Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

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Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Independence Day Live at the Royal Albert Hall was incredible

I first heard the composer David Arnold talk at an event organised by the London wing of the Sundance Festival. He was appearing at the Art of the Score session and was being interviewed about his work which includes the scores for Stargate, Independence Day, umpteen Bond films, Stepford Wives and BBC Sherlock (co-written with Michael Price). He was good fun and I recommend going and hearing him talk.

A few weeks later I attended one of Mark Kermode's film music concerts in London and read the programme, discovered that it was part of a small UK tour and that the music from Sherlock and Stargate would be performed in Manchester a few days later. So I went along to that one too and, I suppose I've been been following "David Arnold's music on tour" ever since including concerts in Dublin, Lucerne and Prague. And lots in London.

When I started going to the Royal Albert Hall's series of live scored films I wondered if they might include something from David A's work and last Thursday they did, and I had the joyous experience of seeing Jeff Goldblum and co on a massive (20m screen) while the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Maida Vale Singers poomphed out the Independence Day (aka #ID4Live) music, conducted by Gavin Greenaway, produced by U-Live.

God it was great :)

I don't think I've ever smiled so much, or with so much anticipation, at a black screen - knowing that any minute now the auditorium will be flooded with sound. First up was the studio logo ident for 20th Century Fox which I think took quite a few in the audience by surprise. The music struck up for the beams of light swishing across the screen with the rolling drums, then the trumpets trumpeted and suddenly the audience seemed to clock on to what was happening and began clapping and cheering - you can watch a clip of that unfolding live at Instagram (I can't embed on Blogger for some reason)...

...and then we were straight into the film. With no subtitles! There was a pre-film interview between David Arnold and Tommy Pearson, the event producer, (he also interviews film composers at the RAH's Conversations with Screen Composers*) where they mentioned they were dispensing with the subtitles cos they didn't need them.

They were right and the sound - mixed by Geoff Foster from Air Studios - was unbelievable. There was much discussion at the interval on how great the sound was - with the on-screen dialogue, atmosphere and sound effects balanced perfectly with the in-room orchestra and choir.

It turned out that quite a bit of the music had been tweaked for the event and some had to be reverse-engineered to provide the orchestra with a complete score. Really quite a feat by someone whose name I'm sorry to have forgotten. I have a copy of the original soundtrack on my iPhone and it always makes whatever task I'm doing that bit more fun. Even more fun though in a huge auditorium with strange structures hanging from the ceiling (sound baffles I think, but when lit up they do look a bit like a fleet of alien spacecraft hovering) not to mention the entire Royal Albert Hall building looks exactly like the sort of landmark the film-aliens would try and blast.

Very unofficial composite image showing the logo for the ID4Live event superimposed on one of the original 1996 film posters for Independence Day with the aliens letting rip, above a screenshot of the Royal Albert Hall's homepage image, conveniently bathed in a matching orange hue.

Films often have a relatively such a short 'present' in screens and then are forever 'past', appearing on television and in retrospective screenings. I can't recall Independence Day ever having been a staple in the open-air cinema screening genre (in London at least), which puzzles me as it's such great FUN and the music is great. It is regularly screened on television though, but I've only seen it a couple of times on a big screen, and none as big as the one at the RAH.

So it was really lovely to witness it having a 're-premiere' and being part of a really big event. In fact it was simultaneously a premiere (first time ever performed as a 'live to projection' screening) and the 20th anniversary screening (the film was originally released in 1996). David and Tommy had commented that ID4 has a lot of saluting in it and encouraged us to whoop whenever someone saluted and we did and it was delightfully silly.

A few people broke the Wittertainment cinema code of conduct and took photographs of key moments in the film, and a couple even took short video clips. Amazingly no-one was thrown out for this but I'm quite glad they took the videos as it's lovely to relive these again later. I'm watching on fairly average laptop speakers and it still sounds great to me, see what you think with these clips. - Jeff Goldblum's realised that the alien signal contains a countdown and the spacecraft lining up is a bad bad thing. The music is properly menacing but you can still hear what's going on on-screen perfectly. - I think this clip happens just before the one above but is intercut with a different group of people in the film experiencing the 'what IS that?' moment as the spaceship appears. The person who made the clip said "This has always been my absolute favourite part of the score. It was so powerful bellowing through the arena. Such an incredible night."

Hopefully now that Independence Day has been added to the roster of films that you can watch with an orchestra (there's been an explosion of interest and enthusiasm for this way of watching films) it might get to do a little tour of its own, probably with me in the audience too :)

And how lovely to be able to sit in peace at the end while the end credits roll and hear that amazing finale music, with plenty more trumpets to enjoy and no-one from a television channel squashing the screen in half to tell me what's coming up later. Brilliant :) Thanks everyone who was involved in making this happen!

*Tommy will be interviewing Anne Dudley on Tue 15 Nov and Daniel Pemberton on Tue 29 Nov. He also produced Mark Kermode's concerts too.

The Barbican also has a series of Oscar-winning scores in which they interview the composer after a screening of the film for which they won. On 26th October it's Emma with Rachel Portman and on 7 Dec it's The Full Monty with Anne Dudley.

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