Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

As a composer, 2005 was a year of opportunity. Specifically,
opportunities which presented themselves and I grabbed at. Even more specifically, opportunities that gave me a chance to do what I’ve wanted to do since 1995- compose film scores. You won’t hear my work on the big screen anytime soon, but I’ve been given chances this year to work towards that possibility; some worked out, some didn’t.

First up in this area was my submission to Turner Classic Movies’ Young Film Composer Competition this year, which allows applicants to score a brief scene from a silent film with no recorded score; the winner is then given the chance to score the film itself for its’ debut on TCM. I had heard about the competition from someone back in 2002, but at that time my composing output had stopped. With this latest surge in my composing since ’04, though, I thought I’d look it up and see about submitting a piece for it. I didn’t even make the first cut with my piece- which I entitled “Fear- The Giving and Receiving of…”- for a scene from the film “Souls for Sale,” but it gave me my first valuable experience writing film for music. That would come in handy later down the road this year…

Next, I had heard about the IMAGE Film & Video website and forums from a friend at work- also a musician (and a damn fine one as well) interested in filmmaking- that had a “classifieds” forum for people to place ads offering their services or looking for someone to assist them. Well, I placed an ad, and got a couple of replies. One was for an arrangement of a pre-existing piece of music- Delirium’s “Fallen” featuring Rani- for a music video a filmmaker was making as a demo project, the other was a chance to write music for an independently-produced TV project that was sort of like “Blair Witch Project” meets “Ghost Hunters.” I took a chance with both. The “Fallen” arrangement was my first opportunity reworking someone else’s music since my final orchestration project in college (though this time, I had no written music to reference), and though I think I did a very good job making it my own (it’s originally an electronica piece- I used a mostly quasi-classical instrumentation), and the filmmaker liked it, it wasn’t exactly what he was looking for. For the TV project, I wrote a couple of sample tracks (entitled “Symphonic Dread”- which was available for a time- and “Symphonic Guitar Dread”), trying to go by what it was described to me what they were going for. I never heard back after submitting “Guitar Dread,” which in retrospect is not one of my better pieces. Though neither opportunity worked out, this is a road I will definitely trying driving again.

Finally, there was “The Case.” What is “The Case?” It’s a short film
series- five 1/2 chapters long- a friend of mine from work- not the same one mentioned before- has been working on since September (I’ve helped out behind the scenes as well “on set”- I even appear onscreen in the third chapter of this series). This has been my most fruitful opportunity yet. Admittedly, the film’s aren’t that great- you can tell we’re making these on no budget- but they’ve allowed me to try some pretty different things musically than I’ve been normally used to. “Chapter One”- the score for which is available online- is an exercise in propulsive melodrama and action using percussion and rhythm mainly as a courier has the titular case in hand while being chased by assassins (the track entitled “Dead Man Running” is one of my best I think). “Chapter Two” was a bit of a challenge as I decided I needed to rethink it after submitting a string quartet-only score that just didn’t meet my expectations in retrospect (I later added many of the same instruments from “Chapter One” to accompany); the rethought score- which is available now at Sonic Cinema- is much more aesthetically pleasing and fitting the film. “Chapter Three” is the black sheep of the series, a character-driven tale of the courier pre-“Chapter One” and what lead him to where he ended up at the end of that chapter. For this, I used a completely different instrumentation- piano, alto sax, and trombone- that adds color- and some thematic writing- to the black-and-white film; it’s unlike a lot of what I’ve written before. I plan on recording actual performers for this score- including previous performers for my music Dawn Echols (piano) and David Fairchild (trombone) and new performer (though old friend) Fred Norton (sax)- before releasing it on CD or the ‘net.

In addition to all of the opportunities mentioned above, I found time- amazingly- for other compositions, starting with a “remix” of one of my early, lesser pieces in “Minimalist Suspense v. 2.005” (maybe a bit too much at times, but more satisfying personally), and continuing with a rich series of ambient electronic pieces in “Passionate Illusions I-V” (subtitled as a whole as “A Cycle of Sensual Soundscapes”), another epic electronic work completed in time for Halloween entitled “Gothic Twilight,” and culminating in not only the recording of 2004 pieces “Ballad for the Beloved Departed” and its’ “Reprise” by Dawn but also the composition and recording of “Introduction to a New Old West” (a piece for string quartet and guitar), “Danger of the Frontier” (for flute, guitar, and acoustic bass featuring vocal performances by my mother Vicki and myself), and “A New Old West,” for a chamber orchestra ensemble (OK, I didn’t exactly get those last two completely recorded by year’s end). The three latter pieces mark the conclusion of the Western-themed pieces I began writing in 2004 for an album to be entitled “Sonic Visions of a New Old West.” It’s been a busy, and musically rewarding 2005.

2006 will be a continuation of the work I’ve been doing this past year. There are 2 1/2 more chapters of “The Case” that will need scores (and a completely new 5-chapter set of “Case” films after that, of which I will also be directing the first chapter). I have every intention in entering the ’06 TCM Young Film Composers Competition in the early part of the year. Another “Halloween” piece is on the horizon in October. And to top it all off, I will be making my own short film- a character-driven story entitled “Unwinnable Hand”- for which I be writing (actually, it’s already written), directing, acting, and writing the music, among other things. Good times will be had by all. Surely more will be done musically in ’06, but these are the definites I can promise you for sure. Also, I will have my first new CDs available in 6 years in “The Case” soundtrack and “Sonic Visions of a New Old West.” Maybe “Dark Experiments” will finally become available again as well. ๐Ÿ˜‰

That’s all for me for 2005. Also, my home page for all things movies and music- – is up and running like a well-oiled internet machine.

Thanks for listening,

Brian Skutle (“Creative Beginnings”) (“Dark Experiments”- Currently Out of Stock) (for all you MySpacers out there)

Categories: News, News - Music

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