The beautiful city of Gent once again hosted the Film Fest Gent, with the World Soundtrack Awards taking place for the fifteenth time this year. Various members of the IFMCA flocked to the Belgian city like bees to honey. Those ‘flocking bees’ included Eleni Mitsiaki (Kinetophone), Thor Joachim Haga (Celluloid Tunes), Bregt de Lange (MainTitles), Thomas Glorieux (MainTitles), Olivier Desbrosses (Underscores), Paul Stevelmans (Score) and Pete Simons (Synchrotones).
The WSA ceremony and concert took place on Saturday 24th October. Its central guest was Alan Silvestri, whose “Back to the Future” is celebrating its 30th anniversary (you may have seen something about ‘back to the future day’ in the media…), whilst his latest film “The Walk” had its premiere at the start of the festival, with the music making its live debut during the closing concert. To commemorate to occasion, the WSA in collaboration with Silva Screen Records have released a compilation album. It was recorded with nearly 90 members of the Brussels Philharmonic and a 24-piece Flemish Radio Choir. On paper, that doesn’t read like a big choir, but they’ve got a good set of lungs between them! In a surprise move, the producers turned to crowd-funding to raise monies towards the recording. It’s a little sad to think that this was deemed necessary, and even sadder to see that only seventy-two people backed the project, raising only a third of its target. The recording went ahead anyway, and was released with nice packaging and liner notes from various contributors.
The concert deviated slightly from the album, and programmed the following titles:
01. The Polar Express (“Suite”) – The performance was assured and vibrant, which the choir sitting prominently in the mix. It was a faithful rendition of the original version, though the “Spirit of the Season” section was slowed down just a little.
02. Forrest Gump (“Suite”) – A nine-minute suite that followed the original suite. It was performed flawlessly, with the choir lending the “The Crimson Gump”-section an epic character.
03. Mousehunt (“Suite”) – It’s such a playful piece, so colourfully orchestrated; and Brossé and his orchestra did it great justice. Kudos to the bassoonists here!
04. The Quick and the Dead (“Main Theme”) – Great to see this in the line-up, as it’s a wonderful but slightly overlooked score. The performance was spot-on with a particularly big sound coming from the brass section.
05. Back to the Future (“Suite”) – Celebrating its 30th anniversary, of course this one was present. It received a confident performance, with the brass section giving it their all. Though, the structure of the suite was a little messy.
06. The Walk (“Suite”) – conducted by Alan Silvestri, this one received a extra-lengthy suite, offering all the themes, all of the beauty and all of the restrained epicness.
07. Predator (“End Title”) – It was quite surprising and a little daunting to see this on the playlist, as many orchestras have struggled with that odd metered rhythm. However, The Brussel Philharmonic got it exactly right and really kicked ass with this one.
08. The Mummy Returns (“Main Title”) – this seemed to follow the original end titles, with its soaring string lines, ethnic percussion and some seriously evil brass and choir parts. Simply put, Brossé and his posse absolutely nailed this cue.
Most of these were lengthy suites, with “The Walk” replacing “Cosmos”, “Cast Away” and “The Avengers”. The composer took to the stage himself to conduct “The Walk” in a calm, almost understated manner; as opposed to Dirk Brossé’s more flamboyant style of conducting.
The performance by the Brussels Philharmonic and the Flemmish Radio Choir was outstanding, as the accompanying CD will prove. They effortlessly worked their way through Silvestri’s often fast-paced, energetic compositions. With the selected titles, the WSA have highlighted Silvestri’s versatility, spanning several genres from comedy to western to drama and adventure.
The evening started with several awards, after all that’s why there’s an A in WSA. There were a few genuine surprises, with Antonio Sanchez winning both the awards for Discovery Of The Year and Best Film Score Of The Year for “Birdman”. He thanked this Academy for the recognition, putting a strong emphasis on ‘this’, as if to suggest there is another Academy that didn’t recognise his work… John Paesano took home the Public Choice Award for “The Maze Runner”, whilst Paul Williams and Gustavo Santaolalla won the Best Original Song category with “The Apology Song” from “Book of Life”. Earlier in the evening, Peer Kleinschmidt won the SABAM Award for Most Original Composition by a Young International Composer (this was part of a composing competition that the WSA organises each year).
Michael Giacchino won Composer of the Year and, in his pre-recorded acceptance speech, made a point of saying he would love to come to Gent. The ever jolly Patrick Doyle received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Dirk Brossé explained that the award was not simply about the number of years someone’s been active, but that it’s about legacy and the cultural footprint that a composer has left behind.
The first half of the concert included music from Lifetime Achievement Award winner Doyle, who had two lively pieces from “Cinderella” performed, as well as “Nom Nobis” from “Henry V” and the full 10-minute “Grand Central” from “Carlito’s Way” synced live to picture. It was a master-class in film scoring. Last year’s Discovery of the Year Daniel Pemberton also had three wonderful pieces performed from “The Counsellor”, “Steve Jobs” and “The Awakening”.
The Meet and the Greet
Earlier that day, just a mile or two up the road in the beautiful Kinepolis cinema, a “meet and greet” took place with composers Alan Silvestri, Patrick Doyle and last year’s Discovery Daniel Pemberton. Conductor and composer Dirk Brossé also took part. Patrick Duynslaegher hosted a panel discussion, which prompted several hilarious stories. Doyle talked about his friend Stanley Meyers and how Stanley had been left heart-broken after being fired from “Soapdish”, not realising that Silvestri ended up scoring that film. It left Silvestri blushing, trying to hide under his black leather jacket. Doyle also spoke of director Brian Da Palma and how little direction he gives to composers. Doyle mused “he told me to go away [and write the music] and come back later”. Silvestri retorted “I’m envious. He told me to go away, and then told me to go away again”, referring to his rejection from “Mission: Impossible”.
Both dismissed the notion of any significant changes in film music, when an audience member asked about their thoughts on the ostinati and ‘horns of doom’ that dominated current movies. Doyle explained that there is nothing new in film scoring these days, and that ostinati have been around since Bach’s time. Only the emphasis on certain techniques may vary over time. He mentioned that “it’s all music” and that they, as composers, have to pick their projects. Doyle noted he picks those projects where he feels he can have fun. He insinuated he frequently declines projects because he feels he wouldn’t enjoy the process. Silvestri added that they are writing music today, for today’s audiences and today’s sensibilities. Brossé did admit that modern directors seem scared of melodies and that even three notes can be too much for some. When asked to describe Silvestri’s and Doyle’s musical styles, Brossé complimented the composers on their orchestral writing, saying that just reading the score feels like coming home (he was referring to his background in classical music).
Doyle and Silvestri both talked about director collaborations, especially those with Brannagh and Zemeckis respectively. However it was a story of Doyle working with Brian da Palma that got everybody laughing. “He started reading the score. Not listening. Reading! I was shitting myself”, told Doyle. “If you’re working for someone like that, you had better up your game”. Silvestri talked of Bob Zemeckis and how he changed his live “artistically and financially”. He talked about how clever Zemeckis really is, how every little detail in the film works towards conveying a message and that the music is very much part of that. He talked about “The Walk” and explained how he avoided the actual ‘walk’ sequence of film. “I was scoring every other scene, just to avoid the actual walk. But what you hear during the walk needs to be reflected earlier in the film. Bob told me… you gotta go on the wire”. He explained it was a difficult sequence to score. “This is the action piece of this movie, yet we’re hundreds of feet up in the air with only the sound of wind and occasional dialogue”.
However, Daniel Pemberton was seemingly not allowed to talk about long-standing working relationships, as he clearly can’t have any yet, if moderator Duynslaegher is to be believed. He put his hand on Pemberton’s arm and said “we’ll ask you this question in a few years’ time”. Presumably it was all in good jest, but from the audience’s point-of-view Duynslaegher’s moderation came across as clumsy and sometimes awkward. It seemed like Pemberton was being treated like a fifth wheel, yet when you hear his music for “Steve Jobs” and “The Awakening” it becomes abundantly clear that he is a tremendously versatile and talented composer.
Things got a little awkward when a member of the audience asked whether he could do an internship with any of the present composers. Doyle jokingly called him “a cheeky bastard… you got the job!” The Scot went on to give a, surprisingly, sensible answer saying you need to have a good, basic understanding of music, harmonies, counterpoint, etcetera. Silvestri smirked “the only thing I would add to that is: no”. Pemberton explained he does everything himself so doesn’t need an assistant. “Besides”, he said, “why would you want to clean up someone else’s mess? Make your own mess. It’s more fun and you learn much more.”
Doyle was asked why he abandoned all of Williams’ themes when he scored “Harry Potter”? Doyle kind of talked around the answer, but mentioned he considers each project very carefully and assesses what his role is going to be. Can he bring his own ideas or is he merely going to be an orchestrator? He also joked that his kids forced him into accepting the job, just so they could go to school and say “guess what my dad is doing? Only Harry ****ing Potter!”