New Opportunities in a New Year

Spring 2009


At this writing, I watched as we all did the history defining Inauguration of our new president, Barack Obama. The fresh start his presidency has given our country is mirrored in new opportunities that I am optimistic it will afford all of us as we move into 2009. Among the many attributes that I know that he will bring to his administration is a worldview that will elevate the impression of our country around the globe. On the heels of the election, I was already the beneficiary of that enhanced perception.

In mid-November, I had the great pleasure of representing the Society of Composers and Lyricists at a conference celebrating one hundred years of film music. Designated as the First European Film Music Days, the event was sponsored by the Federation of Film and Audiovisual Composers of Europe or FFACE as they are known, and ably stewarded by its president, Bernard Grimaldi and Delegate to the Committee for the Centenaire de la Musique de Film, Gilles Tinayre. I had met many of the participants when I attended Cannes in 2007. The SCL is seen as a world leader in the art of film music and that was one of the primary reasons that I was asked to participate.

Held at the prestigious Cite de Musique in Paris, the event was attended by composers, journalists, managers, publishers and other professionals involved in the music and film industries. Attendees from France, Spain, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the UK joined for two days of dialogue germane to our craft. Also in attendance from the US was Dennis Dreith, Fund Administrator for Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund.

Among the speakers and panelist was Bernard Miyet, who serves as President of GESAC, which represents thirty-four of the most important collection societies throughout Europe, as well as serving as president of the French performing rights organization, SACEM. Bernard echoed a consistent theme, which was not to underestimate the importance of enhancing the perception of film music and its value as we move ahead into the future. Both Ruth Hieronymi, a member of the European Parliament and Mercedes Echerer, a former Parliamentary member spoke of the challenges composers and artists are faced with and how critical it is to put a value on our talent. They pointed out, that as rulings critical to the composer’s best interest are being made, more awareness is essential in enhancing our position. The rights of the creator, which have traditionally been significantly broader in their scope than privileges we know in the US, are being eroded, and part of the mandate of this conference was to exchange ideas that could aid in countering these trends.

I had the opportunity to serve on two panels. The first one dealt with new practices regarding music for pictures, where I joined agent Maggie Rodford, who spoke eloquently about the changes that she has seen for her clients over the past several years. The second panel, which was moderated by Jean-Francoise Michel, Secretary General of the European Music Office in Belgium concerned education, and the role it is playing in the perception of film music as an art form. I was able to speak of the fine programs that have been put into place around the United States, such as Ron Sadoff’s program at NYU, Andy Hill’s program at Columbia in Chicago and the exceptional work being done at Berklee as well as local universities such as USC and UCLA. Not only was it apparent that the education of the young composer was important to our European colleagues, but the education of young directors in the discipline of film music seemed of equal concern. I pointed out that this has been the cornerstone of an ASCAP sponsored program put in place at Columbia in New York.

The first evening festivities included a live performance to picture of the 1908 film, The Assassination of the Duke of Guise performed by a superb local orchestra with music by Camille Saint-Saens. The same night, our Gold Member and composer extraordinaire, Patrick Doyle received their prestigious Film Music Trophy for his stellar body of work. Maggie Rodford, as well as the legendary Francis LaI, was there to celebrate both Patrick and John Powell, another of the evening’s award recipients.

On the last evening of the conference we traveled about two hours south of Paris to attend the final event of the Festival International Musique & Cinéma in Auxerre. It was a symphonic concert with 100-voice choir with Stephane Lerouge as head of programming and conducted by Laurent Petitgirard. Among the evening’s highlights was the performance of Non Nobis Domine from Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V by Patrick Doyle, with the composer featured as solo vocalist with orchestra and choir. There was also a rousing encore of SCL Ambassador Lalo Schifrin’s Mission Impossible theme. The most heartfelt number of the evening, I’m Dreaming of Home, was written for the French film Joyeux Noel by our own Senior Editor of the Score, Lori Barth and her collaborator Phillipe Rhombi.

Traveling back to the US, it reminded me of the similarity between the challenges we as composers and lyricists have with our European colleagues. More discourse and interaction with our friends around the world will undoubtedly lead, not only to respect, but will address mutual concerns and allow us to work together to ensure artists’ rights continue to be a top priority.

The issues we are faced with as a nation, particularly in financial terms, have been felt in our industry and in our careers over the past year as well. The strikes that have embroiled our profession have been precipitated by the uncertainties that plague our careers in the face of new technology. Ironically, the advent of the Internet has offered more opportunities for creators and our music will undoubtedly play a significant role as we move ahead.

The New Year gives us the opportunity to reassess our own goals and priorities, to nurture new working relationships and as always, to continue to perfect our craft. All of the turmoil not withstanding, I have never felt a more united front within our own numbers. This unity will allow us to work together, here and abroad, to find solutions for our particular challenges, as I am confident that the new administration will have success in achieving on a global basis.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXIV, Number One, Spring 2009]