Swinging For The Fences


For the next few years, I emailed Tom every six or eight months, just checking in. A couple of times, I told him I was coming to Los Angeles and offered to take him to lunch, but he graciously declined. Somewhere along the line, he was promoted to VP of Music over Pixar and Disney Animation.    

Tom was still responding to my occasional emails, and in one response, invited me to send a few examples of my music. He promised to cycle my tracks into an iPod he kept around for listening to new tunes. This was an incredible stroke of good fortune! 

What do you send to one of the most powerful film music executives on the planet, when given the opportunity? Oh, how I agonized over that decision!  

At length, I decided to send three strong thematic pieces and an action track. I sent him Theme for Rohan from The Lord of the Rings Online, an evocative track with an historic flair. I included Ann’s Theme from King Kong, a tender and emotional piece. Going outside the box a little, I sent the Main Theme from Faeria. Finally, I included an action track, Aerial Combat Acrobatics from Avatar: The Game. I crossed my fingers and hoped something would resonate. 

Weeks passed, and one day I opened Outlook to discover an email from Tom. He thanked me for sending the music over, and mentioned how much he had enjoyed listening to one song in particular...

- - - - -



Sheena had temp-scored the film with Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto #2, and initially asked me to adapt that classic with a new orchestration and recording. But as I sat with the footage, allowing my imagination to embrace the images, a subtle melody began to float across my mind. It was a pure and simple piano motif, expansive and inviting, far more open and airy than the harmonically dense Rachmaninov piece. To my sensibilities, this was a better fit for the “floating-in-the-clouds” vibe I was getting from the visuals. 

But it is risky to recommend a wholesale change to any director. I needed to approach her with wisdom. Sheena was anxious to get my reaction, but I asked her for a few days to marinate on it. That allowed time to flesh out the original piece I had imagined, and lay it back against the picture. Only after uploading this rescored version of the animation did I respond to Sheena with my thoughts.

“As I’ve been absorbing the footage, a couple of things keep coming to mind. One is the city-in-the-clouds vibe I get from the visuals. The other is the deeply personal experience it will be for individuals and families living in this space.” She was listening intently, and I continued. “I’ve had a new, original music idea come to me that highlights these two aspects of the film. I’ve uploaded a copy of the current previz with this new musical idea synched up.”

I paused, in case she wanted to voice an objection. Instead, she asked me to continue, “If you get a chance to download the new version and compare the two, consider which music best supports your vision. I’m offline this weekend, but let’s circle back on Monday and let me know what you think.” 

It was important to give Sheena an enforced buffer of time before responding to me. Temp love is pervasive across all creative media, and I did not want to be the victim of a knee-jerk rejection. Giving her the weekend, and inviting her to compare the two options, provided space for her to potentially disengage from temp love and give the comparison a fair chance...

- - - - -


"An empowering career guidebook wrapped around a personal retrospective. A professional how-to manual woven into a memoir."