<font size=\"4\">Presenting the Sixth in a series of GOS "Meet the Artist" Interviews featuring:
<font size=\"3\">We are pleased to present this interview with composer Jeff Beal. It is an honor to have Jeff as our featured guest.
Jeff Beal belongs to a new generation of eclectic composers. He has scored more than 25 films and TV shows. Jeff’s fluency in jazz, classical, contemporary, electronic and world music give him a unique and individual style all his own. Beal’s compositions can be heard in movie theaters, concert halls, CD recordings and on television shows throughout the world. Steven Schneider of the NY Times wrote of \"...the richness of Beal\'s musical thinking - the ways in which he conceives of his solos as fully-developed mini compositions, while his compositions often capture the liveliness and unpredictability of the best improvisation.”
Jeff composes the music for ABC/USA’s new hit series MONK, starring Tony Shalhoub. Many US newspapers have recently featured stories about Jeff\'s Monk Score. Some of Jeff’s music for Monk is provided below. As a film composer, Jeff scored Ed Harris’ critically acclaimed movie,”Pollock”. Other scores include director Bob Rafelson’s latest feature “The House on Turk Street”, William H. Macy’s acclaimed “Door to Door”, “The Passion of Ayn Rand” and others. Jeff is currently completing the score for Tibet: Dragon In The Land Of Snows, a documentary initiated by the Dalai Lama, which chronicles the history of China’s occupation of Tibet. He is also currently working on a new score to Buster Keaton\'s silent film classic The Generation and has recently completed Conviction, the true story of inner city convict turned peace activist Carl Upchurch, premieres on Showtime this month. Jeff’s Film Credits page is here.
Not only is Jeff prolific in Film and Television, but is a renown concert musician. Jeff’s concert music has been performed by many leading orchestras and conductors, including the St. Louis, Rochester, Pacific, Frankfurt, Munich, and Detroit Symphonies. American conductor Kent Nagano commissioned and premiered two new works, Alternate Route for trumpet and orchestra (Beal as soloist) and Interchange for string quartet and orchestra (with the Turtle Island String Quartet and later subsequently performed and recorded with conductor Neeme Jarvi and the Detroit Symphony for the Chandos label).
Jeff is an expert when it comes to orchestral simulation with samples. Visit Jeff Beal’s website at: http://www.jeffbeal.com/ There are several of Jeff\'s cues available on his web site for listening.
Below are questions submitted by members of the Northern Sounds forum and Jeff\'s responses.
Hello Jeff, First of all I\'d like to say I enjoyed your score to \'Pollock\'. Fantastic movie also. You seemed to capture his abstract paintings in a musical way that was very cool in scenes where he was painting (the track \"One Man Show\" comes to mind, great cue ). Just curious how you got your break into film scoring? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Well, my first job was an indie film, \"CHEAP SHOTS\". I met the filmmakers when I was a student at Eastman (they were from Rochester, NY). It took a couple of years for them to get the film made, but it was my 1st scoring gig, and a lot of fun. They told me they loved Bernard Herman and Nino Rona. I remember renting a lot of Fellini movies (and the Hitchcock stuff of course as well). After that I lived in SF for a while, and got a gig ghosting some music for \"Unsolved Mysteries\" remember that one? I also did a lot of Industrial Films and little scoring jobs in SF, before I moved to LA.Once in LA, it was a combination of several agent relationships, and also the recommendation of a few peers, Mark Isham esp. who has been very supportive championing my work. The other \"strategy\" (if you can call it that) was to develop my career as a solo and concert recording artist/composer. That was very helpful, esp. in the beginning when I didn\'t have a lot of film credits
Thanks, Jeff, for taking time away from your busy schedule to read and answer our questions. I\'m looking forward to your remarks What projects, in addition to Monk, are you working on at the moment? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Just finished a really beautiful feature documentary, \"Tibet, Cry Of The Snow Lion\". The film is starting to make the festival circuit, and should be released next year. I\'m also doing an orchestral commission- a new score for the Buster Keaton film \"The General\". This is a big project and a huge challenge (the film is 70 minutes plus). Earlier in the year I did a Bob Rafelson Film, \"The House on Turk Street\" (stars Samuel Jackson, Mila Jovovich). This should be out in 2003 as well.
how would you divide up your work now - music CD\'s, live gigs,and/or film work? (BTW, I\'m gonna try to see Monk tonight, but USA Network is on extended cable and I have basic cable. I\'ll have to do some nachos and invade some friend\'s home to watch it. Of course, that\'s difficult because I do that to so many friends that I don\'t have friends anymore. I am quite defensive of my nachos.) Best of success to you!!\" </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Glad you\'ve enjoyed \"Monk\". It\'s been a real gas to score. Tony Shaloub is brilliant, and the irreverent comedy and old fashioned murder mystery a bit of a throwback that seems to support a \"neo-traditional\" score (read – actual music - not just loops and pads! Haven\'t we all heard enough of THAT on dramatic tv lately?)
OK - well, recently, it\'s been mostly composing. I still really enjoy playing, but a few years ago, I took a break from live gigs. I have a son (now 7 years old) and it seemed my free time I wanted to be around the house more. I\'d say right now my focus is scoring, and in the between times, I tend to work on commissions (concert music, etc.). I also like the solitary and private life being a composer affords. Luckily, I am able to use the trumpet in my scores when it seems appropriate.
What was it like to hear your music performed for the first time by world-class players in (1) the concert hall, (2) the recording studio, and (3) the movie theater? Copland\'s story about the first time he heard his Organ Symphony comes to mind: \"I have a vivid memory of the first rehearsal, because of all times, I was late due to an unexplained delay on the subway. I was really in a panic, thinking that I was going to miss the entire rehearsal. I dashed from Times Square to Aeolian Hall on 43rd Street near Sixth Avenue. I was in such a hurry to get into the hall that instead of going around the block to the stage entrance, I yanked open the front door of the main hall--suddenly, I got a blast of my own orchestration! It was a moment I shall never forget. It was the Scherzo movement, very brilliant, brassy, and glamorous-sounding. I had orchestrated the piece for large orchestra: triple woodwinds, full brass, and an array of percussion requiring five players in addition to the timpanist. I was absolutely overwhelmed to hear my own orchestration for the very first time. It sounded so glorious to me, so much grander than I could possibly have imagined.\"-- Copland and Perlis, Copland: 1900-1942, p. 103
On a similar note, how have those experiences changed over the years and how have they remained the same? Who are the major influences in your musical life, both as a player and a composer? [/b]
Great questions - I remember reading the Copland quote many years ago. There are 2 early experiences that come to mind as very memorable. The 1st one was my first little big band arrangement of \"Four\" at a Stan Kenton camp. I was in the 7th or 8th grade - At the end of the week, the Kenton band read our charts down. It was a thrill. I think I have a cassette tape of it somewhere even. Later on in high school I wrote a trumpet/orchestra piece for the Oakland Youth Symphony. Kent Nagano was our conductor at the time. The day I brought the piece into rehearsal for a read through, he suggested I conduct! I was just good enough to do this - the experience of standing in front of them hearing the piece was unbelievable. I had pretty much taught myself classical orchestration from studying Norton scores, and going through books, etc. This is when I fell in love with STRINGS and never looked back. This is why I was so thrilled when GOS came out. I felt I could finally mock up strings in a musical and expressive way. Another experience from the Oakland Youth Symphony: The year before we did Stravinsky\'s \"Rite Of Spring\", and I sat and played in the trumpet section. To experience that masterful orchestration from that vantage point was unbelievable. I recall our then conductor, Robert Hughes lent me and extra score and I sat there studying it during rehearsals.
Just about a year ago, I went to a local art film multiplex and saw Pollock with an audience. It was such a great feeling after many years of trying to get a \"real\" movie score out there. I still love going to premieres of my work. You learn alot about the process seeing your films play for an audience, and learning how anticipate that when you are working.The 2nd wonderful thrill was when Maria Gay Harden won the Oscar for best supporting actress and I heard my music on the Oscar telecast. A director friend I was working with at the time, called to congratulate and said \"do you realize a BILLION people just heard your theme?\" wow, that kind of summed it up.
Of course many things changes as time passes, but I would say my love of great music has actually grown fonder. It\'s harder to have the kind of \"ah ha\" moments then when you\'re younger I suppose, but the power of music as an art form - the communication of ideas and emotions through sound - what a miracle. I feel incredibly fortunate to make my livelihood creating such \"useless\" stuff. I\'m very interested in Physics - If you do any reading on string theory (Michio Kauku, etc.) you\'ll hear him talk of all of the matter in the universe as vibrations and resonances of sub quantum \"strings\". At it\'s most fundamental level, the WHOLE UNIVERSE might simply be \"nothing\", save a type of hyper dimensional \"music.\" wow.
Influences - As a jazz player, Miles, Clifford Brown, Chet Baker, Woody Shaw, Kenny Wheeler, Keith Jarret, Joe Henderson, etc. As a composer, Stravinsky (of course), Bach, Bartok, Mahler, Alban Berg, Debussy, Satie, Copland, John Adams, Steve Reich, etc. As a film composer, Ennio Morricone, Bernard, Herman, Nino Rota, Goldsmith, Mark Isham, John Williams, Tom Newman, etc
How do you generate ideas for movies? I mean, is there a set rule that you follow? For example, a scary scene with ninjas hiding in a closet: You would use tremolo & crescendo strings; or a car chase scene, then you would use percussions etc. Are there certain types of instruments that you always use for certain types of scenes? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
I look at each film as a puzzle to solve. I get bored easily, and I love the dea that each film\'s inherent nature is a specific and distinctive. It\'s hard to say what the \"magic ingredient\" is for ideal score. There is something very magical that can happen when the right music \"sticks\" to a film/scene. The physco -acoustics are very important of course because that can connect the primal emotions of the listener.
Beyond that there has to be some compositional idea that connects the elements of the movie in musical form. This could be a sound or instrument, a musical motive, a melody, a chord progression, and any combination of the above. It\'s all about searching for something that gets to some truth about a character/piece which I enjoy most. The thing that\'s probably most interesting about how a score works (or doesn\'t) beyond supplying the right gestures at the right places, is how the score contributes to the fluidity and organic nature of the whole experience of the movie.
I also work very hard to create cues that can stand on their own as little musical ideas (i.e., a beginning, middle and end). Aside from personally caring about this, I think the presence of a well thought out musical structure can greatly enhance a movie. Audiences are very sophisticated and generally resist being overtly manipulated by a composer. This is ironic, because most of the times music is used in film is to evoke and enhance emotional tone of some sort. It\'s like good acting verses bad acting - do you buy it or not? Is it real - does it get under your skin or just move you superficially, or actually push you away? I spend a lot of time \"working\" around the performance of the actor - try to find the truth and uniqueness of the moment they and the director are creating, and try to find a way to be a part of the that \"band\". As we all know from playing music - the 1st rule is to be a good listener and (in the case of film) observer of what\'s on screen.
Do you have to mockup every single cue for a movie or sometimes do you just compose on piano and write out the parts? Cheers and thanksfor your time and mp3s! Damon Bradley? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Yes, that\'s the norm these days. Thank God for all these great sample libraries. I actually now enjoy what this can do for the process. I feel more like a fellow filmmaker, as opposed to the \"hired gun\" composer. It\'s a lot easier to change your score in the 1st week, than the 4th. The detailed demo process is like a magnifying glass. If you are working with good, smart film makers, you all can be the better for it. Unfortunately, it can occasionally be frustrating trying to connect with someone with less musical taste or overall musical sophistication. I still work at the piano with working on themes, etc. But before they get played for the director, they are usually mocked up. Speaking of libraries, I\'m looking forward to
some more solo string choices (hope Gary reads this, hint, hint)!
I also like chamber music as a style - it seems more specific and distinctive in film. I\'m especially glad the solo instrument samples are good enough to write and mock up these type of cues. It kind of cracks me up how a lot of young composers are obsessed with trying to create huge Goldsmith type mockups. There is so much more to do than that, and typically the 1st jobs a composer gets won\'t be for that 100 piece orchestra. It would behoove all young writers to do - a string quartet, woodwind quintet, brass quintet, etc., and learn how to integrate these solo instruments into a film, etc. One thing I like about GOS is the ability to create different senses of size depending on how you use and combine the samples, etc. A good example would be my \"Monk\" score which is kind of a chamber orchestra, with some jazz/noirish tones underneath. Strings, bass clarinet, clarinet, banjo, piano, jazz bass, drums, etc.
As an accomplished jazz improviser, could you comment on how that ability plays into your compositional methods to develop and vary a musical theme? Are you a strong believer that main characters in films should have their own signature themes be they melodies, rhythms, harmonies, moods or do you write for the context of the scene itself without much regard for who is in it? Thanks for answering these questions and thanks Gary for the opportunity and turning me onto Jeff\'s music. Craig Duke? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Good questions. I think the element of thematic variation is underused in modern scoring. It\'s a more subtle, but infinitely more sophisticated approach. Character themes can be used to great effect in the right kind of movie, but \"idea\" themes can be just as valid. For a good example of how I worked on a score thematically - here is a link to an interview I gave on my \"Pollock\" score: http://www.jeffbeal.com/Pages/PressPages/SoundtrackMagJB.html A big factor in deciding might be how much music is wanted/needed in the piece. If the demands are light, you are usually better of simplifying the thematic materials. There simply might not be enough time/cues for repetition and variation of varied themes, etc.
To answer your other question, I would say being an improviser has always been a central part of my musical voice as a composer. The ability to work in a computer, capture spontaneous ideas, and then refine them is invaluable. The power of the subconscious mind is something akin to method acting, which evolved (interestingly) in the same general time period as jazz improvisation.
re. \"..do you write for the context of the scene itself without much regard for who is in it?\"
Not really ever - as I wrote above, the actor\'s performance can be a central peg on which to build the tone and temperament of your score. The more you can get an audience into the actor\'s performance, the more you can say with your music, without manipulating the moment. In fact in the ideal, your score BECOMES part of that film moment (although it doesn\'t simply have to mimic it). I\'ve always been thrilled when a director feels the score has somehow heightened the piece or helped them see something they didn\'t even know was there.
Do you really lean toward total originality, and/or do you think your talents lie with reinterpretation? At this point in your creative road, are you anxious to continue along this path or are you searching for an \"alternate route?
Hi Jeff, It\'s cool when I find I\'ve already heard a lot of your stuff, and that you\'re right here and we\'re allowed to bug you with daft questions. I\'m interested in the way that the modern (hired gun) composer has to somehow span the centuries and also produce everything from \'bluegrass with a touch of roccoco\', to pibroch without the boring bits\' (for example) to order. Much of what I hear on film and television is pastiche (not a criticism, I love pastiche - it\'s a great way to learn any art, and the listener gets to hear \'new\' classical, jazz, romantic, baroque, and various fusions thereof etc.) I\'d like to know how you approach a project that has perhaps a strong producer/director with strong views on what they want; but when you see the finished product, perhaps you \'hear\' something completely different? Do you plod on to try to uncover the \'gold\' (they wish) inside the producer\'s imagination, or do you mine your own and \'package it\' for him/her? Or do you ever get a chance to just say \"No guys, this is what this project needs! You hired me for areason! let me prove you right? I suppose I\'m trying to get a handle on the \'creative\' role of the modern working composer (as seen by the composer himself) and the power (or lack thereof) he is accorded within the industry, or even over his own creative output? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
I guess Stravinsky said it best, \"Our job is not to build new ships, but refit old ones.\" We all stand on the works and ideas of our past and our peers. Within that context I try to create something that is distinctive and honest, and hopefully, ultimately- personal. One of the things I love about the job of scoring is the opportunity to get to live in many musical worlds, styles, etc.
In film and it\'s predecessor, drama, we are really \"retelling\" the age old stories of the human condition. There is nothing \"new\" under this sun, other than what we can bring to it. I think experimentation and originality are the life blood of and artist-it\'s the sense of trying to look at the same old world in some new way.
re the ideas of eclecticism - Yes, bad eclectic music most certainly \"Pastiche\", and much film music is certainly that. I think eclecticism is very much a part of our consciousness now - the boundaries of music style are becoming increasingly blurred. In principle I think this is a good thing and a very organic outgrowth of the global media village we all live in.
I have a few personal caveats about how to approach this - One is the idea is that it\'s not good enough to simply be an \"eclectic\" artist. (jack of all trades). You first have to go deep with your musical roots somewhere. From this base (in my case jazz and western classical) you can be a much better musical thief and ultimately have a musical literacy in which to channel and use this eclecticism.
I also think the idea of folk music is a very powerful one, and all great art music is at it\'s most basic core, somehow linked back to a folk genre. Western classical, is essentially the church music of medieval times, filtered through Bach, Mozart, etc. Jazz is the blues, dixieland, and ragtime, elevated to art by Duke Ellington, Miles etc. If you look at my list of favorite \"classical\" composers, they all made extensive use of folk art as an influence in their work.
Regarding the \"recreative\" side of a film composer\'s life. There is a certain amount of this we must do to do our job well. I guess in my case I use my concert writing as a chance to be more experimental when I feel like it. I have to say though I think film is really the central defining pop (and at its best) art culture today. Even more than pop music, I think film is our true modern \"folk art\" of sorts (in the sense it is intimately connected with it\'s time and the people who make it). I think it\'s one of the most interesting and relevant places for a modern composer to be. It\'s our modern day opera, mythic church, etc.
As far as \"power, or the lack of it\" - filmmakers are 1st and foremost concerned with the music serving the movie, as they should be. It\'s the composer\'s job to make the music good (even able to stand on it\'s own) but satisfy this need and serve the film. Occasionally a film like \"Pollock\" comes along with a few scenes that present a great compositional opportunity. I always personally strive to elevate the score to a place at which it becomes a character in the piece. If you are working with good filmmakers, they will usually recognize when the score is able to do that. Other times, it has to be more of a private conspiracy to make your score and work artistically distinctI\'ve.
Jeff, My wife is a huge fan of Monk, so I am dragged along in her wake. Great show. I am always interested in workflow. Maybe you could go over your process from idea to finished music? And what tools you use along the way? Thanks! Doyle W. Donehoo? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
MONK Workflow - The show is shot and posted in Toronto and I\'m in the LA area. A typical show goes something like this.
1) I get a producer\'s cut of the show. I screen and make initial spotting notes, ideas, and email to the post producer.
2) Next day she calls, and we go over the show on the phone, and I incorporate their ideas, concepts into my notes.
3) 1st composing day. That same day (usually) I\'ve received a locked cut. I digitize into my mac with an Aurora fuse card, boot up Logic (sequencer of choice) and start writing.
4) 2nd composing day. I finish writing the show, and before the fedex deadline, make a video tape for the Toronto people, and a copy to the network.
5) Next day I get notes on the score - sometimes there is a weekend here, but the deadlines have been brutal - so this also might be my overdub/mix day as well.
6) Final day - overdubs: a live clarinetist on about half the shows. Then do the producer network notes, mix the score. Output OMF files in logic and upload to the FTP site in Toronto. (usually all gets there by 3 am the next day)
7) Final mix - sound super in Toronto pulls the cues into a pro tools session. A music editor is there on the stage in case of last minute changes or swapping of cues, etc.
There are a little less than 2 days to write each score - between 20-30 minutes of music. Most of the score is a set palate of GOS, Dan Dean solo woodwinds (esp. clar and bass clar), a virtual jazz trio, percussion, banjo, other guitars, etc. I try to be thematic and develop a little personality for each episode. Without being lazy, I occasionally bring in MIDI files from earlier shows when I think they might be right or thematic to the overall series or something I can vary and develop. I don\'t tend to overdo this because the role of the score is very much about comedic and suspenseful beats and timing, and it\'s actually faster to write this kind of material and try to make an old cue work properly.
Also, I scored the 2 hour pilot before this whole series got under way. I was hired to rescore it after the network discarded another composer\'s work. At the time it felt like a very quick job, but in retrospect it was a luxurious 2 weeks. At any rate, that time very valuable in finding thematic ideas and getting an initial tone going that worked for the piece and Tony\'s character.
As you work on your orchestrations (which may be integral to your compositional process at the outset), how much of the \"color\" is in your mind\'s ear, and how much of it comes from \"experimenting\" in your studio (or elsewhere)? BTW, I love the \"motif-like\" use of the clarinets and low pizz in those Monk clips. And nice rhythmic counterpoint.
What midi controllers do you use? And what is your current studio setup?
Jeff--could you briefly describe the main tools you couldn\'t live without in your work as a composer (i.e., which sound card, sequencer, computer, software, etc.)? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
I have a basic Fatar studio 610 controller (thinking of upgrading to a weighted keyboard, but I need a bigger desk 1st!), and a 1920\'s rebuilt Steinway piano with a gulbranson midi retrofit in the studio. I also have my trumpets handy when the need arises. I\'m also really enjoying my new Logic control for automating MIDI volume of stuff like the Dan Dean solo woodwinds. I use all of the EXP versions of GOS, so there is a lot of mod wheel use on the string parts. I have 2 gigastudios, and lots of virtual instruments in Logic, and an older Emu E4 running a few samples as well. I also did a custom sample of my Steinway in gigastudio with 3 layers of dynamic, which I really like and use all the time.
Without question Logic, my motu 2408\'s, and Gigastudio are the most important elements. Everything is digitally networked (giga\'s are lightpiped into the 2408, and everything mixed inside Logic). I love this setup because it is simple and powerful. Every few years I buy a new faster mac, and the whole studio is instantly upgraded. I also have an older korg digital mixer (2 lightpipes in/out) for routing the monitor mixing - esp. useful when I need to do a 5.1 mix. I very much enjoy the technical and computer geek part of working.
As to your other question about sound/orchestration - I don\'t really separate this much, just and extension of the compositional process - in the same way I think of recording/engineering the music in the same light. I enjoy getting some sense of the orchestration in the sketch mode. Also, it\'s amazing how simple film music can be to be effective in terms of orchestration. The music is existing with a lot of other sound information and quite often the challenge is to be musically interesting without throwing too much unnecessary material in.
Before I did \"Pollock\" I never had a way to thinking/describing this processes, but it\'s very much like a painter I suppose - deal both with the formal elements of the composition and the more sensual elements of sound as sound (i.e., color, etc.). In fact, I was thrilled to get to do that movie, because I consider my self a bit of a painting fan, and a lot of my family (past and present) are amateur artists.
I really love the title music to \"Monk\" and just had a few questions. Who was the guitarist playing the melody on that track, and do you recall if an arch-top acoustic was used for the melody. Also, if you were at the session, do you recall how the guitar was mic\'d? Great tone... and a bit of Django vibe in there. Thanks so much for taking these questions. Dennis </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
It was Grant Geissman, and he did a wonderful job. The temp track was a Django type piece and we wanted to try to capture some of the innocence of that style. He played a steel string (I\'ve emailed to ask which one -waiting to hear back). I miked it with a pair of Octava condensers (MK12) through and apex 107 stereo tube preamp. The mikes were quite close and I used a little eq to round out the mids, but his tone was phenomenal - as they say, \"it\'s not the arrow, it\'s the Indian!\" I also had recently switched to recording at 24 bit (instead of 16) I don\'t know why it took me so long to do this, but it\'s a really noticeable difference in fidelity, esp. with solo instruments.
hello Jeff, I went to your site and checked out some mp3\'s, very nice arrangements! I like your use of percussion, is all your percussion sampled and if so what are you using?The strings sounded good, I think I also heard Sonic Implant strings in some of your music? Can you give a fairly detailed example of how you use GOS, your controllers, Giga setup, and basic approach to midi orchestration? What samples do you use for bass pizz? They sound rich and powerful. What reverb do you use, and are you using the Impulse Responses provided by the latest GOS update? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
I\'ve used Larry Seyers \"Gigabass\" on a lot of scores, incl. Monk, and the GOS pizz for the low orchestral pizz. Perc. is a mixed bag - \"Pollock\", \"A Gentleman\'s Game\" and \"House on Turk Street\", and \"Passion of Ayn Rand\"were mostly all a live players. Rest were samples and loops.
I haven\'t bought the sonic implant strings yet (but from the demos they sound like the might be a really nice compliment to GOS) : Many of the scores on my site use a real string section or soloists - They are, Pollock, Turk St., Door To Door, Conviction, Joe and Max, A Gentleman\'s Game, Secret Life Of Zoey.
I use mostly all of the Logic verbs, and haven\'t gotten into the impulse response stuff yet. Most film, and esp. TV music has to live in a narrow dynamic range, so the reverbs have to live in this space. I often use simple reverbs (gasp) such as the Logic \"Silver Verb\". It doesn\'t take up a lot of DSP and can be tailored to many different settings/tone colors. I also like to use delays on my trumpet to supplement the verb occasionally. The most tricky thing about mixing music for film/tv is learning how to mix the score so when it\'s mixed with the rest of the soundtrack it will still have ambiance and life in the sound. Also, a lot of getting a score to \"sound\" right, is composing and orchestrating it correctly, so that there is a the proper balance an interplay in the sonic spectrum.
Re. midi orchestration - I also have set up a lot of my orchestra sounds using a channel splitter object in logic. This means I can have one \"track\" in logic which is routed to up to 16 sounds, depending on which channel I send from the controller keyboard. This is esp. useful for a big library such as GOS. I have it set up so each string section is the same virtual routing - i.e., pizz is always channel 9, vibrato long bows, channel 1, non vibrato, channel 2 etc.
This way it\'s really easy to experiment with different doublings, combinations in the string library, without having to stop and go through a lot of cumbersome steps. I.e. record a violin part using midi channel 1 (vibrato exp). Copy to 2nd violins, and change to midi channel 3 (con sord). Copy the same line to the celli track, etc. I can also quickly double up, say the muted violas and muted cello long bows (a sound I really like) for inner voices and chordal string parts. I really like the non vibrato string samples - they seem rather \"flat\" but on the right part can be quite creepy. I also did something on the most recent Monk I really though sounded cool - I used the NV violin 1 sample on a high legato line, and doubled the same MIDI track DOWN an 8va with the 2nd Vl vibrato long bows (or the all violin con sord. in another variation) the color of the spare high violins with the mutes and vibrato in the 2nds 8va below was really evocative.
This channel splitter approach also simplifies the visual layout when I orchestrate (which I do all inside of Logic as well - All of the 1st violin tracks (pizz, arco, short, long bows, etc) can be reduced to ONE musical stave in Logic. The same applies to the woodwind, and brass instruments as well. (mutes, staccatos, long tones on the same stave)
That\'s one of the thing I love about logic - being able design a custom setup (this can take some time to do) so when you are writing you don\'t have to think of multiple steps to do what you what, so you can actually think about (gasp) music.
Hi Jeff, Really enjoyed Monk. Fantastic music! Your music made the show. The guitar was excellent. The bass was also impressive. Werethey real or sampled? Also, did you use real strings? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
No real strings, all GOS and a few DD solo strings thrown in. Real guitar, (theme only, see above for recording specs), - bass is me playing the Larry Seyer\'s Upright Gigabass. I also recently added Peter Erskine\'s ride cymbals which are perfect for the jazz vibe.
Hi Jeff, Do you use any other sampler formats other than Giga? I like your style very much! Kip </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Thanks, Kip, I have an E4 which I still really like as a format (because of the flexibility of the routing of controllers, etc). I\'m very excited about virtual instruments in the Logic environment - I own and use EXS24, EVP88, ES1 (all emagic) and Absyth, B4 (native instruments).
Hi Jeff! \"What are your views on how you\'d like a trumpet to fit into your compositional works? (That\'s the general question.)
Jeff--the trumpet is not exactly a low-maintenance instrument. How do you keep your chops in shape while functioning as a full-time professional composer? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
I love being a trumpet player and getting to \"cameo\" on a score. It goes back to what I said earlier about making a personal statement with your musical life and scores. Obviously not every film needs my trumpet, but it something I\'m become known for. It\'s also fun, when they need a jazz source piece, and I can write and play a little something. I did a TV movie, \"Joe and Max\" in which the role of the trumpet was esp. involved. Basically I used the trumpet as representative of Joe Louis\' character and boxing style. Max Schmelling (the German boxer) was a Mahleresque orchestra. In the boxing cues, these 2 styles got to \"confront\" each other.
For productions that contain a great deal of sampled instruments what\'s your philosophy on mixing recordings of \"real\" instruments in combination with the samples? I know you record all trumpet solos yourself but do you tend to bring in players for other parts as well? Do you ever bring in players to add one real performance layered over a sampled section (one violinist added to a sampled violin section, one trombonist added to a sampled trombone section, etc.)? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Whenever time allows I try to bring real players. I\'m lucky, because now I have a setup with a tracking room that can accommodate up to 15 players, so smaller string sections, chamber groups, and percussion, etc., have become a reality. I\'ve also used a lot of guitar players on my scores - it\'s one instrument I wish I could play, and its really evocative in the right score.
Thanks to great programming in libraries such as GOS, time can be spent on getting the MIDI to sound musical and emotive if those tracks will be used as finals. It\'s not always about perfection. I try to avoid quantizing any of the orchestral parts. I also like the logic controller for moving MIDI volume on solo instruments, etc.
I think these new string libraries might make the idea of layering samples with a small group a usable technique. I had never really used that much before, but I can definitely see it as a great way to improve a score, when a full size string section is out of budget range. I did one short demo a while back where I had a solo violinist in to play on some cues. On the spur of the moment, I had him double a short bowing part I had done with my GOS short bow instruments. Just one pass, but it was truly scary how good and real the whole thing sounded!
Last but not least, the mixing and Mastering sounds superb, can you give us an overview of the methods and equipment used for this? Thanks in advance, Rick
when you \"mix down\" your sampler tracks, do you bounce them digitally one at a time, or do you render them all at once? Do you \"submix\" groups of similar instruments at this time, or do you prefer to render each track to its own stereo pair? Do you do this in 24 bits or 16 bits? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
All of my final mixes are done within Logic on a Dual 1 gig Mac G4. If it\'s stereo, I bounce it down internally. If it\'s more tracks, I usually have a music editor here, and we lightpipe from my 2408\'s into his pro tools rig. I usually apply some gentle limiting on the master buses in Logic to tighten up the mix and get the transients in a manageable range. My logic system is running at 44.1 and 24 bit, so when I mix internally I dither down to 16 bit for the stereo master (OMF does not support 24 bit audio yet). If I\'m mixing to the pro tools, we stay at 24 bit. Also, as I\'m working on a cue, I\'m constantly \"mixing\" the music - it\'s part of the compositional process now.
Re. sub mixing, I try to keep as much of the midi stuff virtual as I can - it saves time, and makes the possibility of last minute tweaking of MIDI a possibility. Occasionally I\'ll print a MIDI part if I want to create a loop, or do some specialized plug in morphing in Logic. For most film mixes, we deliver the score in \"stems\" to the stage - this will usually be a master orchestra/synth stem, with separate percussion, piano/harp, and solo instruments stems. Luckily Logic makes pretty easy work of this routing, once you decide how to set things up.
Jeff--assuming you have to rely on samplers and synths to render some of your scores, what instruments will you absolutely NOT attempt to \"pull off\" with samples/MIDI? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Great question - Solo strings (if they are featured melody - it\'s got to be a human!). Solo trumpet, of course, and most guitar stuff, esp acoustic solos, and a real rock and roll solo.etc (although the libraries here have gotten quite usable). Generally I much prefer real woodwinds, but time does not always allow.Sax solos, are impossibly bad) with samples as far as I can tell.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Tom Hopkins:
One of the more impressive things I\'ve witnessed recently happened during the soundtrack recording session you so kindly invited me to attend in Seattle a few months ago. At one point you quickly scored a few measures for an overdub - in your head - dictating each note to the various sections as you improvised the required music. It was stunning in its adroitness and speed of execution: Producer - \"we need something more here at the point where the picture does this . . ,\" Jeff - \"OK, let me try this, measure 66 - 1st violins, half note \"e\" tied to two quarter notes, \"f#\" and \"g#\" - 2nd violins, whole note \"c#\". . . (etc.) OK, let\'s record. . .\" One take, it worked, producer was happy, on to next cue. It was the best example I think I\'ve seen of someone working \"on their feet.\" And this fit into a score that was not some simple triadic piece of fluff either - this was interesting, complex writing. Two questions: Are you required to do this often? Does
your improvising (Jazz musician) background help you out in such a situation? Good luck on \"Monk.\" I think we\'re going to be seeing that one around for years to come. Tom</font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Ha, my son\'s college fund hopes you\'re right, Tom. MONK does feel like kind of a camp classic, and I\'m very honored to be associated with it. The fact that it\'s a bit of a throwback is esp. fun for me, because when I was growing up in the 70\'s watching tv shows (there was a lot of great scores on TV back then) I thought \"this would be a cool job someday.\" I guess maybe this show and hopefully the score might inspire the next generation of Goldsmith\'s and Williams\'.
re. Improvising - good question - The ability to improvise is definitely an asset. The only problem with all of this technology, is the immediate feedback can stifle (or even hinder) one\'s imagination or \"internal\" musical voice/mind. It\'s so important to be able to \"hear\" an idea apart from striking a key and then deciding if it\'s the right note or not. This involves learning theory, harmony, counterpoint, and internalizing them so they are part of your musical literacy. I\'ve spent a lot of time at the piano, which I think helps you visualize voice leading, etc.
How quickly do you compose? Based on Tom\'s description, I would guess that you can crank out musical gems in an instant. Do you compose your concert pieces as quickly as your TV and film scores? (I love your Concerto for Clarinet and Soprano Sax—right up there with Persichetti\'s Psalm for Band and Divertimento for Band, your band version, that is.) </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
That\'s a ironic question, and thanks for the kind words about the Clarinet Concerto. I\'ve been known to write fast when need be. I actually had the commission to write the clarinet concerto for a while, but had just got hired to do my first series score in LA \"Nothing Sacred\". Long story short, I wrote that piece over a 3 day weekend so I could get going on the series. Other works I\'ve spent months on, such as my string quartet, \"Things Unseen\".
The Concerto has enjoyed so much success and many performances, I given up trying to rationalize the (lack of) time spent on it. I do often prefer to work in a very intense concentrated period on a piece (long days, strung together, etc.). One thing I think is very important is the gestation period before you write a piece. This can often be months between accepting a commission and finally writing it. The time in which your mind, both actively and passively can form an idea, direction. Also, it\'s so important to feed your brain with fresh insights and images, and to live a life apart from a musician, so when you do confront the blank page, there is something to say.
Jeff, I have enjoyed listening to the mp3s at your web site. The \"House On Turk Street\" and \"Pollock\" - great stuff! I really appreciate the rhythmic subtleties in your writing and your use of electronics fit very well into the sound of the orchestra (a rare quality I believe). I see that you conducted Turk. That has got to be a thrill. Is that generally an option offered to the composer? Is that an extra paycheck (if you don\'t mind me asking)? Did you study conducting at Eastman? I also see you orchestrated Turk. Again, is that an option typically given to the composer (assuming enough schedule). </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
I love to conduct. I prefer to let my engineer to worry about getting the sounds down right. I really like to be part of the music making with the orchestra. It\'s about getting an interpretation and emotion out of the players. (I didn\'t formally study at Eastman, but the arranging and film scoring program offered several opportunities to do it. Last year I participated in a BMI sponsored conducting workshop with a wonderful conductor and teacher, Lucas Richman - it was an invaluable experience and I made a lot of new composer friendships.)
Conducting saves me a lot of time being out there after the 1st read through - I can make balance adjustments, give style notes, etc. Being a player, I know how tedious and downright boring recording can be, and I like to keep things moving with the orchestra and capture the magic of an earlier take (rather than beating the music to death). It\'s also a great thrill to hear your stuff played by world class musicians. I always feel I gain more understanding about the orchestra when I spend time recording.
It\'s not really an extra paycheck, as I\'m usually on some kind of package deal. I have noticed that many producers and directors are impressed that I conduct my own sessions - It seems like a mysterious skill to them. Re. Electronics and the orchestra - Goldsmith said many years back he just thought of them as \"just another section of the orchestra.\" The idea (when blending both) is to create some organic mixture of the two.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> given the glut of composers vying for a relatively small number of jobs, what advice would you give aspiring composers towards securing a career writing music for media? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Great question. It\'s an incredibly crowded and competitive field. First, I would say know your art and craft as well as you possibly can. Be resourceful with technology, and make a little go a long way - these days you can do amazing work with a relatively small gear investment. Try to have something distinctive and personal to say with your music that sets you apart from the crowd of Goldsmith and Tom Newman clones. Nurture and develop relationships with anybody and everybody who can help you get where you want to be - i.e., agents, managers, other composers, editors (very important as these people are becoming more involved in the temp music process), music editors, directors, film students, etc. Go to a school where you can learn the craft of film scoring. Learn about film - study not just the musical part but the medium as a whole. Learn what makes a film \"work\" script, directing, acting, editing, cinematography, etc.
Hi Jeff, Thanks for visiting the forum. Your music is fantastic and the show is terrific. My question is about business. Do you work with a package deal on this show? And what are your thoughts about package deals in eneral?....good....or bad for the composer. </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Almost all of my deals have been packages (i.e. - deliver a finished product for a \"all in\" fee.) Because I enjoy the process of engineering and producing my own scores, I\'ve learned to make this work for me on a business level. Package deals can certainly be ok if you are good at running a studio and producing your music. Regardless, you have to learn to budget your costs, and be comfortable handling billing (or work with someone who can help you with this).
Probably the hardest thing is to learn how to deal with the business end of getting the score done when you have a larger score/package- I have a couple of contractors with whom I can have just one or two conversations with and I know I\'ll get what I need for live players. Booking outside studio time (if needed) and traveling (if needed) add stress and more organizational headache\'s. Packages are here to stay - I hear more and more even bigger budjet films are packaging the music. Virtually all TV work is packages.
Many of the people previously interviewed here have given us a fair (and terrifying) idea of the kinds of crazy deadlines you guys have to meet. But do you ever (like many television writers) feel like just mowing down the director with a kalashnikov, growing extreme facial hair (unless you already have that) and retreating to your \'own\' work and \"be damned\"? It seems that your line of work looks so attractive from afar, but closer inspection can reveal a world of compromise. Do you think what some may regard as \'compromise\' is even a creative spur to the overall work itself? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Interesting question. If you are not comfortable working quickly and under deadline pressure, you probably should pursue something else. Its very important to budget your time. Learn to spend time on what\'s truly important to your work and making the project as good as time and your skills will allow. You have to realistic with what you can accomplish, especially in TV series work where the time is very limited. It\'s akin to being a good newspaper columnist as opposed to writing a novel. Films are more expansive. I think my \"own\" music (commissions, CD\'s, etc.) is a great outlet for when I want to spend more time working with my materials and experimenting.
I\'ve had a harder time dealing with the occasional difficult director earlier in my career, but it can be still be maddening. I\'d like to think I\'ve mellowed and learned to collaborate better. Film involves sometimes surrendering you own personal musical agenda and taste for what\'s best for the film, and the musical sensibilities of your collaborators. If you are willing to give over to this process, it can be rewarding, as you can even be \"pushed\" into an area or approach you might have not otherwise tried. I also think the work of having to do multiple rewrites has helped my discipline as a concert composer: not just to be satisfied with my 1st idea, and be willing to step back and review the work objectively.
Another question(s): As your career develops, the work pours in and you need more and more support staff, do you see yourself ever running a huge \'music factory\'? I know this kind of idea sometimes gets a lot of flak, but it looks almost like a return to the time when the great masters used apprentices to \'draw the curtains\' while the master directed the overall work and took care of the \'highlights\'. Good luck for the future and thanks for taking the time. </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
No, to this point I haven\'t really farmed anything out, except a source piece in one film. Some composers are more comfortable with this kind of business model. For me, the chance to actually write the score is the real payoff and the reason I wanted to do this in the first place. I also feel responsible to give a person my music if they come to me for that. I don\'t have a problem with the other business model though - it provides an opportunity for younger writers to work with a more established composer and get invaluable hands on experience. I have certainly benefited from that experience in my career.
I knew I heard your name before. It sounded so familiar. But I let it go and followed your website to check out your stuff. I see you playing flugelhorn. Then BAM!! I remember where I saw you. It was in a small city called Redlands in California and I saw you play some jazz with a combo at Jazz and Java. This was maybe 10 years ago!!! Do you remember doing any gigs there? Do you remember Jay Sayers from KUOR? He was a bassist in the Redlands area and was a jazz DJ for awhile. </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Remember that club well! I might have done an interview with Jay Sayers several years back.
What would you be doing if it wasn\'t for music? Do you like to eat noodles? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Carbs are bad for you dude, don\'t you know that? Aside from music, hmm. The other things that interest me might be architecture, painting, photography, graphic arts, or computer programming, I like riding my mountain bike and traveling a lot too.
Off beat question for you Jeff. Scenario: you\'ve had a successful career as a composer. You\'re now retired. A school comes asking you to be the new dean of the school of music. As part of the deal, you can rewrite the curriculum from top to bottom. Based on your experience, including music, recording, MIDI, synths and sampling, conducting, etc., what\'s the curriculum you\'d implement to train young people to succeed as you have? Peter Alexander
Jeff--what aspects of your conservatory training at Eastman would you say were invaluable in your current work as a composer? Were there any particular classes or opportunities that ended up playing a large role in your life now?
Who did you study with at Eastman? I hope you stayed away from the theorists; I was accepted into Eastman\'s graduate theory program back in \'86, so I know how freaky that department can get. </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Trumpet with Barbara Butler. Composition with Christopher Rouse (1 year only). Jazz theory/composition with Bill Dobbins, and (most importantly) film scoring/arranging/composing with Rayburn Wright.
Jokes aside, I actually learned a lot about composing and structure from my theory classes at Eastman. I had a teacher who went to Yale, Bruce Campbell I believe was his name. We did a lot of Schenkerian analysis and he was a Glen Gould freak - I also studied counterpoint with him and acoustics from another member of the theory faculty. Both of these classes were very helpful compositionally. I think working as an engineer can help improve your orchestrating chops, and a study of acoustics can add to this.
In reference to the \"ideal\" curriculum - I would say what I might think would be just right for me, might not fit the needs of a specific student, but here are a few generalities, mostly inspired by what I thought was most helpful to me in my student years.
My overall philosophy would be to specialize in a few areas of interest, from which you could build a larger, more eclectic perspective according to your musical interests/tastes.
Part One - Performer
1) Focus on performing at least one instrument up to the professional level.
2) Be able to perform in an orchestral, chamber, and solo recital setting on this instrument and gain experience doing so.
3) Study with a master of this instrument privately, along with other students at or above your ability level.
4) Be a member of a regular chamber group that gives recitals, rehearses, and gets coachings, etc.
5) Studio experience - Get practice in the process of recording on your instrument of choice. This is different from a live performance, and the feedback will make you a better player.
6) Learn the \"standard rep.\" works of your chosen instrument - i.e., concerti, orchestral excerpts, etc.,
7) Listen to as much great music and performances of music as you can. If you don\'t have a mental picture of what can be accomplished, you\'ll never get there.
Part Two - Composer
1) Do part one - you can be a much better composer with this depth of experience making music on this level.
2) In addition to part one, learn the art and craft of improvisation on your instrument. This could start with a thorough grounding in jazz, but doesn\'t have to be limited to a specific style. If you are more classically minded, this could be a focus on Baroque, or neo classical keyboard improvisation for example. This includes a knowledge of jazz and chordal harmony, chord/scale relationships, transcribing solos, etc. Learn these so well they can be \"forgotten\" as Miles said about his work. Improvisation can also help one find their musical \"voice\" as a composer.
3) If keyboard is not your main instrument, learn it. Be able to play chords and melodies at the piano. Be able to improvise at the keyboard.
4) Study Orchestration, Theory, Counterpoint, Harmony. Study and analyze scores. Even though most of your professional musical life might be at a computer, learn to write and orchestrate away from a piano. Also study sight singing, and ear training.
5) Become a master of music technology - Learn to sequence with MIDI, record and edit sound digitally, and notate your music in a computer. Learn how to work with samples and design your own sounds.
6) Film, media focus - I\'ve given a lot of specifics on this in earlier answers. Before you get your first paying gig, practice writing to anything you can get your hands on - student films, scenes from movies that are not scored, etc.
Well, this has been fun, but I have to head off to Be Bop Burger with the family. Many thanks for spending some time with us mere mortals! ...PS Lest I forget to mention this, my wife and I love Monk and your music. It\'s one of the few shows we watch regularly. I particularly enjoy how the opening scenes end on a \"deadly\" serious tone, to be followed immediately by that whimsical guitar theme. Talkabout kooky!
Your pieces (those that I could hear for free) are stunning! Gorgeous string writing in Alternate Route!!! (To everyone: The fourth and sixth tracks are free and available in their entirety. Absolutely mind blowing! Ah, heck, just buy the CD.) Do you hope to work with Nagano again, now that he\'s down in LA? Surely there\'s an opera in the works, right? Please let us know when you are performing in the greater LA area. I\'d hop in the car any time and brave the LA traffic just to hear you play live. Pat </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Thanks Pat, glad you\'ve enjoyed the music. I\'m actually going to play in the orchestra (and a few solos) in a concert Vince Mendoza is doing with Don Henley on Nov. 13th. (An LA venue - I don\'t know now where yet). I\'m looking forward to that. I would love to work with Kent Nagano again, and have thought about an opera or musical theater piece - we\'ll see where that goes. I\'m also very excited about my \"General\" score, which is a 70 minute symphonic suite really. I\'m hoping to get some orchestras in LA and other places to program it after it premieres in Florida (along with that great movie, of course). I\'m not going to conduct the premiere of \"The General\" but I would really like to conduct a live performance of it at some point.
Your comment about the Monk opening is great. I remember when the network decided on that theme it was for the 2 hour movie (there were several other version I wrote - some with a darker comedic tone than the one we have). The opening scene in the movie was a murder investigation, and MONK was worried about leaving the gas on at his house. There were some very funny moments, preceding the main title sequence here.
This came in from Jeff:
Tonight (Friday, 10PM on USA network) Gary Marshall guest stars as an
extension cord salesman in the \"monk\" season finale: a very funny episode!
(Can\'t believe we\'ve done eleven of these already). For lovers of film music
there is about 30 minutes of score.
Thanks Bruce, and everyone else for your comments. I thought the question about an \"ideal curriculum\" was a good one. Perhaps others could add to my list with things they thought could be of help to young performers and composers.