While I was going through my entire library of scores trying to decide which tracks I would feature on this website I was getting kind of sentimental thinking about all the amazing musicians that I have been fortunate to work with on my scores. Many of them are dear friends of mine as well as people with whom I share a musical connection with. What jumps out at me is something that I have always held true and followed throughout my career; that it is a huge benefit to a film composer to incorporate as many live musicians into their scores as possible. All composers working today need to have substantial sound libraries that include all types of instruments. It’s the way we present music and show what we envision for a film. But none of that can hold a candle to what a refined musician brings to the music.
Having grown up with a father who made his living as a professional trumpet player I have always valued and respected musicians. I don’t particularly enjoy having to program or sequence samples. It’s simply what a composer has to do to be working in Film and TV today. There is no doubt that the technology is amazing and sometimes it truly is fun to have that full canvas of sounds at my fingertips. While it can help me to see the potential of my orchestration, it will never have the full emotional impact that a live musician adds, and that’s what I believe connects an audience to a score.
Unfortunately, much of the decision to add musicians comes down to cost. Most films pay a composer the dreaded “Package Deal”. This means you get one fee (however small or large) and from that, all expenses for the creation of the final score are deducted from what a composer ultimately makes. So whether it’s a recording engineer, a music copyist, an orchestrator or the musicians, it’s ultimately being paid for by the composer.
Here’s the thing… I could write what I think is the most killer bass part. Get a great sample and really lock it in. In my mind I’m James Jamerson!! But I’m not a bass player and therefore I don’t necessarily make note or phrasing choices the way a bass player would. Also, when a composer performs all his own parts he or she gets no other interpretation of their music. What you get when you hire a musician is not only a beautifully executed part but also what’s in the player’s heart and soul. That’s when the music really comes alive!
Still my favorite moments are the live recording sessions, when the directors and producers hear it all come together. Ask any director and they will tell you that one of the most fun parts of filmmaking is the music session. The orchestra sessions are of course fun, but so are the smaller rhythm sections or even an overdub. It all adds to the richness of the composition.
Whether I’m working with my core group of musicians in NY or the amazing session players in LA, I know that they make up an essential fabric of my compositions, and they will continue to do so.
Thank you to all the talented musicians who have contributed their performances to my scores.