grown even closer together than they ever were before. Like in every good collaboration, it is unclear who is accompanying who, and Mola Sylla’s thoughtful laments shine as brightly as Harmen Fraanje’s sparkling but minimalist piano playing or Ernst Reijseger’s sliding arpeggios and overtones do.

‘We Were There’ is a quiet, introspective album, one that makes clear how comfortable and confident these astonishing musicians have become with each other and their instruments. What remains a constant is that their music still defies any genre; unwilling to be put in a box and labeled. It is something to be experienced, and the trio’s work has been an ear-opening, fascinating journey, indeed.

ACCES 2019

How To Produce Film Music Under Palm Trees

Music in Africa Conference for Collaborations, Exchange and Showcases (ACCES) 2019 in Accra, Ghana

by Stephan Eicke

For its third edition, the Music in Africa Conference for Collaborations, Exchange and Showcases (ACCES) took place in Accra, Ghana from 28-30 November 2019. As a partner of the Music in Africa Foundation, Media Sound Hamburg was represented by Achim Esser-Mamat and I, who was fortunate enough to give a class on composing for film. While last year’s ACCES had been set up in Nairobi, Kenya, Accra proved a worthy choice and provided the experience of a lifetime.

In August last year Achim had hosted an African Night as part of Media Sound Hamburg (MSH), and with that brought a bit of African musical spirit to Hamburg. Part of the reason for setting up what would turn out to be the highlight of MSH 2019 was the fruitful partnership between MSH and Music in Africa, an organisation which, among other things, had set up ACCES, a yearly three day-event with the aim of supporting local musicians in various parts of Africa by inviting guest speakers to talk about music production, as well as by setting up networking events in which local musicians can meet powerful music publishers, managers, agents and such like, and by hosting concerts which let original voices in the African musical world shine. Furthermore, as part of their fresh collaboration, MSH and Music in Africa decided to grant scholarships to aspiring artists from Kenya and Ghana who wanted to partake in MSH and learn the skills taught there. While Alice Ragoi, the scholarship holder of 2019, was not able to attend this year’s event in Hamburg because she wasn’t granted a visa, composer, producer and guitar player Emmanuel Lamptey-Mills was pleased to be announced as the scholarship holder for MSH 2020. Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate for a second when I was asked to represent MSH in Accra by giving a class on composing for film. Who in his right mind would say no to the opportunity of a few days in Ghana, speaking with aspiring musicians before having lunch under palm trees and drinking fresh water from a coconut? Not me.

While my presentation differed only slightly from last year’s, the audience’s reaction was remarkably different – and this probably says more about the Ghanaian culture and spirit than about anything else. As opposed to last year’s more practical questions which plagued the partly aspiring, partly experienced musicians following my class, this year’s feedback focussed on the mental and emotional concerns of composing. I was delighted, of course. Delighted because I relish being in the position of a therapist – the wounded healer – who looks you in the eye and shares wisdom about how to cope with life and because I had never been asked questions like, ‘How can you compose happy music when you are sad?’ It is an essential, excellent question, though – as is ‘How do you gain confidence as a composer?’

 

A beautiful facet of being a composer – especially for media – is that it requires the utmost concentration.

Concentration is essential in terms of mental well-being. Imagine a boxer, wrecked with fear and anguish about the prospect of taking on a heavyweight champion in the ring. He might be fearful and nervous on his way to the ring, but as soon as he steps into it and gets ready to land the first punch the anxiety ceases—because it has to. The mind has to concentrate on the task ahead of it. And so it does focus, blocking out any anxiety that had plagued you just seconds ago. The brain is amazing that way, and not a iota different from how it worked thousands of years ago when our predecessors encountered a wild bear in the woods. Just imagine running away from a bear. Believe me, in the act of saving your life, you certainly won’t notice how anxious and fearful you really are. The attention given to saving your life takes up all your concentration and energy. That’s why in various mental health clinics drawing mandalas is a favourite for healers and patients alike—it focusses the mind. I recommend seeing composing for film, television, commercials or games like that. You have to focus on the task in front of you. And how do you gain confidence in life? By going out there. If you are afraid of water, jump into the water. If you afraid of spiders, take a spider into your hand. And then do it again. Over and over again, until you lose your fear. It’s not so bad after all, is it? The same goes for composing. Put in your 10,000 hours, just plough on, learn and grow and you will gain the confidence you need.

Last year’s ACCES had been a success, both artistically in terms of the musical acts on stage during the showcases, as well with regard to the number of attendees. Naturally, this year there were parallels to the previous event. Streaming and royalties were a big topic, discussed in lively panels, often with heated exchanges between musicians and label bosses, with participants supported and challenged by members in the audience. In another panel, local musicians were advised how to navigate the recording and distribution industries ‘in a changing environment,’ while in yet another discussion alternate music platforms were explored.

But putting the varied, helpful and at times welcomingly combative panels and their success with the audience aside, ACCES 2019 was faced with a similar challenge like last year; one that needs to be addressed. Already in 2018, the Music in Africa Foundation had difficulties attracting local musicians to take part in their event – not for the lack of trying, since the marketing efforts were outstanding, and locals could register and attend for free. However, despite the fact that a large number of locals had registered for the event in Nairobi, only a small minority of them actually turned up. Sadly, ACCES in Ghana was no different. ACCES had the numbers (more than a thousand participants, more than 50 countries represented, more than 100 global industry players, more than 80 performers), but it leaves a sour taste that an event targeted at a specific group was hardly attended by that group. One Facebook user gave an indication as to why this might have been the case, making this rather bitter comment: ‘Ask yourself whether any of you invited any music manager. You people have turned the music business like occult society and keeps things to yourself then after you come out to say no music manager attended to suggest we are not serious people.’ And so on. Do local artists in Accra and surroundings find ACCES too elitist, ‘like an occult society’? Or were they waiting for a personal, more targeted invitation, as the comment implies: ‘If we are of importance and interest am sure they will have look for us and give us invitation….when those same people come and looking for our content to use on their platforms to be rich and pay us chicken change they know where to find us yet when its comes to conference they claim they dont know our offices.’

As mentioned before, ACCES is not a Ghanaian event—every year it takes place in a different African country. There might be the problem. It is outside the bubble, not something that can establish itself in the regio n over a period of time and win the trust of locals. Or I might be entirely mistaken. I can’t claim to know the answer. But it is intriguing to speculate, especially considering how closely knit the musical community in Ghana is, which is certainly how I have experienced it outside ACCES, with strongly connected musicians who support each other as brothers. ACCES, in comparison, feels like an intruding foreign body. I don’t know how to overcome this challenge. There is no doubt that locals would benefit immensely from attending this rich and diverse event series, which shines a spotlight on important issues facing African musicians especially and aims to bring more awareness and publicity to their arts and crafts. There are many reasons to love ACCES and everything it stands for.

The highlights of last year’s event were the showcases each night, and this year was no different. Several popular and talented Ghanaian musicians were, after all, persuaded to attend the event and give concerts.

Among these musicians was, much to our delight, Emmanuel, the young gentleman who had been awarded a scholarship to attend Media Sound Hamburg free of charge. Emmanuel turned out to be so prolific and versatile that we spotted and heard him play guitar in no less than three different bands. What we heard on these three nights was astounding.

African pop music with Western influences made the audience jump up and dance as if there was no tomorrow. Then two musicians with guitars sang us into a trance with their onomatopoeia, before funk and metal made the stage shake and a group, aptly titled FOKN Bois, made strong statements against the government’s law to punish homosexuality and therefore love between two – or more – people. It was an ecstatic program over these three days and nights, and by the end we were left exhausted but content.

A big round of applause should go to the organisers of ACCES, especially Eddie Hatitye and Claire Metais, who made sure that the whole organisation was running as smoothly as possible. Indeed, it ran more smoothly than last year—making sure everything works out as envisioned and without much delay always takes experience. Certainly a lot of experience was gained by everybody involved, and Achim and I are certainly not the only people looking forward to next year’s edition.

Out to Africa

Acces – Music in Africa and MediaSoundHamburg in Nairobi

by Stephan Eicke

When I mentioned to my doctor I would be going to Africa, a smile appeared on her face, a smile so bright it showed her remarkably white teeth. “Whereabouts in Africa?” “Nairobi,” I answered, and could see her face drop. “Oh.”

Read more

A Broad Spectrum

Interview with Walter Murch
Stephan Eicke

Walter Murch has had a distinguished career in film as an editor and sound designer. Among many other productions, he worked on The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, The English Patient, and received three Oscars for his outstanding work. In this excerpt of an extensive interview that will be published as part of a book in 2019, Murch talks about how sound designers and composers can work together, and about his experiences on some of the greatest films ever made.

Stephan Eicke: Mr. Murch, younger directors seem to be afraid of long stretches of silence in their films, especially when it comes to Hollywood productions. Is there an explanation for that?

Walter Murch: Hearing is the first of our senses to be turned on. It is fully active – according to those who know about these things – four and a half months after conception. That leaves another four and a half months where the child is developing in the womb. We also know from ultrasound videos that the child is very active in the womb and reactive to external sounds. But there’s also a very rich internal symphony within the womb, sounds of the mother’s heart and her breathing and her intestines. This has only recently been measured acoustically, and the people who measured this were astonished at how loud it was inside the womb. There’s an average of 75 decibels with peaks around a 110 decibels – which is very loud. And it’s constant. We can presume that the child a few hours after conception doesn’t have any kind of consciousness, but by the fifth or sixth month there is a consciousness. So this consciousness came into being within a sonically rich constant environment without the possibility of silence. The first time silence is ever heard is after the child is born and perhaps in a bassinet in a hospital and is lying there in the dark, hearing nothing for the first time in its life. The absence of sound probably is a very threatening sound, because all of our developed consciousness has emerged in the presence of sound.

Because of our biology, silence has a meaning to it that is really the opposite of what we all assumed. Until recently, we all assumed that the child was in a coma in the womb and not reacting to the world. We didn’t know that the hearing was plugged in. We assumed that the child was born and became conscious at the moment of birth. Now we know that that’s not true, that sound is always present. It’s a very rich sonic environment. Silence has this extra radiation to it. Once we get used to life in this particular dimension that we are in, we do find ourselves surrounded frequently by lots of noise. Then silence becomes a relief. It turns to have a positive aspect. But underlying that is this other aspect of silence where, if the mother in fact dies while the child still is in the womb, silence means death and termination.

Silence in films is used especially to make the audience feel anxious or at least nervous.

There have been many films over the course of film history that have used silence for those same ends. Fritz Lang’s M has no music other than the whistle, Wages of Fear has no music, No Country for Old Men has one tiny piece of string music in it that sounds like crickets, Michael Haneke’s Amour has no music – shockingly it has no music over the end credits. Music is played on the piano and we hear a CD playing but there is no score. What is that? The common theme of all these films is a mounting sense of doom or dread that is empowered by the absence of music. Even in a conventional horror film which was scored by Bernard Herrmann, the presence of that music does scare us, but it does so in a companionable way. It’s as if your big brother is going to scare you. In a sense the music puts its arm around you and says, ‘Now I am really going to scare you.’ And it does. It does a good job, but you get the sense that there’s somebody there, trying to modulate your reactions, whereas a film with no music […] is abandoning you to your own devices, so that you have to react and have to come to emotional terms with the film without the music being any guide to you. That’s a scarier prospect – if the film is a good film. That’s the key all of these films have in common: they are extremely good films. The construction of the film itself acknowledges the fact that there is no music in a sense.

Whereas in big studio productions the audience is bombarded with all sorts of sounds for long stretches of time.

That’s true, and that’s clearly a determining factor. It’s also because we can now do this. When I started out 50 years ago, we would just have a dialogue track and no music and no sound effects as we were putting the films together. We had to imagine the film with this compliment of other sounds to it. As time went on we got to the point where we could run two or three tracks simultaneously – one dialogue track, one sound effects track and one music track. Now of course you can run 99 tracks or even an unlimited number of tracks. Because we can do this, this creates an expectation that we should do it. Once the expectation is that you should do it then to not do it becomes a statement. That makes people nervous and uncertain, because they might lose an advantage to some other film which the producer remembers where there was all this music. Studio executives are very busy. They have many projects going at the same time. Their talents are not always to see under the skin of a film. Some of them are very talented in that way, some of them aren’t. So to have an almost finished mix of the film with music and sound effects from very early stages now is becoming the accepted way of doing things. On the other hand, that’s exactly how I worked on THX 1138. When George [Lucas] and I were putting that film together, during the day he would be editing the film to picture with the dialogue track. At night I would be adding the sound effects and music – the temp track – to it. As the film was emerging it had a full music track of sound effects and temp music that I put together from records.

Unfortunately, composers and sound designers are rarely able to work closely together on the sonic concept of a film.

That’s always been the case. We were a strange bunch of people who left Los Angeles in 1969, primarily because the world that you just described was the world that we saw. That was not what we wanted. All of us had worked another way in film school. So we left and moved to San Francisco to be able to do that kind of extensive cross collaboration. In 1969, the unions were still very powerful in dividing crafts one from the other. We had not worked that way in film school and we didn’t want to work that way. In San Francisco there wasn’t the same kind of strict division of sound effects editors from music editors to mixers to picture editors. When you worked in post production on a film you were all in one group. That’s what suited us because that’s what we wanted to do.

In a way the old system never left. The old system is very well suited to a certain kind of industrial product, because everything is clearly defined and everything has its box. You wait until this stage and then you move to the next stage. You don’t turn the film over to the composer before a certain point, because that’s the most efficient way to do it from a business point of view – not artistically, certainly. If you gave me a magic wand and said, ‘You can change one thing in the film industry,’ it would be to get the composer and the sound designer, who ideally would almost be the same person sometimes, to start working on the film even before the shooting. […] I am thinking of Apocalypse Now, where by the time the music was being mixed […] we had developed fairly complete sound effects pre-mixes. We gave them to the music mixers so that they could hear the sounds that were going to be in the film at that point. Francis also encouraged them to steal the sounds from the pre-mixes and then maybe integrate those sounds through processing into the music itself. I did a similar thing with The Conversation. That was part of our mission statement to ourselves – not that we ever wrote it down formally, but in the late 60s we tried to create a broad spectrum between sound effects and music, so that there wasn’t a clear definition between one and the other. On The Conversation, the sounds of the conversation itself and the distorted elements of that conversation worked their way into the music and vice versa. Some of the music distortion effects came and influenced the sound of the conversation. It was very primitive by today’s standards, but it was aesthetically of a piece. I know that this is the way the Coen Brothers work. As they are editing the film, Skip Lievsay will put together a pre-mix of sounds for certain sequences and then give those to Joel and Ethan to integrate what Skip has done into the tracks of the project that they are editing. Then that influences what Carter Burwell does with the music. They are very much on the same wavelength. It is relative simple to do. You just have to decide that this is what you want to do.

On certain kinds of films there are a lot of people working on the sound. But it’s really the question of how soon does the sound designer get involved in a project. Ideally, again, it should really be before the film is shot to take advantage of ideas in the screenplay that would produce interesting and sometimes even money-saving ideas, ideas where you can achieve something in sound which tell you that you necessarily don’t have to shoot something if you can create the impression of something through sounds alone. That might save tens of thousands of dollars per item.

It takes somebody who is predisposed to think that way from the beginning, or somebody who has been educated by whatever process – by film school or just by the films that he worked on – to realise the advantage of this. Again, I am remembering Apocalypse Now because we were working in a format that had never been used before, what we now call 5.1. I had never even worked on a stereo film, everything I had done up until that point had been mono. I was a little terrified of that prospect, of how was I going to do that and how was I going to avoid any traps that weren’t clear in advance because nobody else had worked in this particular format before as well. I prepared a map for the music and for the sound effects to show where the music would be full 5.1, where it would be only stereo in the front and where it would be mono. Then I did the same thing for the sound effects. They were not always coincident. In fact, sometimes rarely coincident. This was a big help to the people who were editing the music and the sound effects because they could just look at that diagram which ran for the whole film and they could say, ‘What scene am I working on today?,’ and then they could look and say, ‘In this case both music and sound effects are mono’, so the sound effects editor now knew the things to do. Whereas for a full complex battle scene – the Ride of the Valkyries – where the music and the sound effects are both in 5.1, clearly I had to spend a lot of time doing that both in terms of music and in terms of sound effects. The reason for that is not only to save time and money, but the acknowledgement that the ear of the audience gets fatigued if the entire film was 5.1. The ear of the audience accommodates itself to that eventually and then expects that to be there all the time. It gets tired of it in a sense, whereas if you can sculpt it, depending on what the content of the scene is, and say, ‘This scene is going to be mono,’ then during the length of that scene the ear of the audience accustoms itself to mono. So when you open up to stereo, there is the sense that you are hearing something new. When you go from stereo to 5.1 there is another blossoming. People are mostly aware of these things when there is a significant change. To articulate that as much as possible was the goal of that mapping procedure.

 

You did discuss this approach as a team along with the composers though, didn’t you?

Yes, the music was written by Francis, Carmine and Shirley Walker. The three of them collaborated. They would write a piano version of the music and lay that down on one track of a 24 track tape. Then this would be given to one of four synthesists who were working on the film. The job of that synthesist was to orchestrate that piano track into a fully dimensional 24 track sound. On Apocalypse Now I was very busy in other areas. I would occasionally go over and watch them. My memory is that Shirley was playing the piano most of the time to something that Carmine had written and that Francis was then modifying. Francis is also musical. He plays tuba, he can read music and loves music and has a vast knowledge of opera and other things. My impression is that Shirley had her hands on the keys and that was what got laid down on that one track of the 24 track. But exactly how they all worked together I don’t know. The orchestration was done by the synthesists. There was also a temp track on the film, but it was used loosely. Mikey Hart and the percussion end of the Grateful Dead did a music track for the entire film. They screened the whole film at a certain point and then improvised a percussion track that went along with the entire film. We had that available to us and that appears several times in the film.

I believe Shirley Walker helped out Carmine Coppola on the scoring for The Black Stallion.

I wrote the original screenplay for that. My name is not on the film because of various political things which were very painful. But other than that I was not involved in the making of the The Black Stallion. I was working on Apocalypse Now while The Black Stallion was being made. It was a project that Carol Ballard and I worked on. We wrote the screenplay together in 1975. Then Gill Dennis, who I collaborated with on Return to Oz, joined us later that year. We finished a shooting script in January of 1976 and at that point I left because Carol was not happy with that draft of the screenplay. I left to come to England to edit Julia for Fred Zinneman. I worked closely with Georges Delerue. We mostly spoke French. I remember one time when talking about the music for the drive to the mansion in the country, Delerue said, ‘Here I am just going to do write some poussière musical,’ some musical dust, not real music but just some musical dust, sprinkled on the scene.

Would it then be better to have the music first or the sound effects first?

I am just speaking about the way I work. With Anthony Minghella and Gabriel Yared, as well as with Francis Coppola and David Shire, we had the music prior to shooting the film and certainly we had the music as the first assembly was put together. Then I would add sound effects. 80 percent of the time it would be sound effects that I felt were necessary to help tell the story, not atmospheric sounds. There are many exceptions to that. The use of the train elevator train in The Godfather during the Sollozzo murder scene is certainly a case where a sound effect was used in a musical sense. It’s like a string section where ultimately the low strings start to be added to the screeching of the breaks, which sound like very high violins. That’s a sound effect that is performing a musical job because there is nothing in the picture that makes you think there is a train in the neighbourhood. In that particular case it was a decision that Francis and Nino Rota had made because until fairly late in the process there was always the intention to have an intermission in the film after the Sollozzo murders, which was at the midway point. Nino and Francis wanted a piece of music to come in after the murder happened as Michael was running out of the restaurant. The big, operatic music would take you into the intermission, then there would be an intermission and then a similar piece would pull you back into the film after the intermission. As a result, Francis and Nino decided not to have any music prior to that moment of the killing which meant that the whole scene, which is maybe four minutes long – half of which is in a foreign language without subtitles –, had no music in it by design. So I thought of adding the sound of a train as something to modulate the emotion of the scene.

Did you work closely with Nino Rota on that movie then?

I never met Nino. In The Godfather all of the music that’s performed in the film was written by Carmine. Another one of my jobs was to make selections of period music that would be played on the radio. So I went through my vast library of that stuff and made selections of that and presented those to Francis. The crisis with Nino’s music was that Robert Evans didn’t like it. He felt it was too lethargic and too romantic and it needed to be harder hitting. He wanted to get rid of all of the music and have a new score written in five weeks by Henry Mancini. Luckily Francis was able to work Francis’ magic and convince Evans that this was not a good idea. Evans then proposed a scenario very late in the process where by Evans with a music editor would re-cut Nino’s music and then we, meaning Francis and I, would re-cut what Evans did and then we would preview that version of the film. Then the opposite would happen: We would re-cut Nino’s music and then Evans would re-cut our cut and we would preview that. Whichever version got the highest score that’s what we would go with. The decision came down to who was going to go first. It was clear to anyone who was in that meeting that whoever got to go first would get the prize because there was not enough time to do what Evans wanted. Luckily just at that moment, Ali MacGraw came in, who was married to Evans at that time, and she said, ‘Don’t forget we are going to Acapulco for a vacation.’ So Evans said ‘Okay, well, you go first,’ At that point I looked at Francis and Francis looked at me and we thought, ‘Okay, this is a win.’ When we went back to the studio Francis said, ‘Good luck, Walter, I am going back to San Francisco. Do the best you can!’ I thought, ‘What?’ (laughs) I was left alone with Evans essentially and I tried to think of the way he thought. What’s his problem? I loved Nino’s music so the question is why doesn’t he love it? Intuitively I zeroed in on the horse’s head scene which Francis and Nino had written music for that played against the horror. They had carousel music. I thought, ‘Well, maybe in this case Evans has a point. Maybe it plays so much against it… What can we do?’ I looked at the music which had an ABA structure to it. Then I ordered up another transfer of the music and slid the new transfer one structural unit against itself so that the A plays and the the B plays, but the B plays along with another version of the A so that they are harmonically related but play against each other. Luckily this just exactly coincided with the moment where you see the first bit of blood on the bed. When I called Evans in to listen to this cue he loved it and basically that satisfied him that everything was going to be alright.

Talking about The Godfather, it’s amazing, and this is another book to be written, the wonderful congruity that happens spontaneously between one piece of music that’s correctly selected either by the composer in terms of his process or even frequently with temp music. In an ideal sense you find a piece of temp music, line it up with an edited version of the film, select a likely starting point – where she puts the glass down – and run them together. The chances are high that if you have selected correctly the music, the scene and the music will dance together and frequently they will come to an end at the same moment. Why is that? This is a piece of music that may have been written 30 years earlier, performed ten years earlier and now you are syncing it up with a scene that you have just finished editing for a film that was just shot a few months ago. The organic nature of these things work together in miraculous ways. I think it’s part circumstance, but it’s also that both film and music are temporal arts with a high degree of modularity. Somehow the internal workings of a temporal, highly modular art, whether it’s film or music, constrict certain developmental patterns that if you do this, you have to do this, followed by that and then you have do that. And then you have to stop and the piece comes to an end. The difference of course is that music is the most abstract of all of the arts and film is the most specific of all of the arts. The reason they love each other so much is each one saves the other one from the dilemmas. Music relieves film of its specificity and film relieves music of its abstraction. They love to work together to achieve that result.

I remember on The English Patient we were still putting the film together and Saul Zaentz the producer, and there was only one producer on the film which was him – and that was great -, had to show 20 minutes or so of the film to theatre owners and get financing. He asked us to put something together and suggested the ending. I said, ‘Well, I put the a-cappella singing at the end.’ ‘Why don’t you put the Bach at the end?’ I did and then I thought, ‘Hm, why don’t we put both together?’ Here’s Bach, written in the 1700s, recorded by Glenn Gould in 1955, and here is a Hungarian folk song written in the 1400s and recorded in the 1990s – and yet they are in the same key and go through the same changes and they come to an end. That’s what I was getting at with the same kind of modularity in some weird inevitable way. If you do this and this and this, then you must do this. It happens with the image as well as two pieces of music simultaneously. This was at an early stage. In the end Gabriel wrote a variation on that. It’s funny because we got the singer Martha Sebastian into the Air Studios up here and played Gabriel’s composition and told her, ‘Just do something.’ In the end she couldn’t do it. She did something but it didn’t have that magic thing, so in the end we went back to something that she had done a few years previously and just found a way to put them in sync with each other. It’s that trade off between spontaneity and control. Theoretically she had control in the studio and yet that was inhibiting. So the fact that we could take something that was done without any reference to Gabriel’s music and obviously the Bach as well and put them together to give you this funny kind of spontaneity.

I was under the impression that Evans did take a lot of music out of the final cut of The Godfather.

No. I don’t think in the final version that is the case. That may have been at some point during the struggle.

Did you receive any feedback from Nino Rota about your work on his music?

No. It was all through Francis. Nino was in Italy and just stayed in Italy. He never came to the United States. I am sure he saw the film, though. There was a controversy about that because many of the themes were written for another film as it turned out.

Did you or Francis Coppola know about this at the time the film was made?

I don’t know. I certainly wasn’t aware of it myself and I never heard Francis talk about it at the time. I think it was a problem later on. It wasn’t nominated for best music, although it’ a great score.

 

No Time for Despair

If you get rejected, it doesn’t mean you suck

by Stephan Eicke

Since test screenings have become a much-loved tradition in Hollywood, the number of rejected film scores per year has sky-rocketed. More often than not, temp tracks are chosen to accompany the film for the test screenings since the composer is still working on the original score. Temp tracks, meaning “temporary tracks”, is a misleading term in a way. Musical pieces that are being put on a rough cut even during the editing process are “temporary“ in the sense only that they are not supposed to make their way into the final film. Read more

Of Vaders and Raiders

Interview with Ben Burtt on film music and sound design

by Stephan Eicke

Ben Burtt is responsible for the sound effects and -design on such classics as Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek and Super 8. We sat down with him for a chat about his sound design and how he worked with John Williams over the course of the years. Read more

No Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Intelligence as a chance and threat to music in the media

by Stephan Eicke

The digital revolution that has taken place for the past two decades has had a deep impact on film- and production music. In the course of this series of articles we will dive into various aspects of how the music-in-the-media landscape has changed and what this means for the creative minds in front of the computer.

The music industry hasn’t slept when it comes to fully functioning A.I. composers. Since the early 2010s, new programs have been developed whose function it is to create music – on their own without having a human being sitting in front of the computer to put melodies, harmonies and counterpoints together. Read more