What are the differences in playing for film music against other orchestral recordings and how does playing for film affect the way you play?
When we record film music, the first time we see the music is on our stands when we arrive at the studio, sometimes quite literally hot off the press! The recordings we do for the orchestra are usually part of our core repertoire. Therefore perhaps the way we approach playing film music involves more spontaneity and immediacy in musical decisions, and with orchestral recording, it is a more musically informed process of shaping artistic interpretation.
Did you know any of Nitin's music and have you performed any before? Does that influence your performance?
I am ashamed to admit, despite knowing of his fame and critical success, that this is my first experience of Nitin Sawhney's work full-stop, although Richard at our office kindly sent me bits of his 'Philtre' album beforehand to keep me 'informed' - very helpful. This brought me some insight to Nitin's musical aims for the film.
Do you find it hard to play to a click track - how do you allow phrases to flow?
OOOH, shudder shudder, click tracks are a controversial part of studio musicians' lives I'm afraid. Part of the problem is that the click is often a particularly piercing sound and also it's delivered through unflattering, unhygeinic headphones which ruin hairstyles by the roomful! Also, a huge part of our studio time is spent adjusting click track volume, speed, rhythms. etc. in order to make the thing useful at all for everyone concerned.... Ok, I'll jump off my pulpit momentarily to say that I realise that there is a place for click tracks with today's fast-moving, high-tech methods of film-making. It is definitely a challenge and a discipline in trying to create compelling music-making.
What do you think an orchestral soundtrack brings to a film?
With a good composer and orchestra, a soundtrack can actually 'make' a film.
Think Erich Korngold/Robin Hood, Max Steiner/Gone with the Wind, Bernard Herrmann/North by Northwest/Psycho/Vertigo, Franz Waxman/Sunset Blvd, Jerry Goldsmith/Chinatown, John Williams/Star Wars/Harry Potter. Great music which utilises all the different timbres and colours and sounds that each symphonic instrument can offer, which then highlights, supports, moulds, heightens characterisation and dramatic content in film. So exciting!!!
What other soundtracks have you played on?
Quite a few, but 'Chaplin', 'Red Violin', and Mira Nair's 'Vanity Fair' spring to mind.
What's your favourite film score and why?
There are so many brilliant scores. Those mentioned above are definite faves
- I can't single out any as THE ONE.
Your violin solo was very indian in flavour - is this a style that you're used to playing and how do you adapt your playing to fit?
No I am not exactly au fait with Indian music - there are so many different kinds as well! However being exposed to great sitar players such as the Shankars, and with the growing popularity of Indian music in the West, I've begun to pick up on a few stylistic things - of course without any real expertise! l felt very free playing Nitin's solo because it was so well-crafted that I could actually understand what was needed!
I am looking forward, in connection to what Nitin mentioned in his piece about symphony orchestras adapting in a changing world, to expanding my knowledge and usage of music-making beyond the endlessly rich and rewarding 'confines' of Western classical music from which I grew up and trained. It is always fun and stimulating to dip one's toes in elsewhere, and only enhances what I already 'know' about music in general.
Maya, thanks so much for speaking to us - it's been fascinating!