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March 7, 2005
Standing on Its Own
Challenges, complexities of presenting film music in concert are explored by orchestra librarians
by Jon Burlingame
"Film Music in Concert" panelists (left to right): Patrick McGinn (President, Major Orchestra Librarians' Association), JoAnn Kane (President, JoAnn Kane Music Service), John Mauceri (Principal Conductor, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra), Mary Jo Mennella (Senior Vice President & General Manager, Fox Music, Inc) composer James Newton Howard, Nancy Knutsen (Senior Vice President, ASCAP), Stephen Biagini (Librarian, Los Angeles Philharmonic) and Steve Linder (Director of Presentations, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association)
Photo courtesy of Suzie Katayama
The increasing presence of film music in the concert hall – and the
practical side of making that a reality – was the subject of a seminar
sponsored by the Major Orchestra Librarians Association (MOLA)
recently at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.
©2005 Jon Burlingame
MOLA members, representing more than 200 orchestras around the world,
are the people responsible for obtaining and readying scores and
musicians' parts for the music played in concert and for recordings.
Addressing the issue were Hollywood Bowl Orchestra principal conductor
John Mauceri; composer James Newton Howard; ASCAP senior vice
president Nancy Knutsen; Fox Music senior vice president Mary Jo
Mennella; prominent film-music-preparation specialist JoAnn Kane; and
Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra librarian Stephen Biagini.
Moderating the event was L.A. Philharmonic Association director of
presentations and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra manager Steve Linder.
Approximately 130 librarians, composers, musicians, publishers and
Much of the three-hour session dealt with the challenges and
complexities of locating scores, determining if they are
concert-ready, obtaining the appropriate rights and permissions, and
sometimes even reconstructing the music from whatever original
sketches or partial scores might exist.
Kane, whose music-copying service is used by many of the top composers
in Hollywood, pointed out that there is "a wealth of concert music
just waiting to be harvested for performance. It's been a rough sell
for various reasons," she explained. But she believes that film music
can "bring in a new audience, a younger audience" to American
halls with proper programming and marketing.
She cited as examples the popular success of John Corigliano's music
for The Red Violin (featuring violinist Joshua Bell)
and the fact that Danny Elfman is now working with celebrated
choreographer Matthew Bourne on a ballet based on his score for
The problem, she indicated, is convincing orchestra music directors to
add film music to concert programs, as well as "getting the studios
interested," perhaps as part of the marketing and promotion of current
films in theaters and older films being released on DVD.
Mauceri, who has long championed film music in the concert hall,
talked about the disconnect between the general public and those who
program symphony concerts. "There is 100 years of music that no one
[among the decisionmakers] knows anything about, and yet the whole
world knows," he said, "music which the public wants to hear, and
which orchestras like to play."
He believes that film music has been unfairly "ghettoized." He
out that much of it "is quite difficult" and cannot be properly
performed with the single rehearsal that most pops concerts seem to
get. "This is a living art form," he said.
Howard, recently lauded for his use of classical violinist Hilary Hahn
on the Oscar-nominated score for The Village, said
that most composers approach the notion of concert presentations of
their music "extremely enthusiastically." He said he has created
performance suites from some of his scores, including Snow
Falling on Cedars and Signs.
He suggested that a convenient way to ensure the availability of
concert versions of current scores might be to have a clause inserted
into the composer's contract mandating delivery of an end-title
sequence "appropriate for concert performance."
Sometimes, said Mennella, it's "a very fragmented roadmap to find
copyright holder" of any one score. Twentieth Century-Fox, for
example, controls its own music from the past two decades; Fox music
from 1966 to 1982 is administered by the publishing company
Warner/Chappell; and pre-1966, by EMI. Many of the major studios have
sold off their music rights to the giant music publishing houses over
the years, she said.
Many of the studios have been reactive rather than pro-active in
discovering the value of concert versions of many famous film scores,
she said. Fox now has a "concert rental library," administered by
Kane's company, that includes such recent scores as David Arnold's
Independence Day, John Williams' Home
Alone and the themes from such TV shows as The
Simpsons and The X-Files.
Biagini said that finding the music for a particular film and
preparing it for performance "can be as easy as renting from Hal
Leonard or John Waxman" – two major suppliers of movie music for the
concert hall – or as difficult as two recent Hollywood Bowl debuts:
re-creating the gymnasium scene from the film of West Side
Story, and the pre-title sequence from the James Bond film
Tomorrow Never Dies.
In the case of West Side Story, it took weeks to
locate the original orchestrations, some of which were finally
discovered at Columbia University, while some parts were actually
found at the Hollywood Bowl, apparently left there after a performance
decades ago. As for Tomorrow Never Dies, "all the
material existed," he said, but needed to be edited in order to match
the film to be projected during the concert.
"There is a need for better cataloguing of this material," Biagini
Mennella also discussed the financial aspects of the process, noting
that rights "flow back to the music publisher," although the "physical
elements" – the scores themselves – are controlled by the entity
restores these scores for concert performance.
In the case of recent restorations of Alfred Newman's The
Robe and Jerry Goldsmith's Planet of the
Apes, two Fox films from the '50s and '60s, the original
scores and orchestrations were retained by the studio but the
performance rights were held by the publishers. All of those issues
had to be sorted out before Mauceri and Goldsmith could perform the
suites at the Hollywood Bowl.
Mauceri described his process in creating a 14-minute suite from Franz
Waxman's Oscar-winning score for Sunset Boulevard. He
was able to listen to all of the recording sessions from Paramount –
which still held all of the scores and parts from the original 1950
recording dates – and was pleased to discover that Waxman "had
basically through-composed the piece," introducing themes (notably
motifs for the William Holden and Gloria Swanson characters, and some
"chase" material) and developing them as the film progressed. It was
relatively simple matter to assemble them into a "sonata for
orchestra," he said.
He talked at length about his collaboration with Howard Shore in
assembling the Lord of the Rings Symphony from the
composer's three massive orchestral and choral scores for the popular
J.R.R. Tolkien fantasies.
At first, "no one wanted to do this piece," he reported, explaining
that the management of many major orchestras were skeptical about the
commercial viability of such a work. It has now been performed more
than 40 times around the world, from sold-out performances at London's
Royal Albert Hall to Moscow, the Far East and all over North America.
"We have to get away from our arrogant positions and look at what the
public is actually telling us," Mauceri said. In addition, "forget
getting the approbation of these people," he said, referring to
critics who so often lambast performances of music originally written
for films. "Snobbery is frequently a mask for ignorance," he added.
Several librarians expressed frustration with the process, saying they
weren't sure where to turn for help in finding many scores.
ASCAP's Knutsen offered assistance, noting that as a performing-rights
organization representing composers and songwriters, her group is in
the business of "celebrating the success of our composers. We're
always delighted to see film music in concert – not just in a pops
context but a symphonic context as well."
She said that as the new century progresses, she looks forward to "the
merger of the concert world and the film music world."
The "Film Music in Concert" session marked the conclusion of the
orchestra librarians' 23rd annual conference, a four-day event that
also included sessions with L.A. Philharmonic music director Esa-Pekka
Salonen, composer Steven Stucky and the children of Arnold Schoenberg;
and seminars on topics ranging from European emigre composers in
Hollywood to the future of orchestral music and how technology is
shaping the future of composers, publishers and librarians.
Ceremony featured Best Song performances by Timberlake, Sting, Legend
Ellington, North, Goldsmith, Rorem, Schickele among top recordings
Composers Johannsson, Richter explain what happened
Composers Poledouris, Rose added to Hall of Fame