Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Clock Work [Part One]

Clock Work
Part One
Howard Shore Discusses Hugo with Doug Adams


Hugo takes place in Paris in 1931 and tells the tale of an orphan who lives behind the walls of the Gare Montparnasse railway station. Befriended by a young girl named Isabelle and hunted by the Station Inspector, Hugo seeks to solve the mystery his father left behind – a mystery embodied by an imperturbable automaton. Hugo eventually encounters Papa Georges, who grieves for his own past and, like Hugo, is haunted by what he has lost to time and circumstance.

Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Brain Selznick’s 2007 book The Invention of Hugo Cabret is many things. It is a love letter to mid-twentieth century Parisian culture; an ode to the early days of film; a tender story about loss, loneliness, and deliverance; and an experiment in modern cinematic technique. But most of all, it is a story of characters and passions. The same can be said of Howard Shore’s score. It is an amalgam of forward-thinking technique and old-fashioned storytelling. It’s both an homage to a fascinating period in the budding art of film music, and a continued evolution of Shore’s deeply personal compositional voice. However, as befits the story, the score’s primary concerns are place, people, and heart.

Hugo is very detailed in its use of motifs and themes,” says Shore. “It’s an older style as we know, but Hugo had a pretty traditional type of approach to using themes for characters and objects. Marty really got into it. It’s such a nice way to work.

“It started off right away. I wrote the first reel, and it had seven themes in it. And I thought, ‘Oh ok, I know where we’re going!’”

The score’s first theme is built of interlocking fragments of ticking arpeggios, which represent the great clocks behind which Hugo builds his home. “It’s all eighths and quarters working together like the gears of a clock.”

The clockwork theme often underpins Shore’s mystery theme, which depicts the puzzle Hugo inherits from his father. Here the melodic line passes slowly and steadily, falling by recurrent octaves in piano.

“Hugo’s theme is a waltz that turns into ‘Coeur Volant,’” Shore describes. “It was written by me, Elizabeth Cotnoir and Isabelle Geffroy, whose professional name is ‘Zaz.’ She’s a French artist who lives in Paris. She worked with us and performed the song. It was similar to the way we worked with Annie Lennox. We had some melody, we had some lyrics, and then we worked with the artist who was actually going to perform it. Zaz added some nice elements.”

Isabelle’s theme is closely related to Hugo’s in spirit and flavor. Each has a lonely, isolated quality that warms as the score progresses. “Isabelle comes into the toy store and you hear the solo musette for the first time.

“There’s also a theme that’s heard in the tunnels. It’s a traveling piece. I used it in various places in the film for Hugo’s movement.”

The automaton that Hugo’s father left behind is decorated with the most exotic orchestrations in Shore’s score, but they’re subtly applied. The short motif for the machine rotates through and around B minor tonalities, and is often orchestrated for strings, celesta, harp, and the delicate electronic tone of the ondes Martenot, a kind of French theremin that was created in 1928 and employs a standard piano-like keyboard with a sliding metal ring.

Finally, the Station Inspector’s theme is a rigid marche comique featuring cornet, bassoon, and snare drum, which is heightened then expanded into any number of burlesque contortions as the inept Inspector chases Hugo throughout the station. “I experimented with many different trumpet sounds, and I ended up trying a cornet. At the same time I was also experimenting with different mutes – wooden mutes, paper mutes, brass mutes – and found a certain sound that I loved: cornet with a wooden mute. I used that in many scenes.”

With these seven themes assembled, Shore was prepared to start into the 105 minutes of score that Hugo would eventually require – an unusual amount for a Scorsese project.


Doug Adams: There’s a real depth to the writing in this score. At times it feels like it’s a smaller ensemble folded into a larger ensemble. It’s such a beautiful way to do it because it puts you in the mindset of three-dimensional imagery. You think of things in proximity to the listener. Intimate things are close-up, larger-scale things are broader.

Howard Shore: That was one of the things I wanted to do very early on. I had not previously worked on 3D films, but I wanted to make sure I had a lot of depth to the sound of the recording, so I used a pretty big orchestra: triple winds, brass in threes, 60 strings, and percussion.

The orchestra was about 88 total, and then I used a second smaller group, which became its own little band in the middle. It was the sextet: the ondes Martenot, musette, gypsy guitar, piano, bass, and drums. We used an old 30s drum-kit.

DA: That’s great. All the old woodblocks and that …

HS: Right, there’s woodblock, and old cymbals, and snare drum.

I also used a variety of pianos. The tack piano is actually Mrs. Mills’ piano. It’s a very famous piano that McCartney used on “Lady Madonna.” They’ve had it in Abbey Road’s Studio Two for years, so they rolled that out. I used that quite a lot. It’s a beautiful old Steinway. It has a good tuning, but it’s got that ‘tack’ sound. I don’t think they’ve done much to it; it’s just an old beat-up piano!

Mrs. Mills had a TV show in the UK. Everybody knew the piano. They all called it “Mrs. Mills’ piano” and made a whole thing of bringing it out! I actually tried other pianos – small uprights –but we ended up with Mrs. Mills’. A lot of the ivories are gone, and when the ivories are missing the keys are very rough. So Simon Chamberlain’s hands would be raw and sore! He’d be playing all these very fast things, and the piano had no ivory or plastic or anything on the keys.

The sextet was really the core. I did twelve sessions with the sextet on its own before I worked with the orchestra. I did a lot of recording with them over the course of about five months; I would write, and then I would do a live session with the group. Marty never uses temp – he never puts anything in the film that doesn’t belong in the film – so whatever I was writing and recording, he would put in the film. He likes to screen the movie a lot. So it was a way to watch the film with the right music in it.

DA: I loved the use of the ondes Martenot in the sextet, because it doesn’t play a novelty role. You’re just using it as another woodwind; it sits right in that family. It has that beautiful color but it doesn’t draw undue attention to itself.

HS: That’s right. It’s used like a woodwind, exactly. It’s such a beautiful instrument. It’s subtly used.

DA: The sextet is creating a very ‘French’ type of sound, but it still feels like it’s entirely connected to the score. It doesn’t feel like you’re using a different voice and then going back to the score proper. It’s all one self-contained sound. That’s got to be a tough thing to accomplish.

HS: Well, I think that’s just from orchestrating it myself. I get into these grooves. It would have been a hard score to do with a lot of different people. The completeness is why I like to do the orchestration.

DA: The other thing that struck me about the consistency of the score was the harmonic language. If you look at Hugo’s theme, even when it transforms into the song, it never becomes a I-IV-V-I thing. You’re not just doing a folk tune. It still has the changes that are so much a part of your voice, things like the augmented chords and so on. That made it feel like it was an extension of the score.

HS: I think that’s because you’ve heard this music all through the film, so it seems it’s most satisfying to hear a lyric at the end. When you hear that voice come in, it’s like: “Ah, we’re home!” It just feels so good … if you get it right!

DA: It’s a sense of completion, like all the parts came together to make something – a last statement.

HS: Exactly. I love that. The lyric by Elizabeth is so beautiful, and hearing Zaz sing the song in French is just so gorgeous.

DA: It’s such a beautiful language anyway.

HS: Exactly. And it just feels so natural. The lyrics are really beautiful. They’re about the boy and the girl, and about time and healing. It’s a nice completion.

One of the things I love about writing film music is that I can delve into these musical periods. They’re so interesting. Like the world of Naked Lunch, or Ed Wood, or Georges Méliès, or The Aviator. That was always a major attraction – to be able to live in these worlds. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to work in 1930s Paris? Or with the Lumière brothers or Méliès’ in the late 1800s.

DA: The last themes in the score deal with Méliès, yes?

HS: Yes. With Georges Méliès in the last half of the film I started to develop the Nostalgia theme. It has to do with the past. So that’s the theme of his magic show, and the early days of cinema. It’s used all throughout the ending of the film.

You know, people forget that the silent film era was actually over 30 years long.

DA: Yes, we think of that period like a flash in the pan, but it was around a long time.

HS: From around 1895 – that was the Lumière brothers – up to the beginning of recorded dialogue and The Jazz Singer in 1927. But the silent era was never silent. It always had music. That’s fascinating to me. In Hugo they show the Lumière brothers’ film A Train Comes into the Station [(L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat)], and it has a man playing a piano into a tent. It’s in a sideshow, like in a carnival. He’s playing Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre. I really wanted to get Saint-Saëns into the film because, as we know, Saint-Saëns was the first film composer.

DA: That’s right. Just about the very first, The Assassination of the Duke of Guise [(L'Assassinat du duc de Guise]).

HS: You hear his work predominantly in a couple of key spots. Danse Macabre was from 1874, and it was a popular classical piece. It was a very dark piece – people weren’t used to that kind of music evoking rituals.

DA: The figure of death on his violin and all that.

HS: Yeah, exactly! So it was a very popular piece, and of course the Lumière brothers’ silent films were also a popular type of entertainment. And people were frightened by it! A Train Comes into the Station was tremendously frightening to people. People thought the train was going to run them over! That sort of reminds me of 3D. Méliès was an early experimenter with stereoscopic images, and coloring the film, and creating special effects around the turn of the century. It was a pretty unusual thing to be doing, but he was such an innovator.

It’s so fascinating, the silent era. It was the birth of all film music. What was played in those movie theaters became what we associate now with film. It went up through Waxman, Korngold, and Steiner. Everybody that came after the silent films started with this classical idea of music in film.

DA: It’s such a fascinating period. We think of that as such a logical combination now – a film will almost always have music whether it’s an original score, or songs, or source, or whatever. But somebody had to have that idea. They had to think, “We’ll use music, it’ll help the storytelling.” People take that for granted, “Of course it’s there, it has to be.” But somebody thought of that. That was an idea; that was an innovation.

Hugo puts you right back in that world of large productions and traditional narrative music. That’s a good place to be as you move into the next year, yes?

HS: Yes, Hugo was a good lead-up for The Hobbit.

DA: It puts you in that thematic mindset again?

HS: Exactly, yes. It brought me back into that whole process. It was a bigger film score than I had done for a while in terms of the amount of music, and how the music was used in the film. It’s not quite as long as The Hobbit will be, but it was a very similar process in terms of composing. The composition took basically five months, and the production was pretty extensive – two months of orchestration, two months of recording/editing/mixing. So Hugo was like a mini Rings score.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hugo PR

UPDATE: Track samples available HERE

NOVEMBER 22, 2011

Music By Academy Award® Winner Howard Shore
Featuring Zaz on the Original Song “Coeur Volant”

(November 15, 2011—New York, NY) Howe Records is pleased to announce the release of the Hugo – Original Score, available in stores and digitally on November 22, 2011. Hugo marks the sixth collaboration between director Martin Scorsese and composer Howard Shore. Like Scorsese’s film, Shore’s score to Hugo is a love letter both to the French culture in the 1930s and to the groundbreaking early days of cinema.

Hugo tells the story of Hugo Cabret, a boy who lives behind the walls of a Parisian train station. Shore’s music is composed for two ensembles – one nested within the other – to create a sense of layering in the musical palette. Inside a full symphony orchestra resides a smaller ensemble, a sort of nimble French dance band that includes the ondes Martenot, musette, cimbalom, tack piano, gypsy guitar, upright bass, a 1930s trap-kit, and alto saxophone. “I wanted to match the depth of the sound to the depth of the image,” says Shore.

The Hugo score is based around a family of primary musical themes. “The themes are used for clarity of storytelling and they develop over the course of the film,” says the composer. The score’s central theme is a Parisian waltz that develops into the song “Coeur Volant.” Howard Shore invited renowned French singer Zaz to collaborate with Elizabeth Cotnoir and him on the song, which captures the lyrical essence of the world of Hugo.

The theme for Hugo’s quest begins the score with clocklike precision in piano octaves. A figure for strings, celesta, and ondes Martenot rotates downward through minor modes to depict the mysterious automaton that Hugo’s father left behind. The Station Inspector is portrayed by a marche comique featuring bassoon and striding snare drum, while the cinematic innovations of Georges Méliès – “Papa Georges” to Hugo and Isabelle – receive Shore’s most theatrical flourishes, which recreate the spirited energy of live theater orchestras and the very first film scores.

Academy Award®-winning composer Howard Shore is among today’s most respected, honored, and active composers and conductors. His work with Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings trilogy stands as his most towering achievement to date, earning him three Oscars® and four Grammy® awards. Since 2003 Shore’s music from the beloved trilogy has been constantly performed in concert halls around the world. Howe Records recently released a live recording of The Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six Movements for Orchestra and Chorus, which continues to appear on Billboard Magazine’s classical charts.

As one of the original creators of Saturday Night Live, Shore served as the show’s music director from 1975 to 1980. At the same time, he began collaborating with David Cronenberg, and has since scored 13 of the director’s films, including The Fly, Dead Ringers, Crash, Naked Lunch, Eastern Promises, and 2011’s A Dangerous Method. Shore continues to distinguish himself with a wide range of projects, from Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, The Aviator, and Gangs of New York, to Ed Wood, The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, and Mrs. Doubtfire. He is currently working on his second opera, and is returning to Middle-earth with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Through the years, Academy Award® winner Martin Scorsese has transported us to extraordinary places. This Holiday season he will take audiences to a magical time and place as only he can, in his first ever 3D film, based on Brian Selznick’s award winning and imaginative New York Times bestseller, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Hugo is the astonishing adventure of a wily and resourceful boy whose quest to unlock a secret left to him by his father will transform Hugo and all those around him, and reveal a safe and loving place he can call home. The film stars Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths, with Jude Law.

Paramount Pictures will present Hugo in theaters on November 23, 2011. The Hugo – Original Score from Howe Records will be available in stores and digitally on November 22, 2011.

A Dangerous Method PR




Available on November 21, 2011

Sony Masterworks is proud to announce the release of the original soundtrack picture soundtrack of A Dangerous Method. Howard Shore, a leading composer for movies, wrote the music for this dark and dramatic tale set in Zurich and Vienna on the eve of the First World War. Available on Monday, November 21, the soundtrack also features a recording of Richard Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll by one of the most exciting pianists of our time, Lang Lang.

A Dangerous Method is the story of the relationship between two of the great pioneers of modern psychology, Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), and of Jung’s relationship with his brilliant and beautiful young patient Sabina Spielrein, a wonderful role for Keira Knightley. Jung successfully treats Sabina, who with his encouragement becomes a psychiatrist herself, and through correspondence about her case Jung gains the friendship of Freud. When Jung breaks off his love affair with Sabina, she becomes Freud’s patient, and differences on moral and intellectual issues open a gap between the two men.

Director David Cronenberg has chosen Howard Shore to write the score for all but one of his films in the last 30 years. Shore has composed music for more than 80 films in all, also working with directors such as Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme, with whom he collaborated on Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia. His outstanding success was the Lord of the Rings trilogy, for which he received three Academy Awards. Furthermore, he is the winner of two Golden Globe and four Grammy Awards for his film scores. He has also composed a number of concert works and an opera, The Fly, which premiered in Paris in 2008.

Featured on this soundtrack is Shore’s arrangement of Richard Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll. Wagner composed the Idyll as a birthday present for his wife Cosima after the birth of their son Siegfried in 1869. It is a highly personal piece of music: its first performance, by a small ensemble in Wagner’s home on Christmas Day 1870, woke Cosima on that morning from her sleep. Later Wagner incorporated music from the Idyll into his opera Siegfried, the third of the four parts of The Ring.

Lang Lang, one of the world’s most renowned pianists, performs the 20-minute Siegfried Idyll on this soundtrack. His meteoric career has taken him around the world for performances in front of huge audiences and even into the White House.

A Dangerous Method with its many-layered story of sexual and intellectual exploration and its star cast has the potential for great box-office success. Shore’s music and the superb playing of Lang Lang will delight listeners who have seen the movie and fans of piano music and Wagner alike.

AM Northwest Flashback

This is undeniably out-of-date, but I'm leaving it here purely out of posterity .. and because I just released it was online! If my disclaimer hasn't yet put you off, enjoy my appearance on AM Northwest (and click through if you want to see the "Pumpkin Workout" I referenced on Twitter at the time).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hugo and the Orchestrion

Late this past summer I received a call from Howard Shore, who was then in London working on Hugo with Martin Scorsese. I’m not even sure it was public knowledge that Shore was on the project at that point. Maybe it was. He’d been involved for a while; in fact, he’d even visited the set when he and I were in London in September 2010 for the release of The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films and the Royal Albert performance of The Return of the King. By the time we met up in Luzern in March, he was deep into the writing – if you attended the Skype lecture at the KKL, those were Hugo sketches he quickly flashed before the camera’s eye.

Orchestrion Detail
Regardless, it wasn’t the score itself he was calling about. Rather it was a bit of source music that had proven to be a sticky wicket for the post-production team. In mixing the source music – that is, the music in the film that comes from an on-screen source – the post team had used a recording of Strauss’ Radetzky March. However, appropriate to the world of Hugo, this Radetzky was performed by an orchestrion. An orchestrion is a sort of a self-contained automated orchestra. Complete with internal pipe organs, triangles, snare drums, xylophones, and bell-striking automatons, orchestrions were all the rage in nineteenth century Europe. Hugo takes places in Paris in the early twentieth century, and its plot is partially constructed around a mysterious automaton left behind by the central character’s father. So you can pretty easily trace the team’s thoughts. This was the perfect sound for the film.

They had located a French recording of an orchestrion playing Radetzky, and it was everything they wanted. The tone was right, the energy was right, the orchestrion on the recording was even of the correct period. However, as is often the case, there was a catch. For one reason or another, the recording could not be licensed, thus it was unusable in the film. But the performance was so perfect, the team decided that, rather than seek out a different recording of a different orchestrion, they would try to track down the actual orchestrion used in the original recording.

The instrument had gone to a private collector in France, but after that it was sold into another private collection in the States. This collection, as it turned out, was located on the north side of Chicago, not too terribly far from my home. Since I was nearby, Shore asked if I’d be interested in producing a new recording of the orchestion for Hugo.

I said “yes” … which was strange, because I was actually thinking “yesyesyesyesyes!”

The orchestrion was now in a collection belonging to the Sanfillipo Estate. The Sanfilippos had made their fortune as the owners of Fisher Nuts. Along the way, the family had begun collecting orchestrions, and player pianos, and phonographs. They own the world’s largest restored theater organ, which resides in a room full of chandeliers and art glass, and is just a stone’s throw from the building that houses their salon carousel. The collection, which you can see in the video below, is truly a sight to behold.

I immediately got in touch, but found there was another issue. Yes, the orchestrion was here, yes they were happy to participate … but no one was sure where the Radetzky book was. Orchestrions, as I would learn, read perforated pages like player pianos. However, orchestrion books, unlike piano scrolls, fold end-to-end in tall rectangular heaps, thus are referred to as "books." There was no time to create a new Radetzky book since the Hugo producers needed the new recording before the second half of September. The clock was running. The original French owners were contacted to see if the book had indeed been shipped with the instrument years ago. (It had, they said.) Other private collectors in the States were contacted, though their numbers were prohibitively small. Finally, the book was found in the back of a Sanfilippo storage room along with other non-musical materials that had come over from France when the instrument was originally obtained. We had what we needed!

So, on the afternoon of September 8, I met my recording engineer, Josh Richter of Victorian Recording, at the Sanfilippo’s Place de la Musique to record the same orchestrion that had played the Radetzky that the filmmakers had loved so much. As we set up a couple of high-tolerance ribbon mics, Gregory Leifel, the Foundation Director who oversees the collection like a proud papa, cheerfully warned us: “Stand back!” The instrument was shockingly loud – charmingly so, of course, but if you weren’t ready for the slap-in-the-face dynamics of the live performance, you could easily be caught unprepared.

After a few runs, we stepped over to the on-site recording studio and quickly mastered what we’d captured. We tweaked the tempo, shifted the pitch a few cents, and warmed up the recording until I felt it was a close enough match for the original. It was quick work. Once Josh and I were pleased with the results, we began uploading the audio files and Pro Tools elements. While we waited, I was given a private tour of the Sanfilippo’s collection, which is every bit as beautiful as it is extensive. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the time they took with me. They’re clearly quite proud of their collection, and they have every reason to be.

Josh soon texted me that the files had all been successfully uploaded to the server, so I started back home to inform the production that we were all set on our end (ahead of schedule and under budget!) I heard back almost immediately: the new Radetzky was a perfect fit!

Last week I received my confirmation that our Radetzky recording is in the final Hugo edit. It only lasts about ten seconds, but it takes over the soundscape during its moment upon the stage, and fills the entire 7.1 mix ... and it's still really loud! You'll know it when you hear it. Maybe it’s not really much in the long run, but it was a chance to be a part of a Scorsese film, an excuse to see a truly outstanding collection of instruments … and it will be my first on-screen credit in a studio film. I'm incredibly honored to have been asked to assist, and incredibly proud to be associated – even in a tiny way – with such a wonderful project.

Thanks to Howard Shore, Jennifer Dunnington, the Sanfilippo Estate, Gregory Leifel, Josh Richter, and Alan Frey for helping to coordinate this project. I’ll be back with more Hugo talk in the near future … and maybe a little Hobbit news, you know, just to justify our URL!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

LOTR: FOTR -- In Concert Coming to Paris

Le Seigneur des Anneaux – la Communauté de l’Anneau en ciné concert : Le film est projeté dans son intégralité, avec les dialogues et les effets sonores, mais sans l'œuvre musicale. Cette dernière étant interprétée en direct (en parfaite synchronisation avec la bande sonore originale du film) par un orchestre symphonique et un chœur. L'intégralité du film est diffusée sur un écran géant en fond de scène, les dialogues sont en VO sous-titrés. La bande originale est interprétée par le 21st Century Orchestra, un orchestre symphonique de 90 musiciens, dirigé par Ludwig Wicki, accompagné du Chœur de l’Orchestre Colonne de Paris (100 adultes et 50 enfants) avec le soliste Kaitlyn Lusk. Cette production a déjà rencontré un immense succès à Londres, Lucerne, Munich, Cracovie, Luxembourg, Lyon, Tampere, New York, Sydney et St Louis. Rappelons que Le Seigneur des Anneaux est une des œuvres les plus primées de toute l'histoire du cinéma avec pas moins de dix-sept Oscars dont deux pour la meilleure musique. La musique composée par Howard Shore a su créer un environnement sonore propre à chaque univers du film (le Pays de Mordor, les collines d'Emyn Muil, la Terre du Milieu etc) En remportant l'Oscar de la "Meilleure Musique de Film", la bande originale d'Howard Shore est devenue l'une des plus emblématiques de l'histoire du cinéma.

October 23, 2012
October 24, 2012
October 25, 2012
October 26, 2012

Cliquez ICI.

Merci à Guillaume!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ongoing Discussion [November 2011]

Official Hobbit news has now begun to trickle in from writers embedded in the production. If you haven't read the report on AICN, I strongly encourage you to do so. (And as ever, if you're sensitive to strong language, I suggest you remain above the Talkback section -- both literally and metaphorically.) As announced in Ghent, Howard Shore has recently been down to New Zealand as well, but that's all the Hobbit news that's fit to print for the moment.

Anyway, it's not as if there's a Shore drought right now. A Dangerous Method is out in Europe, and will be circulating in the States soon enough. Hugo is on its way as well -- and the impatient among us can hear some preview snippets on the official Hugo site. Another Cronenberg picture, Cosmopolis, is currently in production. Canadian band Metric recently revealed that they'll be collaborating with Shore on that score.

As for me -- I think I'm now fully recovered from my recent press tour. Maybe. While October's travels and concerts are still recent memories, my mind has actually turned back a few pages to early September. For the past few months I've held my tongue regarding a fun little excursion I enjoyed in the waning days of summer 2011. I can't reveal the story quite yet, but if you'll check back later this month, I'll tell you a bit about my involvement with Hugo.

More to come!
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