While I was composer-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point last fall, I made the acquaintance of the cello professor there, Lawrence Leviton. Along with being a terrific player, he has a deep interest in film music and teaches a couple of fascinating courses on the subject. A love of film music is something we have in common, and in our talks on the subject, I ended up offering to write a cello concerto for him inspired by our mutual interest in film noir. Recently, I finished the 23-minute piece. Its five movements are named after common film noir conceits, including “Car Chase” and “Who Are You, Lady, and How Did You Get in Here?” I’ve posted the Sibelius synthesizations and scores here. I can’t wait to hear this piece performed by human beings.
My good friends, the fine filmmakers David Hanrahan and Joe Fab, recently finished a short film for the Everglades Foundation. They asked me to score it, and I was happy to write music that combined strings, horn, and acoustic guitar. It always feels good to write for a cause that is so easy to believe in. My only regret is that they did not ask me to go to Florida to truly drink in the atmosphere and warmth of the Everglades National Park.
At the same time, I was also scoring a film for Conservation International. It is part of their “Nature is Speaking” series and was narrated by Harrison Ford. Their temp track was from Steve Reich, so I obviously included marimbas and woodwinds in my work. And once again, I found myself thankful to Steve Reich for writing the way he has for the past 40 years. He was an inspiration for this film and has been an inspiration to me for much of my life.
Elissa Leonard’s biopic Sally Pacholok, which I scored, will be premiering at Filmfest DC tonight. I can’t wait to see it on the big screen. Sometimes the films I work on have their premieres far away, and I end up missing the screenings. That is exactly what is happening with Jonathan Gruber’s documentary Miriam Beerman: Expressing the Chaos. That premiere will be taking place at the Palm Beach International Film Festival. Sadly, I will not be going to Florida to warm up!
I was in New Orleans for the past week. According to my friend Bill, if you are nomadic and musical by nature, you might stop traveling when you get there. Music is everywhere. It was outside on the street even when it was uncharacteristically cold (I mean cold…27 degrees cold. It was freezing in every building, because the buildings are built to keep the steamy summer heat out).
I stopped to hear a lone banjo player on Dauphine Street playing for no one, while ice formed at his feet. At the club Bachannal, patrons huddled outside under heat lamps while a Ben-Webster-sounding saxophonist and his band played through a raft of 1930’s swing tunes. I want to know what it is about that city that keeps music flowing as steadily as the Mississippi, even as the Polar Vortex tries to stop it?
Here in the top half of the USA when the temperature drops, we treasure the silence that snow and cold bring. The streets of New Orleans completely resist that notion. Starting yesterday, there were parades to celebrate Mardi Gras, which won’t arrive till February 17. Glitter was everywhere. And the music cut through the cold air like a warm knife through butter. I’m going to try and bring more of this energy to my life and not simply hibernate, waiting for spring. I’m going to get out my tenor banjo and see if I can melt the snow on my porch with it.