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Composer speculation

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Postby miafka » Tue Sep 11, 2007 7:42 am

Thanks.
Ratatouille 24 times? Wow. Though I can certainly understand why. 8)
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Postby Mitch » Tue Sep 11, 2007 3:16 pm

miafka - You're welcome.

Heheh. Yep. Twenty-four times. Not to get off-topic or anything, but feel free to read this if you want:

viewtopic.php?t=1826

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To get back on-topic, I would absolutely love it if John Williams had been chosen to compose the score for WALL-E. Don't get me wrong; I think that Thomas Newman is an excellent choice, as I loved his work on Finding Nemo, but I would like to see a change....

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Postby miafka » Tue Sep 11, 2007 5:39 pm

Just me personally, but while I like John Williams, and he's adept at composing in just about any style, I can recognize a Williams score as a Williams score. Thomas Newman hasn't traditionally been known for "cartoon music" yet he did a great job on Nemo. I'm glad he's doing it.

(Another space movie with a Willaims score? Hey, that wouldn't be a change! :roll: )
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Postby Mitch » Tue Sep 11, 2007 9:02 pm

miafka - Alright, so I'll admit that I'm a little biased when it comes to John Williams. I love his stuff and, well, he's one of the first persons I think of when I hear the word "composer". Ya' can't blame me, but I do get your point. Eheh.

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Postby Sky » Tue Sep 25, 2007 10:01 am

John Williams in da man. I love his scores for ET, Star Wars, and the Land Before Time. But I'm glad that Thomas Newman did the Wall.E music. He seems like the perfect fit - Finding Nemo with its vast ocean and Wall.E with its vast realms of space, seem very similar in that way at least. I hope Thomas Newman can inject humour into the Wall.E story, though with his music.
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Postby Mitch » Tue Sep 25, 2007 2:43 pm

rachel - Exactly. Mr. Newman's musical style is a perfect counterpart for WALL-E; it all fits together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

I still wouldn't mind seeing Mr. Williams do something for just one Pixar film, though, no matter how redundant it may seem. (snigger)

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Wall-E Scoring

Postby miafka » Wed Oct 17, 2007 5:05 am

Hi everyone. Not too much to post about really, but wanted to let you know that the scoring process for Wall-E is continuing, and seems to be going nicely. I've written a few posts here before, but haven't really said what I do. I'm a studio musician in Los Angeles that has played on a number of Pixar films, including Wall-E. I also happen to personally like the Pixar films myself as much as my kids, so I enjoy reading the posts here. To be clear, I am NOT an employee of Pixar, just a musician who has played in the orchestra for many of their films. I hope nobody minds me posting this (if so, please let me know). I'm not going to post things such as spoilers (it's not my place, and is bad form), but will answer generic questions on scoring if I can. I don't think it'd be out of bounds however, to say that the scoring for Wall-E has begun. There was one day in July, and two days this week (yesterday and today), with more days in the coming months. Pixar likes to score at Sony (the old MGM lot) in Culver City -- which is a historic scoring stage, and the stage that Williams uses. Sadly, two of the five large scoring stages in LA are closing down: Paramount closed their stage earlier this year, and Todd-AO (where James Horner scores) is slated to close in the coming months. This leaves only Fox, Warner Bros, and Sony for large stages. The Sony stage looks something akin to the inside of a meat locker (old wooden walls, ancient music stands with cigarette burns on the wood from the days musicians smoked in the room)... but has pretty much been left as is because the sound is so good. As a joke, a few things hang from the rafters, including a bunch of Hawaiian shirts leftover from previous Pixar productions. When recording, the movie is projected on a screen as we record the music (as well as during playbacks), and it's interesting to see scenes in their various states of completion (for Ratatouille, many of the unfinished scenes had the characters only in their underwear -- a stage before the clothes were added). What I've seen so far for Wall-E looks really good, and I was surprised at how many of the scenes (maybe about half?) were already close to fully rendered this early. We did a lot of random scenes, ranging from the opening to scenes near the end of the movie, and it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun (I hope Pixar will release a better trailer soon, to let people see more of what's coming up). Sorry, I'm not going to post spoilers. You'll have to wait until Summer 2008. :()

Animated films will often start their scoring process earlier than live-action films (where scoring is one of the last things done). Normally in a live-action film, each music cue is given a "number" (such as "2M3" or "4M6") instead of a title ("4M6" would mean the cue is the 6th piece of music in reel 4, "2M3" would mean the 3rd piece of music in reel 2, etc). However because Wall-E's scoring is being started so early before any kind of final edit is done (as Tommy said, "before we know what goes where"), there really can't be any numbers assigned yet -- so instead, titles (such as "Going to work") were given to the cues. Music sounds great so far, and Tommy's a blast to play for. Hmm.. as I said, there's not really much to report, except to say Wall-E's production seems to be coming along nicely.
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Postby Gasduude » Wed Oct 17, 2007 5:18 am

Welcome, miafka! You are indeed truly welcome here. :D

I enjoyed your wright-up - music composition of a film sounds really neat.

Again, thanks for joining and welcome! 8)
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Postby Sky » Wed Oct 17, 2007 6:17 am

Hi, miafka! I don't think I have welcomed you here yet, so "welcome to Pixar Planet!". :D

Thanks so much for letting us know how the orchestration for Wall.E is progressing. As someone who loves Pixar's soundtracks/scores, it's a real treat to actually correspond with someone who is playing in the orchestra. I hope you don't mind me asking you a few questions...

1. How would you describe Wall.E's music?

2. If you could compare Wall.E's music to any other Pixar film, which film would that be and why?

3. It's interesting that there is a title called "Going to Work". Have you noticed any recurring main themes played throughout the score? (As with The Incredibles and Ratatouille).

3. What other Pixar films have you worked on and, what instrument to you play?
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Postby Aggie » Wed Oct 17, 2007 6:23 am

miafka - Thank you thank you THAAANK YOU for discussing your position in all of this. I'm working to become a film composer, and I found your information to be very insightful. It's late in the night, so I'll have to think up questions tomorrow, heheheee..
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Postby miafka » Fri Oct 19, 2007 1:00 am

Thanks for the welcomes everyone. I'm probably the worst person to ask to describe the music, since it's my job and I tend to hear it differently than someone who is just listening to it. It's also hard because so far, I didn't hear any real recurring themes (we did a lot of random cues), so that would also make it difficult for me to compare it to other films. Remember also, that the music in a film changes quite a bit during the scoring process -- especially on films when the scoring starts early. Changes and adjustments are made, and this is still early on in the process. Also, I think it's a bad idea to try to compare one score to another score since they're for different movies (it's interesting when you get to hear different composers' ideas for the same movie... occasionally you get this when one composer replaces another on a project, or in film composition school, when all the students have to write a score to the same set of scenes). In the end, a score works when it matches and helps move along the actions on the screen -- and the cues I've heard so far do a very good job at that. As far as the titles of the cues go, I remember one cue with a title of what would be the PERFECT name for a Disneyland ride -- but sorry, I'm not going to post it, because it'd be a spoiler. As I said before, there's not really a lot I can post on at this point because I won't post anything that will even hint at giving story details away. But just wanted to let you all know that the production and scoring seems to be going nicely. By the way, Tommy Newman conducts the orchestra himself (a lot of times composers will have an orchestrator conduct, while they stay in the booth with the director). But Tommy's out there in the room conducting us. The next sessions aren't until the first part of 2008, so now he has time to do some more writing.

One thing I was wondering is if anyone knows if there is much dialogue in the film, or if it's mostly just robot sound effects (since we only see picture when recording and don't hear dialogue, I'm as much in the dark about this as any of you). I only ask because if there's not much dialogue, that will usually mean a lot more minutes of music in a movie (otherwise you'd just have a lot of dead air).
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Postby Sky » Fri Oct 19, 2007 1:45 am

Well, thanks for getting back to us, miafka. :D

And thanks for trying your best to answer our questions. I totally understand that it would be hard for you to describe the music, and you have probably gotten used to hearing it after playing it pretty often. Would you desribe the music as spacey? Robotic? Cute (because Wall.E is cute)?

I can't believe that the music is still recording, and it will still be recording during 2008! That's pretty late, at least I think, but it must be standard procedure for Pixar and I'm sure they will finish it in time.

In answer to your question: [spoil]I heard that the first 1/3 of the film will be dialogue-free (I'm guessing this is when Wall.E is by himself and has no-one to talk to), so yeah, as a lot of people have said, music will play a big part in this film to tell the story because there is no dialogue to spell it out for the audience.[/spoil]

BTW, what instrument are you playing? What other Pixar films have you worked on? (Sorry if I'm bugging you).
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Postby Aggie » Fri Oct 19, 2007 1:58 am

Okay, I have a question! If you feel you shouldn't answer, that's alright.

What is the orchestration set-up? Are there any 'unusual' instruments being used, or ones that are not often heard in an orchestra score? The theramin comes to mind... hehe. I ask because this film certainly looks and feels different from other films... perhaps a different approach in instrumentation is being done.

Oooh, I love it when composers conduct the cues themselves! It gives a chance for the composer to see how much work the performers put into their composition. It shows that he/she wants to connect. So sweet. :)

You're very kind to be telling us all this, miafka. And I ESPECIALLY appreciate it!
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Postby miafka » Fri Oct 19, 2007 4:03 am

Let's see...
>> and you have probably gotten used to hearing it after playing it pretty often.

Actually it's not as if we play the music a lot. For those who don't know, we don't get sent the music beforehand or anything.. we see it for the first time when we arrive at the job. That's why one of the most important skills for a studio musician is to be a good sightreader. Most of the time what happens is, we'll take out a cue, play it through so the composer and director can hear how it sounds with a "live orchestra" (often the composer will make a temporary synth version before the orchestra comes so the director can have an early idea of what it will eventually sound like with a real orchestra), then some small changes might be made, maybe it's played through one or two more times, and then recording of it starts. Some cues can take a while to record if a lot of changes need to be made or there are discussions in the booth about how to tweak it... but once changes have been decided, it's usually only recorded once or twice (unless mistakes are made or more changes are needed) before going on to the next one. Every once in a while they'll turn on the red light and record the very first time reading it through (though it's rare, and usually just on very simple cues, or cues that are very similar to others we've just played).

>> Would you desribe the music as spacey? Robotic? Cute (because Wall.E is cute)?

Yes. In that, depending on the scene, it fits. We did some action/peril cues and they sounded just like they should (loud brass, fast string parts), yet other cues where the scenes were gentle or cute sounded as they should.

>> I can't believe that the music is still recording, and it will still be recording during 2008! That's
pretty late, at least I think, but it must be standard procedure for Pixar and I'm sure they will finish it in time.

Actually it's quite early. I wrote a post on this topic elsewhere here on Pixar Planet (do a search of my other posts to find it), but music is one of the last things recorded on a normal (non-animation) movie. Often it will be within a month of the movie's release date -- and sometimes it will be VERY last minute (there was still scoring going on for the original "Pirates" movie the weekend before the premiere!) Animation (whether it be Pixar or Disney) tends to score early for a couple of reasons (music being more important in story, harder to justify the cost of doing last-second changes in animation vs live-action, etc) so compared to a normal live-action movie, this is early. Trust me, it'll not only get finished in time, it'll be in the can a lot sooner than if it was a live-action picture.

My instrument? Well, I guess you could say I play one o' them musical-thingies. :) Sorry, I'll keep that anonymous for now. By the way, you've probably noticed that musicians almost never get their names up on a film. The reason is a long boring one (basically producers said "oh, X number of musicians means Y more feet of film on each print for their names to be on the credits, times Z prints that have to be made.. that's too expensive... do you want a raise, or your names on the film?) -- which is ridiculous nowdays when you see credits for van driver, caterer (my favorite... as if the guy who made the pasta for the crew contributed to the film more than the people whose music you hear on it), babies born during production -- and even sometimes the name of the clickmeister (the guy who runs the click track for the musicians) -- but not the musicians themselves. But we always hope. "Cars" had the orchestra listed, but "Ratatouille" didn't, and it's a rare film that lists musicians names on the actual film. However more common now is to list the orchestra on the CD soundtrack pamphlets, so for all you upstanding people out there that buy the CD soundtracks properly, you'll see our names in tiny, tiny sized fonts.

Regarding the "click track" mentioned above... for those who don't know what a click-track is, maybe I should explain. When recording a movie score, every musician puts on headsets and hears a "click-track" -- clicks (like the sound of a metronome) through the headset. Unlike in a symphony orchestra (where the musicians are supposed to follow the conductor on the podium), in a studio setting, you follow the click, NOT the conductor. In a studio session, the conductor is there mostly to pass along directions, changes, give warnings about tempi changes, etc -- but if the conductor is not conducting in time with the click, you ignore the conductor and listen to the click. Before the musicians arrive for the session, everything has been worked out on a computer, so even in cues that change tempi (speed) often, it's all programmed in, and we follow the clicks we hear through our headphones. Occasionally (very rare) certain cues will be done "wild" (no click), mostly for expressive reasons (a really emotional cue). There was one cue in Ratatouille where the conductor really wanted to conduct it wild (he heard the clicks as a guide, but they turned off the clicks for us, and we followed the conductor).. but it's only the rare cue that won't have a click track to it. And yes, they had click-tracks even in the old days, way before computers. Don't know how they rigged it up, but even in the 40s and such, click track was used. It's very important that the music match the picture right where it should be, so it's all worked out before the musicians arrive.

>>What is the orchestration set-up?
Pretty standard, though a little on the large size. There were two harps instead of one... some large string sections.. no "unusual" instruments so far, though note that Tommy likes to use a lot of pre-records on his scores (various sounds and stuff he does himself) to mix with the orchestra, so any "strange" sounds would probably be done as a pre-record. Generally they turn off any prerecords in the headsets when we play (as it can sometimes get too confusing to hear too much stuff) and usually just give us click only, unless we need to hear the pre-records to match rhythm or intonation, or for some other special reason.
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Postby Sky » Fri Oct 19, 2007 7:37 am

Wow. Thanks so much for answering our questions. I like learning about the orchestration of music. Your answers have been very interesting to read, and they are making me very excited to see/hear Wall.E. :D

I am sort of hoping that Wall.E will be a bit robotic sounding, but I don't want it to sound too... what's the word? Impersonal. But I'm sure whatever they came up with, it will suit the film to a T.

I didn't know what a click track was before, and I didn't know that you take your cues from it, and not the conductor... What cue on Ratatouille did you not use the click track for? I'm going to guess it was for "Heist to See You" (one of my favs) because that is an intense track, but that's just a wild guess on my part.

I just adore the Ratatouille soundtrack. I haven't listened to it on CD yet, (because once I start, I won't stop and it's better to listen to the music within the context of the film, the first few times I've found). So you've done a splendid job with it (whatever you did ;)), so you should be very proud of your contribution. I'm sure it was a treat to play Michael Giacchino's score.

What other Pixar productions have you had the pleasure of working on?


miafka wrote:My instrument? Well, I guess you could say I play one o' them musical-thingies. Smile Sorry, I'll keep that anonymous for now.


That's ok. I understand. ;) I just wanted to know if I would be able to spot you during the making-of, or listen out for your contribution when I listen to the soundtrack.


miafka wrote:Actually it's quite early. I wrote a post on this topic elsewhere here on Pixar Planet (do a search of my other posts to find it), but music is one of the last things recorded on a normal (non-animation) movie. Often it will be within a month of the movie's release date -- and sometimes it will be VERY last minute (there was still scoring going on for the original "Pirates" movie the weekend before the premiere!)


Well, for a last minute process, you guys and Pixar sure do kick out some great scores. 8)

miafka wrote:By the way, you've probably noticed that musicians almost never get their names up on a film.


That really stinks. Especially as it is Pixar - I would expect them to credit everyone who contributed to their productions... And especially as they have room for production babies. But I actually read the orchestra list on the CD to see who plays what, and I watch the making ofs for the music on their DVDs, so your contribution doesn't go unnoticed by me, anyway. :D
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