The Music of Manchester by the Sea (2016): Amazon & the Prime Age of Indie Film Scoring
(James Peter Moffatt, University of Liverpool)
Abstract: This paper analyses the compositional strategies and commercial contexts of scoring the critically acclaimed ‘Amazon Original’ feature film Manchester by the Sea (2016).
Scored predominantly using multi-tracked solo vocals, performed and recorded by the composer’s daughter in her college dorm, the film earned an ASCAP Composers' Choice Award nomination for ‘Film Score of the Year’. The film was also nominated for six Academy Awards, winning two. However, composer Lesley Barber was disqualified from Oscar consideration due to existing classical repertoire featuring heavily in the film’s soundtrack, exposing tensions between ‘temp’ music, licensing and original score within film.
Produced independently of major studio support, within a limited budget, the film secured a subsequent distribution deal through newly founded Amazon Studios at Sundance Film Festival. This paper explores the challenges composers face when tasked to score ‘indie’ films with budgetary restrictions and a lack of supporting infrastructure, such as the scoring stages at major film production studios, as well as revealing the creative solutions to music making composers employ under these conditions.
While independent filmmaking, and scoring, is no new phenomenon, developments in digital technology and the emergence of online streaming services, such as Amazon Prime, provide new platforms and opportunities for filmmakers, composers and audiences alike.
Differing facets of digitisation are interlocking in the changing status of the composer, from the tools they use to the way their work, film music, is consumed. These changes are having material effects on music for new media and are explored through this case study.
Biography: James Peter Moffatt is an Award Winning Composer, Musician, Record Producer & Academic who has scored numerous international films including BAFTA shortlisted ‘We Are Dancers’ and the multi-award-winning ‘House of Cardin’. His work has been broadcast and recognised by the BBC, Venice Film Festival, Rolling Stone Magazine, Vice and The Hollywood Reporter, collaborating with Academy-Award and BAFTA winning personnel. James is also the recipient of AHRC funding, pursuing a PhD in Film Music and Video-On-Demand Streaming Platforms at the University of Liverpool, and is a Senior Lecturer in Film Music at Leeds Conservatoire.
Easy Listening and Film Scoring 1948-78 [Book talk]
(Jack Curtis Dubowsky, De Stijl Music)
Abstract: Composers, arrangers, conductors, session musicians, and executives worked in easy listening and film scoring, complicating an academic focus that lionizes film music while ignoring or deriding easy listening. This book documents easy listening’s connections with film music, an aspect overlooked in academic and popular literature.
Fueled by the rise of the LP and home entertainment, easy listening became the largest midcentury commercial music market, generating more actual income for the record business than 7” singles. Easy listening roped in subgenres including classical, baroque, jazz, Latin, Polynesian, “exotica,” rock, Broadway, and R&B, appropriated and reinterpreted just as they were for cinema. Easy listening provided opportunities in orchestral music for conservatory-trained composers. Major film composers such as Henry Mancini and Michel Legrand had a prodigious output of easy listening albums.
Critics fault easy listening for structural racisms, overlooking its evolution and practitioners. Easy listening helped destabilize a tripartite record business that categorized product as race records, old time records, or general popular music. Charlie Parker’s with Strings records altered the direction of jazz, profoundly influencing other performers, encouraging bold crosspollinations, and making money.
The influence of technology and historical contexts of music for work and leisure are explored. Original interviews and primary sources will fascinate scholars, historians, and students of cinema, television, film scoring, and midcentury popular music.
Biography: Jack Curtis Dubowsky is a composer, author, music editor, educator, and filmmaker. Books include Intersecting Film, Music, and Queerness. Dubowsky is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Recording Academy, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, and a fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.