Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fresh faces from the concert music world

There are several instances of composers, primarily known for their concert works, being invited to write film scores throughout the 20th century; Copland, Prokofiev, Bernstein, Takemitsu, Glass and Corigliano come quickly to mind with plenty of others (including Herrmann, Rosza, Rota, Chihara and Goldenthal) who have effectively straddled the fence between the concert hall and the scoring stage. Until recently, the real (or imagined) stigma of writing for film seemed to keep most concert composers from even considering it, but there have been several promising signs that the stigma may be crumbling.

Later this year, Tetro, a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, will hit the theatres with a score by Osvaldo Golijov. Golijov, with his many compositions and arrangements for the Kronos Quartet, his opera Ainadamar and his St. Mark's Passion, has been steadily becoming known as one of the major musical forces at the turn of the century. His ability to combine musical styles from around the globe as well as his unique voice make it hard to believe that he's only scored two other films to date: Coppola's 2007 film Youth without Youth and Sally Potter's 2000 film The Man Who Cried. This is a good example of a composer who admits that he is new to the idiom but is nonetheless effective in producing thoughtful scores.

Another composer who seems much more at home in the breakneck environment of film is 28-year-old Nico Muhly. A last-minute juggling of composers for Stephen Daldry's 2008 film, The Reader, dropped Muhly into the deep end with less time than usual to produce a score. His experience working as an assistant and conductor for Philip Glass helped considerably and the result was a score that was considered to be one of the best aspects of the controversial film. One can only imagine what affect composers like Muhly and Golijov will have on the overall medium of film music, though I'd like to think it can only improve things in the short and long run.

(Here's a clip of Muhly performing some of the music from The Reader in a public concert):

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