ASCAP Workshop, Day 8

Where the music meets the math

As the clock ticks down to Friday’s scoring session at Fox’s Newman Scoring Stage, the 12 participants tuned up their scores at JoAnn Kane Music, a mechanics shop of music.

Not unlike pulling the engine out of a car, taking it apart and reassembling it, JoAnn Kane’s orchestrators sat down with composers and discussed things such as “courtesy accidentals” and “woodwinds on top.” All the squiggles mean something and they’ll be flying by the orchestra for the first time on Friday. Said orchestrator Brad Dechter, “You think of notating the music as a player yourself.”

At the JoAnn Kane offices, you are surrounded by the success. Walls of movie posters let everyone know the quality of film scores prepped here; a tour of the libraries show Mark Mothersbaugh’s score for “Envy” sitting next to Alan Silvestri’s “Eraser.” At each workstation, you’ll find a computer — and a musical keyboard.The participants paired off with orchestrators to pore over the red ink on their scores. Austin Wintory got to work with Dechter, the actual orchestrator of his movie clip (“Dreamer”). For his score, Wintory had built in some hand cues during a sequence of “free time” (musicians not on the “click” and dependent on the conductor), but Dechter pointed out how close he would be cueing strings and woodwinds: “How many hands do you have?”

Dechter stressed it’s important to give the musicians “a framework, but give them some freedom.” At the end of their session, he told Wintory that “by instituting these changes you’ve probably saved 10 minutes.” Since each composer has only 16 minutes on the podium, these savings are crucial.

Dechter summed up the thrill of Friday’s upcoming session as, “The musician brings life to the party –you’re hanging the balloons, but it’s not a party until the musicians come and eat and drink your stuff.”

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