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ASCAP Workshop, Day 7

A Hollywood history lesson at Fox Studios

You’re not really in Hollywood until you get past a studio gate. And the July 21 workshop session took the composers to Fox Studios’ Newman Scoring Stage, where Julie Andrews recorded the “The Sound of Music” and Marilyn Monroe performed “Heat Wave.”

In four days, this is where the composers will realize their own scores with a 60-piece orchestra. Tonight was a practice session, a night for forgetting to put on your headphones and struggling with page turns. Despite the composers’ impressive resumes and advanced degrees, workshop director Richard Bellis had to coax many of them to the podium.

A synthistrator and a pianist provided the music for the conductors’ test run; the music came from a scene in the Greg Kinnear film, “A Smile Like Yours.” Its William Ross score was serviceable at first listen, but the subtleties and nuances surfaced when two live musicans performed for 12 composers conducting their hearts out. Bellis was the steadying hand at the podium, conducting with composers who lost their way or offering baton advice: “My dad used to say, ‘Embrace the orchestra; don’t push them away.’ ”

The stage’s tour guide was scoring mixer Armin Steiner, who has overseen more than 6,000 sessions here. He watched John Williams coach horn players on how to get the vomit sound that underscored Jack Nicholson’s devilish spew in “The Witches of Eastwick.” The soundstage’s first synthesizer, he said, was a theremin used for Bernard Herrmann’s score on the “The Day The Earth Stood Still.” And the music for the “Matrix” trilogy was so loud –118db in the room — that you could feel the sound pressure.

Steiner assured composers, “We’ll make you feel as comfortable as possible. This isn’t a light-hearted moment for you, dealing with all the complexities. My job is to hear quickly what you have written so nicely on paper and to capture that.”

He also bragged on some of the studio’s glittering gear: “The new console just about cooks breakfast for you. It’s one of the last of the great analog boards. When we first turned it on, we thought it was broken, it was so quiet.” Also at hand: Six racks of ProTools and a reverb program Steiner wrote that mimics the sonics of Boston’s Symphony Hall.

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