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Archive for the ‘Sherlock Jr’ Category

here’s my October newsletter

This weekend I was in the studio at the CBC chatting with Karen Gordon about scoring and playing for silent movies. I love the CBC and how supportive they are of musicians in this country.

Karen is a wonderful interviewer. It was a total pleasure. Here is the interview. Fern Lindzon Interview by Karen Gordon on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air 20121028

At the end of the interview the CBC aired I Thought About You from my first CD, Moments Like These.

Thank you, CBC.

In the studio with Karen Gordon

 

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(here is a link to part 1, part 2 and part 3 of this thread)

It’s not so easy!

TIFF had given me a dvd of “Sherlock Jr.” to work with. I based all my tempos, transitions and themes on the speed of that dvd. When I came to the TIFF Bell Lightbox for my first rehearsal with the film, I was in for a shock. The film was way slower than the dvd I had been working with! Fortunately, they were able to speed up the film to a frame rate that was really close to the one I was used to! (phew)

My klezmer/jazz sextet performed “Sherlock Jr.” four times (in one day!) Everyone at the Bell Lightbox was fantastic to work with from the sound guys, the production people and the caterers (!!) Each time I walked into the theatre, someone would move my monitor out of the way and put it back in place after I sat down. I could get used to that!!

TIFF recorded all four performances and later gave me a hard drive. Chris Perkins then worked with the hard drive and the dvd to put it together. The timing was extremely challenging because of the frame rate differences between the film I played to and the dvd. Nevertheless, we got it pretty close – at least close enough to really capture a live performance, even though some of the pool balls move before you hear the drum shots…

Enjoy the film!!

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(here are the first and second parts to this thread)

How do you compose music for a silent film?

Here’s what I did:

I bought an ipad (16 gig WiFi- why pay more?) for traveling and learnt how to make an mp4 of the film using HandBrake. It’s an awesome program!!

I also bought a new red moleskin notebook in order to write down preliminary ideas and impressions while sitting on a plane to Barcelona.

I allowed myself to listen to the existing sound track (Club Foot Orchestra– fantastic!!!) only a couple of times primarily to note tempi, musical themes and where they changed and how the characters, settings and situations were reflected in the music. I thought about where these musical transitions worked for me, and how I would do it differently.

I called Andrew Downing for advice. Andrew is wonderful silent film composer, bass player and cellist. Andrew gave me some fantastic guidelines:

1. repeat bars are my best friend. That way, if the tempo in performance is a bit quicker than I had planned, it’s very easy to cue repeats and transitions.

2. every character not only has their own theme, but their themes can interact when they’re in scenes together. This is also a fantastic compositional tool.

I began a new manuscript notebook. Here’s what the first page looks like:

TIFF had requested klezmer music, so I had a delicious mandate!

bulgars (for fast chase scenes), chusidls (slow 4 to set up Buster), tangos (for love), doynas (slow improvised- for tragic scenes) … what fun!

I added a rag (with a few uneven bars) for my first chase scene, an early Duke Ellington inspired theme for Buster when he assumes the persona of the great detective, a samba for my final chase scene and left a few parts fairly open for structured free improvisation. After all, I decided to hire musicians who are also brilliant improvisers: Quinsin Nachoff (clarinet and sax), Aleksandar Gajic (violin), Milos Popovic (accordion), Rob Clutton (bass) and Nick Fraser (drums). I led them at the piano.

For the most part, Buster told me what to do. Any time I got stuck, I watched Buster over and over again and asked him what he wanted. He taught me how to compose.

Buster was a genius. That is evident in every frame of this amazing film. I knew that my job was to write music that simply reflected the action, comedy, tragedy, zaniness and romance of the movie without getting in the way.

I feel very grateful to have been given this incredible project. Buster Keaton has enriched my life, and the time that I spent immersed in this film is a time I will always treasure.

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“Like the very first title says, Sherlock Jr is a story about being able to do two things at once: move and entertain, dream and wake, negotiate between our real and our better selves – how we are all, in the end, projectionists and detectives. That art inflects life and vice versa is not a new statement, but a celebration of that fact perhaps bears repeating. Sherlock Jr is a testament to the imaginative impulse, the creative wish- the amount of ourselves that we put into the movies, and what the movies give back to us. For when the lights come up and we’re shoved rudely back into our misfit selves, we find we’re a little better off. Our ghostly flights sustain us. And then it’s time to kiss the girl.”

Edward McPherson, Buster Keaton – Tempest in a Flat Hat

(click to enlarge- Photos by Sonia Recchia/Wireimage for TIFF. This photo was taken at our performance of Sherlock Jr at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto)

a band within a band within a film within a film…

watching/playing, interacting/reading, composing/improvising, listening/creating

In a much broader sense, I have found that when two major projects overlap, particularly when one project is nearly finished and another is beginning, they both benefit. While I was composing the score for Sherlock Jr I was also in the final mixing stages of my CD project, Two Kites. It’s almost as though my creative imagination needed to take a day off here and there to think about something else and be engaged in a different type of brain activity in order to return with fresh ears and ideas. When Sherlock Jr was ending, my Halloween cabaret show, That Old Black Magic Cabaret, at the Young Centre for the Arts was looming, which I think really helped me get over post-show letdown. There simply wasn’t time.

Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on arrangements for my newest project, Forgotten Melodies. This project will have its world premiere at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Arts on March 29. Forgotten Melodies brings the exoticism of klezmer/Yiddish/Eastern European music to modern jazz. This project has also inspired me to be in serious practice mode. Right now, most of my days are spent writing, practicing, recording, listening to my playing, analyzing and refining my ideas.

At the same time, I’m also preparing for my Two Kites CD release on April 28. I signed off the final proof for the CD package this week! There are still tons of loose ends to think about for the release of the CD and for upcoming concerts for its promotion.

That’s all I can handle. Two things at once!

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Last summer I composed a film score for Buster Keaton’s silent film classic, Sherlock Jr.


I first heard about this project on June 8, received confirmation on June 23 and was booked for four performances on Sept. 26 at the brand new TIFF Bell Lightbox. In the meantime, I traveled to Barcelona from June 25- July 6, then was off to Halifax from July 14-18. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to start writing until the last two weeks in July. Even so, I had a few days booked in the studio to mix my new CD, Two Kites, plus three performances including a solo concert at the Burlington Jazz Festival.

I was told that TIFF wanted the score to have a lot of klezmer music. Therefore, I decided that I’d score it for a klezmer/jazz sextet consisting of accordion, clarinet/sax, violin, piano, bass and drums.

I had a deadline, a stylistic guideline, instrumentation, plus an absolutely brilliant 44 minute long silent film.

Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like real parameters!

I often think about the fact that it’s so much easier for me to complete a project when there is an external deadline. Internal deadlines are way trickier. I can slip, get distracted, abandon projects and leave unfinished compositions and arrangements buried in my notebooks or in my digital recording device. (I use a Roland Edirol R-09. Love it!) Or other external deadlines pop up which demand my complete attention, and as time goes by the urgency to finish an earlier project starts to diminish…

Deadlines are crucial for an artist. They really help focus creative energy, keep you moving forward, and give you something concrete to work toward. They also help you keep your priorities in place and say “no” when necessary. When I don’t have a clear goal in mind, I can waste a lot time.

I love deadlines!

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