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Thread: Composers Who Don't Conduct

  1. #1
    Apprentice, Piano AeroScore's Avatar
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    Composers Who Don't Conduct

    I've noticed a trend over the last 20 years or so, and that is that a lot of film composers do not conduct their own work.

    As a composer myself, it would never occur to me to spend weeks developing a score, and then not stand at that podium leading the orchestra.

    And, we're talking about some heavy-hitters, here: Danny Elfman, David Arnold, two of my contemporary favorites. Yet, I can't help feeling that as musicians, they lose a few points in my eyes if they can't, won't, or are not allowed to conduct.

    Back in the 70's, when I was first getting into all this "movie music" stuff, composers always conducted their own work. Look at any OST album from John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, Lalo Schiffrin, or any composer of the era; it always says "Composed And Conducted By..."

    Does anyone have any feelings as vehement as mine on this subject?

    Dean
    Oh, I'm an organist and I'm OK
    I play all night and I sleep all day!

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    I would tend to think that the composer would really want to conduct his/her own score when the soundtrack is laid. Makes me wonder why the trend is towards the opposite - I mean, the composer spent endless days/hours on the project then decides to let someone else enterpret his/her own feelings about the music content? What changed the minds of today's composers?

    I do know that the recording sessions can be rather brutal and very time consuming. Years back I was on the recording sound stage for The Runner Stumbles ... it took well over 2 hours to lay down 10 minutes of score. Ernest Gold was the composer and conductor for the sessions.
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  3. #3
    Commodore of Water Music
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    I guess that time is a big issue here. Many film composers have alot of jobs (sometime simultaneously) to do, and it would probably be too time consuming if they should conduct their works as well.

    Another, more obvious, explanation is simply that they are not educated for the job
    With love,
    Rune Vejby
    *composer
    *pianist

  4. #4
    Commander, Assistant Conductor zlya's Avatar
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    So, I'm coming at this from another angle. I'm a conductor (amateur!), but not a composer. I think that conducting is a form of performance, and as such it requires talent and training different from that required to compose. Some of the best conductors in the world today and historically are not composers, so it would seem to follow that some of the best composers would not necessarily be the best conductors.

    Are you saying that composers of film scores based around a certain instrument such as violin or piano should perform them? Of course not. Some may, but by no means all. So I don't see why they should be expected to conduct when there are some extremely talented conductors who may be better suited to the job.

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Zlya,
    Interesesting view on this ... and it does make lost of sense, and as Rune states, they may not be versed in how to perform this task. That's what's really nice about these forums, this one (meaning MIMF) in particular, getting all the different perspectives on various subjects.
    Kh ~~.
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  6. #6
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    As a composer who's work is being conducted by others, you of course discuss the music with the conductor, and at a rehersal before the performance you may tell the conductor if there's something you'd meant differently.

    I agree, that conducting is a different instrument from composing - an instrument that many composers master, but that doesn't mean, that if you are not a good conductor, then you are not a good composer.

    For example: it is importaint for a conductor to have a very precise sense of tempo. Not for a composer. A conductor also needs to be a bit more out-going and people-person than a composer needs to be. And then at last, as mentionned, the amount of experience makes a difference.


    But of course, a composer that is also an excellent conductor is damned cool, just like a composer who is also an excellent violinist is damned cool.

  7. #7
    Apprentice, Piano
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    I know, I think that is kind of weird as well.

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    Commander, Assistant Conductor Violinschlüssel's Avatar
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    Well, I know this is somewhat an "old" thread, but I just wanted to say that some score composers, who do not conduct themselves, I can think of are James Newton Howard (he always relies on - at least, as far as his latest scores go - Pete Anthony), Pino Donaggio (he made Natale Massara conduct instead of him), and Jerry Goldsmith (I remember that he let Lionel Newman conduct the orchestra for his Alien score).
    Others, instead, seem even too keen on conducting: James Horner, for instance. I know of no orchestra conducted by anybody else but him as far as his scores are concerned.
    Last edited by Violinschlüssel; Sep-12-2007 at 18:57.

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