A series of essays wherein I explore the numerous musical identities of my favorite musician: from child prodigy to teen idol to guitar hero to singer/songwriter to award-winning in-demand film composer.
Featuring news/updates and commentary/analysis of Trevor's career and associated projects.
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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

SCORE: The Interviews companion book

With gratitude to good friend of the blog Cee for her generous gift of this book.

Over the years Trevor has given a great many interviews regarding his scoring work, but rarely has he been placed in a continuum of film scoring professionals - thus his appearance in the new documentary film SCORE is one of those occasions.  The companion book of interview transcriptions contains 25 exchanges with some of the most well-known composers such as Howard Shore, Randy Newman, Quincy Jones, Marco Beltrami, Bear McCreary and Brian Tyler, a selection of UK-based composers including John Powell, Patrick Doyle and Rachel Portman, and the man who is arguably the most successful contemporary film composer in the industry - Hans Zimmer - as well as a few composers who have been a part of his Media Ventures/Remote Control Productions stable, such as Harry Gregson-Williams, Henry Jackman and Steve Jablonsky.  There are also interviews with directors James Cameron and Garry Marshall.

As someone who has read/heard most of those aforementioned interviews, Trevor's chapter is of interest to me even as it does contain various responses/anecdotes which he has proferred in previous exchanges, but when one considers he spent 20 years working as a film composer and being asked to discuss his labors then it's an entirely reasonable consideration that many of the same stories are shared.

Although the interview primarily focuses on Trevor's process and the sort of "nuts-and-bolts" aspect of his then-profession, it starts out with a more biographical tangent as regards his musical upbringing and training.  He then segues into how having a background in performing and recording rock music informs some of the aspects of being a film scorer.

One interesting question was: Why do you think orchestral music is thought of as being "less cool" than pop or rock music? and Trevor's response speaks to his overall regard for classical music and how it has influenced his own work.
I think if young people just gave themselves the chance to listen - maybe there should be a short list of really cool things to listen to, because if you have to go through 100 symphonies, you're going to get pretty bored, you know.
As I mentioned in a previous entry regarding Trevor's participation in a classical music-for-guitar project, Trevor also took part in an anthology titled Exile on Classical Street, originally released in 1996, which meant to do just that: make classical music relevant for the younger generation, featuring the participation of some of the biggest names in music selecting their favorite pieces.  So in terms of "a short list of really cool things to listen to," I'd say Trevor has already accomplished that - although it's difficult to know how successful this notion was 20 years ago.  Nowadays it seems like a perfect idea for Spotify, as it is a platform known for its' curated playlists.

His larger point is that there's nothing particularly innovative in the world of scoring or music in general, so it does serve listeners well to be acquainted with classical music.

Trevor provides a lot of insight regarding scheduling, the chronology of his particular process, how "terrifying" it can be to come into a project and make certain the thematic foundation is laid down before the real work can begin.  He describes his penchant for "undertures" which he had mentioned in prior interviews, writing thematic underscore to present to the director and hopefully divert from the reliance on temporary score (or "temp-itis" as Trevor refers to it).  One aspect I found intriguing is how specific each theme is for Trevor once it has been composed:
And then the movie gets cut, so you have to take that into consideration, and then, weeks in, the director will come in and say, 'I like that theme, but maybe we shouldn't use it on him.  Maybe we should use it on him, and use the other theme on him.'  And it's not a jigsaw puzzle; you can't do that.  It all has to be re-written.  So there are many things that can cause detours.
There was another response I found very interesting in light of recent interviews.  In regards to whether or not Trevor ever considers a score truly finished, he replied:
I have not written a score yet, out of close to four dozen movies, where I haven't thought at the premiere, "Ah, I'd like to do that again."[...]
The significance is that of late Trevor has been saying he composed fifty film scores over the course of his career, and stating it as he did in this interview is more accurate because the actual total - if we're referring to films - is 42, which is, technically, "close to four dozen."  Or 43, if you count The Exorcist prequel twice, since there were two versions of that film.

Another discussion I found interesting was regarding how much music Trevor writes for a film, which is a consideration he has discussed in prior interviews.  For example, in this 2012 panel with composers Randy Newman, Michael Giaccino and David Newman, Trevor is asked a question regarding that very subject which I had submitted the day of the event at the invitation of KPCC.

But even if asking for restraint, Trevor reveals that more music is written than used, because some of it may be rejected or changed out during the scoring process.  The composer also has to consider the sound design of a film in terms of creating a score, especially those films which feature prominent special effects.

Towards the end of the interview Trevor is asked about the use of "Titans' Spirit" during Barack Obama's acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention at Mile High Stadium in August 2008.  For context I am providing a video of the event entire, but "Titans' Spirit" is not played until approximately 47:22:

For those three-or-so minutes, it is an incredibly stirring experience which is not only quintessentially American, but a perfect expression of the concept of triumph and how it makes people feel.  And its' recurring appropriation in other contexts is both unsurprising and an example of how Trevor can bring an emotion to life in a universal fashion.

And as I have noted previously, because it was composed as a piece of score and Trevor was performing work-for-hire, he does not control the licensing of it:
Did you ever get paid for that being publicly? 
No!  No, you don't get paid for that.  It's looked upon as news.  I wasn't asked, and I don't think I got paid for it.
As is Trevor's wont, he manages to get in a quip as well.
It's funny, particularly on Remember the Titans, the music, for me, was written so specifically for that.  I never really thought about whether it could be used elsewhere, and then to hear it at Obama's speech, and it worked so well, I kind of got a lump in my throat.  It was quite amazing.  It might have been him, but I like to take credit for it.  'Yeah, it was all me, it had nothing to do with what he said.'
I recommend the book to those who are devoted fans of Trevor's scoring work, as well as for anyone interested in the genre in general as it contains a wealth of insights and behind-the-scenes glimpses throughout, in addition to taking us beyond the documentary in the sense that these are full-length interviews.  I will note, however, that each chapter begins with a list of credits and awards for the applicable composer and those included for Trevor aren't as thoroughly researched as they should have been because they fail to note Trevor's Grammy award for "Cinema" and I think they should have specifically cited his Henry Mancini Award as well.