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--- Jan 05 2013 Go to category
Subject: (con)fusing your meaning with a film's
Category: Film Work
From: Jim Otto (SLC, UT)

Pat, I should have written you years ago, having been weened on Pat Metheny Group and being your abosolute greatest admirer. I am a very well-trained jazz and classical musician, but my understanding of your music goes way beyond the theory. You recently came to SLC to a great hall (Kingsbury) for the first time since I believe 84. I was front/center absolutely fixated on every note that came out of you that night. Truly the most amazing thing I think I will ever see. (Not to get too Kathy Bates from Misery on you.)

I can't imagine that too many people understand your musical intentions better than I do. I love it all, but recently have been going through a real Pat's film scores phase. I finally got Passagio. It's those bring-it-all-home-to-Jesus moments like the end of track 12, all of Secret Story (I know not a film score, but a philharmonic masterpiece), all of Map,...can't say enough. Daulton Lee is possible the hippest thing I've ever heard. Having said that, and having heard all your soundtracks before seeing the movies, my question is this: Being a composer who, I'm assuming based on my listening alone, seems to have such exact purpose to his work, is it difficult or frustrating to write for films? I'm assuming the answer is mostly no, since if it were, it would come out in the recording/writing -- end result being something not so fluid. If it IS extra difficult for you, then I'd suggest that your scores are your most impressive work. They're so unbelievably flawless. I've heard a lot of scorers say that the film is always just plunked in front of you, and they say, "Give me 65 minutes of music." And it often sounds like that with other composers. Map sounds like you just wrote some staggering stuff, then they wrote a movie around your piece. I'd love to hear your comments on this.


Pat’s Answer:

hi jim,

well, thank you for all the compliments and thanks for listening the way you do.

writing for films is something unlike anything else. first of all, you have to do it really fast - in the case of "passagio", it was all written, recorded, mixed, everything in less than 2 weeks - and "map", only a bit more than that (but i did get to spend more time after the fact making the soundtrack album). the deadlines can be a great way to focus your intentions, and the film composers that i have known that do it all the time seem to have an internal confidence that they WILL get it all done and it WILL be fine that is actually quite exceptional. (i am specifically thinking of jerry goldsmith here).

the challenge is to come up with something that sounds inevitable, that sounds like it unmistakeably belongs to that moment in the film. of course, that "moment" is a concoction, literally - and part of the fun of the process is the one of constuction - there are major architectural decisions that need to be made quite early on that are as mathematical as they are musical - but this infrastucture must remain invisible. in fact, for a large part of the time, the music itself must remain somewhat invisible - or at least transparent.

all in all, i love films, and the opportunity to participate in the making of them from time to time is something i really enjoy.

i had kind of retired from doing them after having done 8 or 10 various scoring projects in the 80's, but i have to admit that i enjoyed both "map" and "passagio" a lot. i just hope the next one that comes along, i could get like....4 or 5 weeks to do it!!