Session break, Hoddinot Hall, Cardiff, Wales, Oct '11

Session break, Hoddinot Hall, Cardiff, Wales, Oct '11

Welcome. So glad you're here. Here's some context…

Much of this site speaks to producers, directors and post-supervisors but that is simply because in reality they are the people that most often employ me.

But my role – and heart – is equally with composers. I've had the great good fortune to work with a number of very talented ones over more than a decade and believe that those who write music for the moving image have one of the hardest and most undervalued jobs in the media industry.
I see my role as a score supervisor as being, on the broadest level, to give the composer as much space as possible to concentrate on the principal job in hand; namely writing music. This involves:
 • facilitating communication with the picture cutting room, so you're receiving clear creative direction for each and every cue.
 • ensuring that you're not disturbed when writing, to the inevitably tight deadline, by ensuring non-urgent communication is re-directed through me.
 • organising the transfer of demo cues to the cutting room, to ensure they are used correctly
 • staying across the how picture changes are affecting cues to be written, across the whole score.

… these and many other things which are critical, yet always a distraction from compositional process.
In case you've concerns about my musical qualifications for the job, I'm a classically-trained pianist and clarinetist, with a BA (Hons) degree in music (1st class) from Kingston University, a 20-year love for music and the moving image, and a 30-year, hands-on love affair with everything music tech and recording studio. As well as two Emmy nominations as a score supervisor.

I regard it at both unfortunate and creatively misguided that life for composers continues to get harder: Music is clearly becoming increasingly 'commoditised', with the craft and skill of reading a scene and underscoring it musically now too often reduced to purchasing a number of generic cues, bought by the 30 second, from the new, hybrid production music houses and without a named, credited composer*.

This then reduces the opportunities for credited work which itself then contributes to the de-valuing of the very idea of composed music, by a named professional. I believe that's as creatively unwise for productions as it is professionally insulting to composers and the power of music in general.

… And finally, on top of that, composers' contracts have ever smaller up-front fees, yet demand ever-increasing shares of your publishing. Unfair doesn't even begin to go there.

* Let me just say that I completely understand why composers–even established, successful ones–are increasingly involving themselves with the new production music houses. I am in no way denigrating that and completely acknowledge the harsh realities under which composers are working today: They clearly offer the possibility of extra financial compensation, which may prove vital for a composer's financial survival, operating in a highly competitive and fickle market place.
Productions have of course reaped the benefits of the vast improvement in quality of production/library music, which has been the unsurprising result of the involvement of skill-pros… though all too often its placement and precise editing to picture is left to a picture editor or a harassed sound mixer with a 100 other things to think about. 
My basic point is that it's sad that, for all those hugely talented composers, who would love to be recognised under their own name and receive fair, financial reward proportionate to the great skill involved in composing music for picture, the move towards library music is such a double-edged sword.