In 2013, I scored a smart science fiction thriller called “Europa Report.” Using a found-footage / documentary style, the film tells the story of the first manned mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. In both the film and real life, the moon is believed to contain a liquid water ocean beneath its icy surface, as well as the chemical components necessary for life. This makes it an extremely interesting place, both for physical exploration and, of course, a perfect subject for a film. The film garnered rave reviews from fans and critics alike, and has done especially on Netflix. Since “Europa Report” was released, NASA has announced a mission to Europa in the coming decade, ensuring the moon will remain in the public consciousness for years to come.
My main theme for the film was surprisingly melodic. (more…)
A few months ago, I stumbled across the works of English poet Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894). I was struck by the eloquent melancholy in her surprisingly contemporary writing, and could practically hear her voice speaking to me as I read. I found a two-stanza poem simply called “Song,” and read the first line: When am I dead, my dearest, sing no sad songs for me. An explosion went off in my brain, and I knew I had to write music for these words. Today, I just posted a video of the complete piece:
Scoring music for narrative can be a joyous experience (that is why I dedicate the vast majority of my waking hours to doing it), but I am always open to exploring other avenues of musical expression. Taking advantage of my sudden burst of inspiration, I carved out a weekend to… ** gasp! ** … write music just for the fun of it! (more…)
On Friday, October 5th, the Calder Quartet will perform a special concert at The Getty Center in Los Angeles, commemorating the work of sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. The program will feature the world-premiere performance of “A Hypocrite and Slandererer,” a blistering scherzo for string quartet I wrote specifically for the event. The concert will also feature original commissions from Mark Mothersbaugh and Don Davis: a great night for film music fans!
The Calder Quartet and I go way back. All five of us went to school together at USC. Violinists Ben Jacobson and Andrew Bulbrook, violist Jonathan Moerschel and cellist Eric Byers performed many of my concerts and recordings during our time at USC. After graduation, they formed the remarkably successful Calder Quartet, and I did my thing. October 5th marks the first time the five of us will have collaborated in over a decade.
Last Friday I was very fortunate to attend the world premiere performance of “Prelude to War,” my ballet based on my scores for Battlestar Galactica. The ballet was performed by the outstanding dancers of the Theaterhagen, in Hagen, Germany. The choreography was by the resident choreographer Ricardo Fernando, and the orchestra was conducted by Bernhard Steiner.
When I was first approached about writing a ballet based on my Galactica scores, I leapt at the opportunity to translate my music to a new medium. From my initial discussions with Ricardo it was clear that he and I shared a similar vision of the ballet. We wanted to create a new and exciting narrative, using the music of the series but completely stripping it from the context of the show.
March 7th, 2009 will mark the first European performance of my music: The World Premiere of “Prelude to War” by the Hagen Philharmonic and Ballet of the Hagen Theatre in Germany. It will run throughout the spring, for 13 weeks.
“Prelude” is based on my scores for Battlestar Galactica, incorporating music from all four seasons (see the full program order below). The orchestra will be in the pit, but the taiko drums will share the stage with the dancers, incorporating their movements and energy into the visual performance. This ballet tells no specific narrative, but rather allows the dancers, lights, taiko drum ensemble and full orchestra to come together and support the story within the music itself.
Recently, a comment was posted here on my blog that I felt needed a response:
“Bear, No offense, but I’ve been spoiled by itunes. I’ve come to appreciate the ability to purchase a song from an album without having to purchase the whole album. That being said, and again, no offense, but I really have no interest in buying your album to hear one song. I really dig your version of “…Watchtower”, but not enough to go through the hassle of purchasing the whole album online. I have to admit that I would probably like your other music too, but, that’s besides the point, I would love to purchase your version of “All along the Watchtower”, but if it’s not available as a single, you’ll lose my support. I’ll just wait till someone uploads it to a bit torrent site and get it for free. Wouldn’t you rather get paid for your work?”
I’ve been sent variations on this theme an alarming number of times. I don’t feel the need to clutter the internet with more diatribes for or against illegal downloading, but at the very least, I’m presenting this open letter to Battlestar Galactica fans, in fact, to anyone who gets their media from the internet…
An Open Letter to the New Patrons
For centuries, artists have balanced the need to express themselves creatively with the need to sustain their livelihood. We’re all aware of the cliched starving bohemian artist; its a cliche because its true. But, even successful composers struggle with this balance daily. J.S. Bach’s incredibly influential canon of contrapuntal works were originally composed for weekly church services. Mozart had his royal patron, Emperor Joseph II, and the vast majority of his music was essentially written for pay. Indeed, were he alive today Wolfgang Amadeus would be writing music for film and television to pay the bills. Shostakovich wrote Stalin-approved music for the tyrannical Russian state, literally writing for his life.
Yet artists today are faced with the ultimate double-edged sword: the internet. Here is a venue where we can reach an unlimited audience. They are not the passive spectators of film, television and radio. The internet is a two-way mirror. We can react to them, learn from them, and see how they react to us. Our musical ideas can be developed before a global audience, changing and developing in real time. Composers used to be resigned to letting future history decide their merit, but now we know instantly if our music is connecting with someone… anyone.
There’s only one problem. In the digital age, everybody can steal your music.
Three Pieces for Trio is finally available from CD Baby! This new work was commissioned by flutist Jenni Scott and is featured on her self-titled debut CD. Scored for accordion, alto flute and bass, these pieces are not like anything you’ve heard before. It’s pretty hard to explain actually, so take a listen if you like: