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Topic: A Forum Interview with HUMMIE MANN - Post Your Questions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Orcas Island

    Arrow A Forum Interview with HUMMIE MANN - Post Your Questions

    We are pleased to announce our next guest in the series of Northern Sounds/Garritan Orchestra "Meet the Artist" Interviews featuring:


    Hummie Mann is a two-time Emmy Award Winning Film and TV composer and is one of the most sought-after orchestrators in the business.

    Mann's motion pictures have ranged from Mel Brooks' “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” to Peter Yates' “Year of the Comet” to the upcoming Capella Film’s “After the Rain” written and directed by Ross Kettle. On television, he has scored films for Simon Wincer (the miniseries “P.T. Barnum”), Jonathan Kaplan (the miniseries re-make of “In Cold Blood”), Norman Jewison (“Picture Windows”), Peter Bogdanovich (“The Rescuers: Tales of Courage- Two Women”), Joe Dante (“The Second Civil War”), Jim Abrahams (“First Do No Harm”), William Friedkin, John Milius and Ralph Bakshi (all part of the “Rebel Highway” series), among others.

    Mann was honored with his second Emmy Award in 1996 for an episode of Showtime's Picture Windows entitled “Language of the Heart”, a love story about a street musician and an aspiring ballerina. Oscar-winning movie-music legend Jerry Goldsmith recommended Mann to director Jonathan Kaplan who hired him to write the music for CBS’s “In Cold Blood” starring Anthony Edwards and Eric Roberts. Says Kaplan: "It's very rare that you can find someone who is as gifted as Hummie is..."

    Twice Mann has collaborated with legendary comedy director Mel Brooks. His first Brooks score was for “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, which NBC-TV critic Gene Shalit singled out for praise, likening it to the legendary Erich Wolfgang Korngold's scores for the classic swashbucklers of the '30s and '40s. He also scored Brooks' next film- “Dracula: Dead & Loving It” which starred Leslie Nielsen.

    The grand-scale symphonic music for Brooks' two film parodies contrasts sharply with Mann's acoustic guitar- based score for the Donald Sutherland-Amy Irving thriller “Benefit of the Doubt”, and the soaring, charming music for Peter Yates' “Year of the Comet”, which combined orchestral sounds with Scottish ethnic elements. Yates, the director of Bullitt and The Deep, found "a freshness and energy" in Mann's music for “Year of the Comet”.
    Mann co-produced the Marc Shaiman scores for such hits as “Sleepless in Seattle”, “A Few Good Men” and “Mr. Saturday Night”, and both orchestrated and conducted the Shaiman scores for “City Slickers” and “The Addams Family”. His orchestrations can also heard in such films as “Speechless”, “Addams Family Values”, “Misery”, “Sister Act”, “Dying Young”, and “For the Boys” and he co-arranged the song “Places That Belong to You“ for Barbra Streisand's best-selling “Prince of Tides” soundtrack album. He also composed the Carl Stalling-style underscore for “Box Office Bunny”, the first theatrical Bugs Bunny cartoon released in 26 years, and millions of moviegoers at AMC Theaters nationwide hear his music for the celluloid character ‘Clyp’ (who appears in the pre-trailer and pre-feature sequences) every day.

    Among Mann's most provocative projects have been two series for Showtime: “Picture Windows”, which Norman Jewison executive-produced and which enabled the composer to collaborate with Jewison, Kaplan, Dante and Bob Rafelson; and “Rebel Highway”, a series of drive-in-movie remakes by Kaplan, Friedkin, Milius, Dante, Ralph Bakshi, John McNaughton, Mary Lambert and Uli Edel. Mann also composed the main title theme music for both series.

    In television, Mann composed the main title theme and underscore for Rob Reiner's cult series “Morton & Hayes”. He received two Emmy nominations for his arrangements on the popular “Moonlighting” series, and received an Emmy Award for arranging Billy Crystal's opening number for the “1992 Academy Awards” telecast.

    In the world of Independent films, Mann scored “Goodnight, Joseph Parker” starring Paul Sorvino, Steve “Aerosmith” Tyler and Debi Mazur and also collaborated with first time director Paul Warner on “Falltime”, starring Mickey Rourke, Stephen Baldwin and Sheryl Lee. That film premiered in competition at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. Mann has also scored films by two well-known screenwriters making their initial forays into directing. He composed a contemporary jazz-rock score for the coming-of-age story “Sticks & Stones” by Neil Tolkin, and also scored the short film “The Red Coat” for Little Women writer Robin Swicord.

    For musical theater, Mann arranged new material for Debbie Reynolds' tour of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”. He created new arrangements for Pia Zadora in the Long Beach Civic Light Opera's production of “Funny Girl”, and has arranged music for several other Southern California stage productions including “Babes in Toyland”, “Kiss Me Kate”, “The Merry Widow” and Cloris Leachman's “Perfectly Frank”.
    Born in Montreal, Mann began studying music at the age of seven. He learned to play not only the piano, but also recorder, guitar, clarinet and oboe. He graduated magna cum laude in 1976 from Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music and moved in 1980 to Los Angeles, where he began orchestrating and composing for such top-rated series as “Fame”, “Moonlighting”, “Knots Landing”, “ALF” and “The Simpsons”. In early 1998 Mann was presented with Berklee’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.

    Some of Mann’s more recent releases include the live action/animated feature “Thomas and the Magic Railroad” for director Britt Allcroft starring Alec Baldwin, Peter Fonda and Mara Wilson. The film was the big screen adaptation of the popular children’s television series “Shining Time Station” and also featured Thomas the Tank Engine and all his talking train friends. He also wrote the music for "Wooly Boys” starring Peter Fonda, Kris Kristofferson and Keith Carradine which features a bluegrass flavored score. In addition to composing the score, he collaborated with lyricists Don Black (“To Sir with Love”) and Sue Ennis (“Dog and Butterfly”) in writing songs for the film. Mann also composed the score to “Cyberworld”, the first ever computer-generated, 3-d IMAX film, which opened worldwide as the biggest pre-sold IMAX film of all time. Upcoming projects for Mann include Sinatraland for director Peter Bogdanovich, Mermaids Singing for first time director Robin Swicord (writer of the screenplays for “Matilda” and “Little Women” starring Jessica Lange and Neve Campbell; and Danger Zone starring Daryl Hannah.

    Besides his busy composing career, he is also the principal instructor of the Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program, a board member and founding president of the Seattle Composers Alliance and serves as a govenor of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
    You can visit Hummie's website at: http://www.hummiemann.com.

    It is indeed an honor and to have Hummie Mann our guest. We are now inviting questions for Hummie from forum members. If you have any questions you would like to ask Hummie about his Film and TV work, projects he is working on, how he scores, the music business, or have any other questions; now is your opportunity to ask him.

    At the end of the questioning period, your questions will be presented to Hummie and we will then post his response in interview form.

    Please post your questions at the GPO forum, below or PM them to me.

    Thank you for your participation.

    Let the questions begin!

    Gary Garritan

  2. #2

    Re: A Forum Interview with HUMMIE MANN - Post Your Questions

    OK, I'll start, it's really three questions in one:

    Q: With that advent of sophisticated sample libraries like GPO/GOS/VSL, etc., I understand that many directors have come to expect fully rendered versions of a composer's ideas submitted for their approval. Do you think this new dimension to the composers job (tech-head sample wrangler and engineer) diminish creativity and freedom for the composer by taking time away from the actual composing? Do you think the overall quality of film music has suffered or benefited from this technological revolution? How has it impacted your workflow?

  3. #3

    Re: A Forum Interview with HUMMIE MANN - Post Your Questions

    Q:Hummie Mann, I'll tell ya....you ARE the man! You're defintely one of my favorites! Anyway, I have a question.

    Do you think that film/TV composers often get bored or frusterated with only being allowed to write music that is accessible to the general mass? Basically, what I'm asking is this: Since film/TV music is generally heard by everyone, do composers often get frusterated with the fact that in order to be successful, they can only write "safe", "cliche", or "uninteresting" music because that is the only thing that is going to please the general audience?

  4. #4

    Re: A Forum Interview with HUMMIE MANN - Post Your Questions

    Q: With so many of the new sample libraries becoming available to a much wider audience, I've noticed that some of the old school compositional techniques are beginning to fall to the wayside (unfortunately) to less experienced approaches. Obviously you are well versed in the old school approach to composition and orchestration which is a good thing.

    What courses of study would you recommend to those wishing to embrace the old yet time-proven compositional, arrangement and orchestral techniques and apply those to the new technology? Any schools of thought you've embraced over the years in your own approach professionally and musically?

    Thank you.

  5. #5

    Re: A Forum Interview with HUMMIE MANN - Post Your Questions

    I really enjoyed your score to Robin Hood: Men in tights. The 'Marion' song is very beautiful. Can you tell us which actors actually sang their own parts? There seemed be a lot dubbing...was there a reason for that?

    Since Mel Brooks is planning to make more musicals from his films, are there any plans to transfer Robin Hood to the stage? If so, will your songs be used?

    Your orchestrations for Marc Shaiman are very impressive. The Addams Family is a favorite score of mine. When I first saw the end credits, I noticed two orchestrators that I was not expecting: Ralph Burns and Steve Bartek. Can you tell us which songs/cues that they scored? I especically want to find information on Ralph Burns since he is no longer with us.

    As an orchestrator, what form was the music in before you scored it? I.E. was it on two staves like a piano arrangment?

    Will you release a compilation CD of your scores for the various films that you scored?

    I really enjoyed your score for YEAR OF THE COMET. I must have played that that CD for several weeks when I first bought it. Finding Robin Hood was a big surprise too. I hope to see more of your scores on CD.

  6. #6

    Re: A Forum Interview with HUMMIE MANN - Post Your Questions

    This is a great and rare opportunity to talk to one of the big people in the industry. Thanks for letting us ask these questions.

    Hummie, the work of orchestrating music is based on a lot of effective orchestral devices used for setting various moods, trigger emotions, or in any way enhancing visuals. I still can't believe no one has written such a text book yet. Many of these devices seem to be as commonly known within the film music composer/orchestrator-community as the knowledge of what harmonic language triggers the proper mood/feel for a given scene. Why is it that no books exist on these topics? I realize that there are just too many factors that come into play, but I'm sure we can agree that there are certain, well.. basic clichés that every film music composer should know. Are there secrets within the realm of film music that is only revealed to you if you attend film music courses such as the ones available to you at USC/UCLA or the program you teach? I think someone should seriously consider writing a self-study program for film music. Many people can't afford to go to universities, or even afford the time for it. Many people don't have an interest in a university-based teaching environment, and many people just want it all, all at the same time

    I wish some film music orchestrator/composer such as yourself would write a book that didn't just deal with the business surrounding it.

    Some may object that orchestration can't really be taught. Maybe not the obvious musicality necessary to make the right musical decisions, but at least guidelines that venture a little further than the traditional orchestration books, suggesting creative options and applications within the film music world.. just generally share techniques commonly used in film music (And there ARE a lot of them).

    Would you ever be interested in writing such a book?

    Anyway, I enjoy your work and want to ask you a few questions about your experience as a composer and orchestrator:

    What's your workflow?
    How much time do you have to compose/orchestrate a movie?
    How much work do you do each day?
    How do you manage your breaks?
    How does the established composer/orchestrator deal with stress, expectations, producers who want everything, preferably yesterday? Do you see a book coming?

    Let me tell you that I admire your achievements and that you're an inspiration to me.

    Best of luck with your future career!


  7. #7

    Re: A Forum Interview with HUMMIE MANN - Post Your Questions

    Hi Hummie, I was wondering just how much you have to orchestrate in terms of assigning instruments, distributing the melody, etc.

    For example, I've heard stories of composers writing pieces with basic harmony, to full blown orchestrations, to them singing a melody to their orchestrator!

    I guess Im curious as to how much work is involved on your part to really bring a composers cue to life.

    Oh, and I think Thomas J's suggestion is excellent - can you write a book please?


    Scott Cairns.
    - SCA - Sound Studios -

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Boise, Idaho, U.S.A.

    Re: A Forum Interview with HUMMIE MANN - Post Your Questions

    Hmm, I guess I will go for the weird subjects hehe.

    Q1: Since there are so many composers out there who are debating the Gigastudio vs. Kontakt issue, I was curious on which, if any, you use and why. While we are at it, what are your favorite sample libs (if any)?

    Q2: Instead of asking you the tired question of "Any advise for new composers", I thought you might like to share your views on the current situation of the industry. Many of us know that there are some production companies that try to take some or all of our performing rights royalties, and compensation for new composers is getting to be less and less (sometimes nothing at all). What are your thoughts on these issues and do you have any advise for composers dealing with these problems?

    Q3: With all the software out there for composers now that allows them to hear what their music might sound like played live, have you found you orchestration projects to be a bit more limited than what they used to be? (The reason I ask is that personally I orchestrate as I compose, and was curious on what an orchestrator would actually do to my music because of this).

    Q4: What was your worst experience when playing a cue for a director, or if you prefer, what was the best?

    Q5: (Just for fun) What is your favorite cookie?

    Thanks a ton,

    James W.G. Smith

  9. #9

    Re: A Forum Interview with HUMMIE MANN - Post Your Questions

    Q. What advice would you give to an aspiring film composer?

    Q. Tell us about your film scoring classes. Where are they given?

    Q. What projects are you involved with now?

  10. #10

    Re: A Forum Interview with HUMMIE MANN - Post Your Questions

    Do you have any thoughts about cues leading or lagging the emotional content on the screen?

    For instance, in a scene where a character gets some new infromation, the music might play an initial reaction - as if the gears are turning in the chanracter's head - and then, a moment later, you get the external, physical reaction, such as a tear. On the other hand, music rarely precedes a punch line (ba-dump-bump).

    Also, can you give examples of scenes with an obvious emotional direction, but where you took the music in an unexpected direction, thereby making the scene deeper, richer or quirkier?



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