Movie soundtracks get live treatment

By WilliamPrentiss

Fulcrum Point New Music Project mixes orchestral arrangements with pieces of pop culture. The project’s next performance, “Inner Demons,” continues their tradition of medium-mashing with films, taped audio and live music.

On Nov. 12, scenes from The Reader and Being John Malkovich will be shown while ensemble members play the corresponding soundtracks.  All audio will be stripped from the footage shown at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St., while the musicians are performing.

The combination of theatrics and arpeggios is part of Fulcrum Point New Music Project’s goal to combine classical music and pop culture.  Stephen Burns, composer, trumpeter and founder of Fulcrum Point New Music Project, said the ideas for concerts come partly from music he wants to play. The songs he likes are part of some movies that he loves, he said.

“This particular program came out of looking at various film pieces and movies that I’ve loved over the years,” Burns said. “Last year, The Reader was very touching and very powerful, so that was one of the anchors. Then, Being John Malcovich uses the 20th century work by Bela Bartok as part of its main focus of disillusionment and despair.”

A variety of movies, instruments and composers will all be part of the concert. Planned compositions include Jacob ter Veldhuis’ film score Grab It!, along with selections from both The Reader and Being John Malkovich.

The performance will also feature New Music Project’s resident composer Randall Woolf’s score of the documentary Holding Fast by Mary Harron and John C. Walsh. The documentary focuses on a Tibetan refugee and technology’s encroachment on his lifestyle.

Woolf said he would like people to walk away from the concert with a better understanding of the Himalayan people.

“They’re stuck in the middle of the Himalayan Mountains with no future for the young people, so I would love to take people from Chicago or the suburbs off to India in their minds and show them what these peoples’ lives are like,” Woolf said.

Fusing the film and soundtrack was an organic process.  Woolf said he, Harron and Walsh initially sat down and communicated the general idea of the film. The crew then went to India, shot footage and recorded sounds, such as chanting, to use in his composition. The crew edited the hours of footage down, showed it to Woolf and he made a composition for them to listen to. The filmmakers produced the final cut of the film to match his composition.

The performance will mix the taped audio with violinist Rika Seko’s solo performance. Seko said performing alone and to video is a very unique experience.

“We hardly had any rehearsal,” Seko said. “The composer provided the film and the practice CD with the click and tracks that go with the score. So I just learned the piece at home, and then all we had was the sound test.”

To keep her synced with the movie, Seko will have an earpiece during the performance playing a beat in her ear.  Woolf will be working in the background at the same time, adjusting the sound levels of the electronic component of the arrangement. Seko said there are still moments she’ll have freedom and be able to ignore the metronome in her ear.

“Information that I get visually from the film affects how I interpret the notes, but once I have that concrete idea of how I want this music to sound, it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s a movie or not,” Seko said.