Flip Flops in the Windy City — Conducting to Picture

One of the most important parts of our Semester in Los Angeles is learning how to conduct in a studio environment, in particular conducting to synchronized video.  Luckily, we have Eimear Noone, beautiful Irish conductor extraordinaire.

Eimear Noone

It is vital we learn how to be effective and efficient studio conductors.  The recording session can be the most expensive part of the film scoring process; it is also where the rubber meets the road.  Music performed by live players is so much different (AND BETTER) than our mockups — a good conductor can make all the difference.

Eimear’s approach is very hands-on and no-nonsense.  In her words, “you’re here to learn, and I’m here to teach you”.  It is important to leave pride at the door when learning to conduct; we might as well be naked in front of each other.  Learning to physically control your body can be embarrassing… luckily, we all have a pretty good sense of humor.

I don’t have any problem getting up in front of 150 people and talking; I actually enjoy it.  I am looking to work on improving the technicality of my conducting, and Eimear has definitely helped.

Case in point, we walked into conducting this week and found three union musicians sitting in our class room:

Surprise trio!

Eimear threw us in the deep end, having us conduct music we had never seen before, with live players.  To add to the challenge, she had us conduct to punches and streamers. Punches and streamers were used before click tracks, and are now used to make recording sessions more musical.  If you don’t have to keep beating to a metronomic click, you have a little breathing room to make your take more musical.  The punches and streamers are layered on top of picture, allowing you to hit down beats, ritardandos, and other hit points in the film.  Going along with the throwing-in-the-deep-end theme, Eimear had me go first.  Here is the raw video of my whole session.

It was terrifying!  But only because it was my first time conducting without a click track, which is comparable to walking a tight rope for the first time without a safety net.  Eimear actually said that I was the first person to ever nail every hit point on the first try.  Huzzah.  I found it surprisingly satisfying on my 2nd and 3rd takes.  It is definitely more musical, but also puts a whole lot more pressure on the conductor to nail it every time.  There is a lot more room for error without a click track, and with so much money going into every minute of a recording session, that can make for a stressful situation.

Jose conducts

Note Eimear looking on…

Looking on...

Note our class looking on…

After a successful surprise class of conducting live players with streamers, Eimear invited each of us to her home in Malibu for private lessons.  After that, I felt like a reinvented conductor, armed with tricks meant to personally help my style.  Capitol Records session, bring it on.