- Scoring the Score: The Role of the Orchestrator in the Contemporary Film Industry by Ian Sapiro
Scoring the Score: The Role of the Orchestrator in the Contemporary Film Industry
New York and London: Routledge, 2017: 220pp.
Those of us with an acute interest in film music typically grew up listening to it. One of my earliest memories is listening to John Williams’s ‘Cantina Band’ music from Star Wars over and over and over. As I got older, I became familiar with names like Elmer Bernstein, Hans Zimmer, and Randy Newman, their names in large letters across the front cover of the CD sleeve. Buried in the middle of that sleeve, in tiny four-point font, were the names of the orchestrators of that music, almost too small to see. Composers get the glory and their names in the opening title sequence, while orchestrators are relegated to end titles, usually after the cinema is empty. Because film composers are so celebrated, many younger musicians want to pursue that specific profession, and interviews provide insight into educational training, musical influences, and breaking into the industry. Within the past twenty years, four separate collections of interviews have been published. These are Michael Schelle’s The Score: Interviews with Film Composers, David Morgan’s Knowing the Score: Film Composers Talk About the Art, Craft, Blood, Sweat and Tears of Writing for Cinema, Christian DesJardins’s Inside Film Music: Composers Speak, and Matt Schrader’s Score: A Film Music Documentary: The Interviews. All of these collections of interviews focus on the composer, his or her training, respective roles, working processes, and other issues. However, the composer is hardly the only person (or persons in the case of collaborations) involved in the musical process. Every composer uses orchestrators, and from the collected interviews, only DesJardins bothered to speak with orchestrators. Those three – Pete Anthony, Jeff Atmajian, and Brad Dechter – all regularly work with James Newton Howard; their work is not exclusive to Howard, but DesJardins’s selection of orchestrators is extremely limited. The lack of attention given to orchestrators raises the question about who they are and what they actually do. Ian Sapiro’s Scoring the Score: The Role of the Orchestrator in the [End Page 87] Contemporary Film Industry manages to investigate those questions at a deep level and provide answers to them through interviews with orchestrators, as well as a handful of composers. As the back cover of the book states, ‘Scoring the Score is the first scholarly examination of the orchestrator’s role in the contemporary film industry’, making it unique in its focus. Unlike other collections of interviews with film composers, Sapiro’s book is not written as an edited transcription of conversations. Instead, he weaves a narrative with each of the book’s eight chapters focusing on a specific aspect of the role of the orchestrator. His project started as a doctoral thesis and expanded in successive years. In total, Sapiro interviewed or received email responses from forty-four orchestrators and composers from both the United States and the United Kingdom, giving him a sizeable amount of data and information. These responses are then synthesised and enhanced with quotes from the interviewees supporting Sapiro’s statements and conclusions.
The book is logically ordered and Sapiro overtly guides the reader through the various aspects of the orchestrator’s craft. The book’s introduction clearly presents its purpose as well as its organisation, and explains the scope of the types of films and film music covered: mainstream cinema in the US and the UK. The opening chapter outlines the orchestrators and composers interviewed for the book, the types of questions asked, and their networks and working relationships to other composers and orchestrators. As it is a scholarly book, chapters follow the typical format of outlining the main question, as well as several sub-questions, then presenting the process of gathering data, followed by the collected evidence. This evidence is presented in Chapters 2 through 7, with Chapter 8 serving as a summary and conclusion. The chapters are precisely ordered, with Sapiro leading the reader through the chronological process, more or less, of the...