1987_1204 : Music From The Courtyard

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This film was a special experience for everyone involved ended up feeling somewhat worn out and disillusioned. I remember getting a call from Matt, who was director of photography, and who told me that I would be receiving a call from Cynthia, the director, whose composer had backed out on her and was in a bit of a desperate situation. Prepared, I decided it was worth speaking to her.

When she called, I felt like it might be something to look into, as it was a graduate level film and I needed the exposure. I explained that my fee would be two hundred dollars, and she mumbled some explanation about a slush fund that the crew had pooled together. After our conversation, I agreed to come down to USC and preview the rough cut of the film.

Upon seeing what was on film, I was a little disappointed. The characters were not very likable, and the story was not particularly interesting to me. I only liked the idea of continuing to work with Matt. It seemed like a good idea if we were perceived as some kind of team, that perhaps the association of seeing our names together might help us out later on. When Cynthia asked me what I had to show for myself, I pulled out Matt’s 310, Break-In, and went into a video suite to play it for her. She barely cracked a smile.

As I worked on a theme, my interest in doing a Stewart Copeland type of soundtrack appealed to me more and more. Finally, one evening that week, I brought a cassette down to the foley stage at USC to play Cynthia what I was hearing as a theme. It was a piece called Snooping, or Belgian Snoop Theme, as I later wrote in my notes. She said she liked it, except for some of the repetition, but started to tell me about some Bolivian instrument called a quena, and someone she knew of who could play it; in brief, she wanted it to be part of my arrangement. I obliged to do my best, and took a tape of the film with me to start the cues. My feeling had been, until that time, that we weren’t exactly on the same side yet, and that everything she wanted me to do was against the principles I was trying to uphold. All of a sudden, during our next phone conversation, the subject of money took a new light. She seemed amazed when I reminded her of my fee, and said that it would be charged to the school account. I asked how I would get paid, and she told me that all monetary transactions at USC were done on paper, really, that it was not real money that they used. I was incredulous when I realized that she hadn’t considered the fact that I was for real. There was a moment of confusion while I cleared up the question of my fee also being both a very real fee, as well as an extremely modest one. She resolved that it would be paid for (somehow) out of this slush fund that the crew had raised.

An unbelievable period of rain followed. I remember going to work at the Beverly Center late one day because I couldn’t pull myself away from my studio, and having someone drive me there so that I wouldn’t have to waste time with parking. That night I only thought about the score, which I would have to have developed enough in order to play for Cynthia that night.

I got off work at 9:00 and raced home, and somewhere around 11:15 my phone rang, and it was Cynthia saying she wasn’t too sleepy, and would I mind playing it for her. I remember the sound of the rain outside was almost deafening, and around midnight, when she showed up, she was completely drenched. She came in and we sat on the floor and I cued up the spots and played them to her against picture one at a time. That evening brought us together as friends, and made the rest of the process much warmer. The day of the session I called in a classical guitarist named Aron Judkiewicz, a friend of Anne Wheelock’s, whom I knew would be able to play the parts I had written for him. I also had John Matthew in to do hihats. All my keyboards were brought into the control room at the Steven Spielberg Scoring Stage at USC; we had the studio for 8 hours only, and that included mixing time.

Dumping tracks was a process delayed by the sheer ineptitude of my engineers. It was a painful day for technological problems. The worst part was getting my rig to sync up to the 24 track. After that problem was resolved, I began to put the live tracks down. I had not anticipated that Aron would have any problem playing to a metronome click. It was a brand new experience for him, and I began to get a little nervous, as each time we rolled tape he made new mistakes. I finally told the engineers to record every pass, and told Aron that we were not recording, merely warming up. The next pass, he got it. I really surprised him when I told him that was the one; that he could go home for the day now, because he hadn’t been made aware that we were taping him.

John’s overdubs went perfectly smooth; I had him roll some cymbal swells, and then we were back to keyboards for the rest of the day. Matt showed up, which was a relief, as I had asked him to pop by and bring some lightness to the day. My favorite moment was when the engineer Beth M’s back was turned and I made a pair of horns on my head with my fingers for “She’s the Devil,” for Matt’s benefit. Gags like that began to flow for the rest of the afternoon, until mix time. When the engineers suddenly realized there was only an hour to mix, things began to fall apart. A few pieces had not been fully tracked; we ended up mixing my 4-track demos through the console (I had brought both my player and the demos with me, luckily). Aron’s guitar never made it into the film due to the missing keyboard parts. Due to the nature of the haste involved, I never got a copy of the 2 track masters, and had to remix my demos for my reel later on.

I felt wiped out after that; ultimately, it was an exhausting experience. My consolation prize to myself was the CD player I bought the next day. My first four CD’s were Colin Newman’s Commercial Suicide, Durutti Column’s Domo Arigato, New Order’s Power Corruption and Lies, and Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon.