In the three nights leading up to the World Soundtrack Awards, the culmination of the Ghent Film Festival, everything seems to unfold so magically and efficiently in this picturesque, medieval Belgian town that it’s easy to overlook all the effort that went into it.
“The organization and the attention and the respect they give to score music — lending their time and their orchestras and rehearsals and conductors to a very complicated series of evenings — it’s not an easy thing,” says composer Elliot Goldenthal (“Frida,” the upcoming “Tempest”), who has attended the fest three times prior. “Given the nuts and bolts of putting something like this together, you have to be very devoted to that art.”
When the World Soundtrack Awards celebrates its 10th anniversary Oct. 23, Goldenthal will be part of a stellar array of 10 movie maestros — including Angelo Badalamenti (“Twin Peaks”), Bruno Coulais (“Coraline”), Alberto Iglesias (“Volver”), Gustavo Santaolalla (“Brokeback Mountain”), Howard Shore (“Lord of the Rings”), Stephen Warbeck (“Shakespeare in Love”) and Gabriel Yared (“The English Patient”) — whose work will be performed live during the course of the evening. All have been honored at the fest in one way or another, with 16 WSA trophies among them, not to mention the eight Oscars they’ve won collectively.
“Ten composers in one global program is a lot of concert time,” notes the fest’s music projects director Marian Ponnet, who with managing director Jacques Dubrulle are the key architects behind Ghent’s film music program.
A not insignificant lure for composers is the world-class Brussels Philharmonic, which will perform the bulk of the WSA’s Saturday-night program, and its conductor Dirk Brosse, whose work at Ghent so impressed Shore and John Williams in the past that he was asked to conduct Shore’s score for “The Aviator” and wield the baton for Williams’ “Star Wars” world tour.
If Ghent assumes an awkward position in the awards season, recognizing work that has already received the bulk of kudos earlier in the year — with titles like “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “A Serious Man” and “Avatar” in the running for WSAs this year — performances at the fest can also foreshadow Oscar glory, such as what happened with Santaolalla and his solo rendition of “Brokeback” in 2005, and a program of Dario Marianelli music prior to his Oscar for “Atonement” (2007). Santaolalla and fellow Oscar-winner Michael Giacchino (“Up”) also have won Discovery of the Year awards at Ghent early in their film careers.
And while other fests with a film music component — notably in Tenerife in the Canary Islands and Ubeda, Spain — have sprung up in its wake over the last six years, Ghent remains the model (and chances are you’ll see reps from those other fests strolling down Ghent’s cobblestone streets later this month).
The WSAs might be 10 years old, but Ghent — which enters its 37th edition this year — has placed its emphasis on film music since 1985, when the French film composer George Delerue helped come up with the concept. The first Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2001, went to the late Elmer Bernstein, who was one of the ceremony’s founding fathers. At that time, the World Soundtrack Academy consisted of 40 members; today it’s more than 300 strong.
And the number of industryites who make it a point to attend the fest has grown as well. “In the very beginning we had only the composers who were performing,” says Ponnet. “But now we have agents, managers, publishers and even studio executives, like Chris Monton (president of Walt Disney Music).”
Of course the city itself — a veritable museum of antiquities — and its abundance of Belgian ales are hard to resist, bringing new meaning to, as Goldenthal puts it, minding your Ps and Qs, as in “pints and quarts.” “They have a staggering array of beers,” he says, “no pun intended.”
WORLD SOUNDTRACK AWARDS 2010 NOMINEES
FILM COMPOSER OF THE YEAR
Alexandre Desplat – “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “New Moon,” “Julie & Julia,” “The Ghost Writer”
Hans Zimmer – “Sherlock Holmes,” “It’s Complicated”
Danny Elfman – “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Wolfman”
John Powell – “Green Zone,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “Knight & Day”
Carter Burwell – “The Blind Side,” “A Serious Man,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Howl,” “The Kids Are All Right”
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE OF THE YEAR
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” by Alexandre Desplat
“Avatar” by James Horner
“Where the Wild Things Are” by Carter Burwell and Karen Orzolek
“A Single Man” by Abel Korzeniowski
“Sherlock Holmes” by Hans Zimmer
BEST ORIGINAL SONG WRITTEN DIRECTLY FOR A FILM
“Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog,” music and lyrics by Randy Newman, performed by Anika Noni Rose
“I See You” from “Avatar,” music by James Horner and Simon Franglen; lyrics by Horner, Franglen and Kuk Harrell; performed by Leona Lewis
“I Want to Come Home” from “Everybody’s Fine,” music and lyrics by Paul McCartney, performed by Mc- Cartney
“Sticks & Stones” from “How to Train Your Dragon,” music and lyrics by Jon Birgisson, performed by Jonsi
“The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart,” music and lyrics by Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett; performed by Bingham
DISCOVERY OF THE YEAR
Abel Korzeniowski (“A Single Man”)
Helene Muddiman (“Skin”)
Atticus Ross (“Book of Eli”)
Clinton Shorter (“District 9”)
Sergey Yevtushenko (“The Last Station”)