Movie music: Bow to the demands

by Artist Development Fellow

Music concentrator Chad Cannon '11, who was awarded a 2010 Artist Development Fellowship, reports on his summer internship working on film-scoring projects in Los Angeles, another in a series of blog posts by this year's ADF recipients.

Three weeks in Los Angeles was all it took to confirm that film music is the career of my dreams. My internship with Chris P. Bacon (yes, that’s his real name) was a brief, but highly productive and rewarding experience. In our first meeting he showed me an unscored clip from a movie he had been working on with James Newton Howard (Nanny McPhee Returns), in which the title character rides into London on her motorbike. He asked me what kind of music I thought should accompany her entry. Music for such an entry might require an infusion of energy, he suggested, and proceeded to show me his demo of the scene, scored with digital instruments, which sounded quite real, and I was very impressed. The true moment of magic happened, however, when he showed his final product, scored with a live orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in London. The quality was incredible!

I spent the next 3 weeks mostly writing music on my own setup—an iMac with a ProTools rig and a bundle of EastWest instruments. As an experiment I took scenes from three very different movies—The Incredibles, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and The Water Horse—and scored them. I would present them to Chris each time we met, and he would offer suggestions and demonstrate how he uses technology to compose. An overarching theme in his comments was that one must bow to the demands of the film, and, furthermore, that the director must be convinced of the music’s effect. This results in constant (and quick) recomposition—the true labor of a film composer’s life. He prepared me for that in a small way by asking me to rework my compositions until they were of a more professional and convincing quality.

As a field trip he arranged a visit to 20th Century Fox’s Newman Scoring Stage, where composer Theodore ("Teddy") Shapiro was recording his score for the new comedy Dinner for Schmucks. The quality of the musicians was superb, and they pressed through a good portion of the film during the three hours we were there. I enjoyed seeing the human face of the whole film scoring process; there is indeed a feeling of community, as many of the musicians and technicians have worked together on numerous projects and over a period of many years.

Anyway, thanks to the OFA and the Office of Career Services for the support on this project. Next up: Paris and the European American Musical Alliance summer composition program. Stand by for more on that!

[Caption: Chad Cannon '11]