Scoring Essington: composition, comprovisation, collaboration

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Hannan, M 2011, 'Scoring Essington: composition, comprovisation, collaboration', Screen Sound, vol. 2, pp. 48-63.

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New music technologies have increasingly enabled elements of improvised score to be incorporated into screen music tracks, even where a score is devised for performance by orchestral ensembles. This article focuses on the music construction for a film produced for (colour) television in the first decade of the Australian cinema revival period. In 1974 the author collaborated with composers Peter Sculthorpe and David Matthews on the production of the music score for the Australian feature-length drama, Essington (Julian Pringle, 1974). This reflective practice article outlines the creative ideas behind the composition of the Essington score and focuses on comprovisation (composition involving improvisation) as distinct from then-common practice in film scoring of fully notating the underscore. In scoring Essington’s music, comprovised cues, produced mostly using unconventional piano ‘interior’ sounds (where the sounds are produced by direct contact with the strings rather than using the keyboard), were used to sonically contrast with fully notated cues written in a conventional way for the piano. This study analyses a collaborative approach that offers a useful model for contemporary (Australian) film composition practices.

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