Chattanooga Now City Beat: Film Music Symposium scores a hit

Chattanooga Now City Beat: Film Music Symposium scores a hit

March 14th, 2013 by Barry Courter in Chattnow Music

The first Chattanooga Film Music Symposium is in the books. About 60 people attended, and Chattanooga Symphony & Opera folks hope to have more next year. If you are at all interested in movies, it was enlightening. If you have any aspirations of working in the film music industry, it was a chance to meet and learn from some of the very best in the business.

I attended the hour-long presentations of both Peter Golub and George S. Clinton. Golub showed segments of "These Amazing Shadows," the documentary he scored for the National Film Registry.

His task was to put music behind clips of some of the most recognizable and iconic movies in history, and the music had to work as the clips switched from "The Wizard of Oz" to "High Noon."

He also talked about the use of "temps," a temporary score done usually by another composer that is used primarily for test screenings, which is a relatively new phenomenon, he said. Golub said the temps are not intended to have anything to do with the final score, but "sometimes directors get attached to them."

Clinton began his presentation with a video tour of his Los Angeles studio. He then showed a clip from "The Tooth Fairy," sans any dialogue or audio. He asked the audience to throw out some words to describe the action on-screen. Things like "whimsy," "confusion," "flight" and "uncertainty" were thrown out.

He said he starts with that in mind and then records the first of many free-form solo "piano jams," playing along with the action. The last may or may not resemble the first. After doing several more of those, he uses some fancy computer software and digital files that allow him to "play" almost any instrument to orchestrate the score. That is shown to the director, and changes, if any are needed, are made, and then a live orchestra records the finished piece.

The whole process for this one 10-minute scene can take two weeks or so, he said.

He also showed a scene from "Bury Me at Wounded Knee" and introduced flute player John Two-Hawks, who performed on the soundtrack and who was in attendance.

Both composers said communication with directors, especially those who think they know music, can be a challenge. Clinton told the story of being in the studio with a director whom he asked what he thought of a just-played piece. The director wanted it "bigger," and when Clinton explained that it had been played fortissimo, which is about as loud or big as it gets, the director had a suggestion.

"Try fivetissimo."

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.