thoughts on music, design and literature

Friday, February 29, 2008

My Wikipedia Page

Brent Woo, a student at UCLA, just overhauled my Wikipedia page.

Wow! Thanks, Brent! Talk about grassroots efforts to help get the word out about my music!


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Game Developer's Conference 2008 Collected Notes

I spent all of last week at the Game Developer's Conference, the annual meeting of the minds for the video game industry. It's a fun (but exhausting) week, and this was my third year attending. At last year's conference, I was nominated for a GANG Award for "Baba Yetu" (ultimately wound up winning two awards, actually) and I spent the entire conference trying to generate some sort of interest in my music because of that. This year, already being a somewhat familiar face, and being repped for video games by Soundelux DMG, I had a number of meetings set up for me even before I attended the conference, with companies like Sony, Disney and Atari.

Since we're now onto my third year of being a part of the video game community, I have to admit that I'm starting to feel really at home amongst the other composers there. A big part of that is because of Video Games Live. As usual, VGL did a concert at the end of the conference (at the Nob Hill Masonic Center, with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra and Choir--presumably a pickup band), and as usual, all the composers spent two hours afterwards signing autographs and meeting with fans. It's through all these Meet-And-Greets, lectures at GDC, and other events, though, that I'm really starting to get chummy with a lot of the other game composers. They're all really nice, genuine guys--low on ego, high on creativity...a genuine pleasure to know! I'm proud to call myself one of them.

As usual I bumped into Gerard Marino, of God Of War fame. He won the Rookie Of The Year award the year before I did. Laurie Robinson (Advent Rising) and I hung out again....she and her husband Emmanuel Fratianni are familiar faces from all the VGL concerts. Mike Reagan (God Of War, Conan) and his wife Savina Ciamarella were everywhere; Savina in particular has been a saving grace to the video game community because of her work in getting the American Federation of Musicians to have a contract for video game scores.

I got a chance to talk with Marty O'Donnell a bit--you probably know him from his beautiful Halo music, based on Gregorian chants. And then there were the Blizzard guys...Russell Brower and Jason Hayes. Jason and I have been trying to get lunch for ages now; he's working on an album as well, and I want to know more about it. I pointed out to him once that, because of his World of Warcraft music, day in and day out, he's probably the most heard single composer in the history of the world. Truly.

Last week's VGL concert featured a few new segments. Richard Jacques (Headhunter) came out and played a jazz piano arrangement of the music to Outrun that sizzled. And of course, my buddy Martin Leung, the Video Game Pianist (pictured here) played medleys from Final Fantasy, Chrono Cross and Super Mario Brothers. John Debney, primarily a film composer (Passion Of The Christ, Sin City), came out and conducted his music from Lair. It was great meeting him after the concert, as I think he does great work.

I was also hanging out with Will Littlejohn and Kyle Johnsons of the Guitar Hero camp game designer friend Soren Johnson (Civilization IV, Spore) sat next to them at the Meet-And-Greet. Kyle turned to us and said "You know what's funny is that during our lunch hour, we all put Guitar Hero away and play Civ IV!" To which Soren replied, "That's funny because during our lunch breaks we used to put Civ IV away and play Guitar Hero!" That little exchange made my day.

Most importantly, however, I have to give kudos to Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall for everything they've done for game composers. Really, I can't stress this enough: those guys are two personal heroes of mine. Not only did they found GANG and work tirelessly to build this wonderfully friendly community, but they also created the Video Games Live concerts and have been instrumental in bringing game composers out from behind the scenes....myself included. All the happy memories I have of last week's conference were due to the work of these two. I'll say it again: those two are my heroes.

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Art As A Mirror?

There's a school of thought that believes the following:

The purpose of art is to shed light on the human condition.

Lately I've been watching some great movies that seem to do just that. This is all part of my indie/foreign cinema-of-substance kick of the past year: I've been passing up all those movies that, at the end of the day, add nothing to my appreciation of life and beauty, in favor of those that do. (In other words, I didn't see a single movie this summer.) And so for this post, I'm going to recommend two great movies.

On Monday I saw this beauty:

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a doozy of a film. I saw it with a mixed group of men and women, and it was amazingly polarizing in the way that the events of the film were viewed by different sexes. The characters were very well-written; complex and multi-faceted--and the performances behind them reminded me that outside of American mainstream cinema, filmmakers actually give their audiences credit for being able to appreciate subtext. And there's something about 1986 Romania that's just *naturally* expressionistic....patches of snow on the ground, dogs roaming freely on the streets, the sharp contrast of a flock of birds against the sky....the camera did a great job of lingering over the coldness of their world, without resorting to deliberately staged Murnau-esque long shadows, or any other overly self-conscious scenery.

And tonight, I saw The Savages:

Aside from the obnoxious score, it was a great blend of the comic and the tragic (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a spin on Salinger's uber-siblings, Franny and Zooey). On the comic side, it was great seeing these two self-involved intellectuals/artists cope with basic human issues of mortality, without being able to hide behind the walls of their own art (because all artists have an innate ability to use their art as a defense mechanism). (And it was also funny watching Philip Seymour Hoffman play tennis.)

The tragic side hit close to home, though, as I've had elderly family members suffer through dementia and ultimately death. The world of nursing homes and assisted living facilities troubles me on a very visceral level...the sights, sounds and smells of slow death...


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Professor Tin!

Hah. Not really.

But these days I'm getting plenty of opportunities to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes: teaching.

Tonight I spent an hour at the UCLA Extension Program chatting with students about scoring commercials (and also throwing in various tidbits about films, games, and my album as well).

Next week I return to UCLA to speak at Dr. Ali Jihad Racy's graduate seminar on ethnomusicology. I'll be talking about Calling All Dawns and discussing different philosophies and approaches to using ethnic instrumentation in commercial music. I definitely have my own opinions on this matter.

And finally, next Friday my director friend Jon Goldman is hosting a private 'lecture series' for all of his friends. It's a pretty fun idea, actually; we're all taking turns spending an hour talking about a subject we know well. Since we're a pretty diverse group, the topics covered range from emotion-coding to Fashion Week to an exposé on Scientology. My lecture is entitled 'How To Conduct An Orchestra,' and I'll be making everyone air-conduct an excerpt from Prokofiev's 'Romeo and Juliet' ('The Dance Of The Knights,' if anyone is interested.)

And speaking of Romeo And Juliet, it's pretty much my favorite ballet, and it's coming to LA on February 13th at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills. The St. Petersburg Ballet is performing it....I can't vouch for their quality, but it's never a bad thing to let Russian dancers do a Russian composer's work. (I've seen the ballet three times, and the one that blew me away was the Kirov Ballet performing at the Royal Opera House in London. I'm madly in love with the principal who danced Juliet.)