During our cast and crew screenings of Christopher Columbus Saves the World, we had seemingly unanimous excitement over this video we put together documenting the process of making a cross-country collaborative recording of the chamber orchestra score I wrote for the film, so here it is for you to watch:
Although I’ve been doing the music for Well Dang! projects since the beginning, I had never really taken the opportunity to do a full scoring treatment for most of them. I know the projects well, and I know what I want, so I have frequently shortcutted the process by recording a number of fitting pieces and then editing them to fit the film (or in the case of Buddy, recorded all of the music ahead of time). I have usually saved the sheet music-y, serious composery stuff for other people’s projects.
Before we shot CCStW, I had done some synthesized orchestral music for Out for Delivery? to heighten the unreasonable intensity of the film, and though I enjoyed the result, I really wanted to have CCStW benefit from the sound of real performances. I felt it would contribute to the production value of the movie as much if not more than many of its visual elements. So, I spoke with some friends to organize how it would all work out, and the timing meant that the score would have to be completed earlier in the year than planned. Long story short, this meant that the day we released Kevin, Take Two online (the day after it was completed), I got started working on the music.
The main challenge to writing it was finding a “heroic” theme that would suit the movie and still maintain a unique character. I could say more about writing music, but that is more than you probably want to read. So I won’t. The only relevant detail is that I completed it a few days later, one week before we were scheduled to record the strings!
I’ve known Kevin Rogers for almost a decade, since we went to the same music school for our undergraduate degrees, and we have continued to collaborate when possible (he played violin for Kirk Mannican’s Liberty Mug, the original short film for The Girl from Carolina, and more recently on Artistic Venture).
He has an active and exciting new music string quartet, Friction Quartet, in San Francisco with fellow like-minded musicians Doug Machiz (violoncello), Otis Harriel (violin), and Taija Warbelow (viola). The quartet was gracious enough to spend their first weekend in April 2014 (one of the only free ones they weren’t booked in the first half of the year) to record the score for me.
We used click tracks to keep all of the cues in sync with the movie, but more importantly to keep them in sync with each other. Each cue was recorded between 3 and 7 times to layer and sound like a group of 12-28 string players (with the exception of two cues that are quartet-only for story reasons!), and they did an amazing job.
Kevin also said nice things about me and my music (unprompted!) that made their way into the video above.
I’ve known Doug Perkins since my graduate enrollment at Dartmouth College in 2009, and we have worked on a number of collaborative projects since then (Doug also graciously contributed original arrangements to Peter Bear’s Den last year). He was badass enough to grab windows of time while working with eighth blackbird to record the various percussion parts for the score (and record some selfie video) and send them across the Internet to me.
Then Nikola Simikić took the 30 or so tracks of recordings (including the Minimoog additions I threw in for filling out the frequency spectrum) and mixed them into the amazing final product that has definitely been a highlight of the year for me.
I can’t wait for you to hear the whole thing! For now, you’ll get some snippets in the video above.