A Conductor Is Not A Policeman…Or A Circus Clown

Kevin_Purcell

Photo_Simon Schluter

In the immortal words of Neil Diamond, ‘hello again!’

So what has been happening?  Recording sessions, concerts, a new musical to write, a previous musical to revise, a TV series demystifying Opera….the list goes on.

But we’re not here today for that update, although it is coming down the pipeline soon.

Today’s small topic is about ‘What you are doing is not conducting, and would you please stop referring to it as such when you are being nothing more than a policeman!’  OK, it’s a long title, but it represents the core perspective of this post.  Yes, you’re right, something is bugging me and it is this:

The clowns are indisputably running the asylum in Hollywood and wherever else music is recorded for film and television.  How long will we have to put up with the continuous insensitive, micro-forensically mixed, clip-gained, artificial, incomprehensible, emotionally stultified, bland, innocuous soundtracks that keep being foisted relentlessly on an unsuspecting public.  And who is responsible for this travesty?  The answer: people pretending to be conductors.  And they’ve got a new justification for being on the podium at the expense of the people they have so neatly displaced.

It goes like this:  “Oh, well, you know conducting studio film orchestras (they mean directing studio orchestra musicians) is not at all the same as conducting concert music (do they they subconsciously intend music with some credibility?)”

Really!

The proposition that the highly-skilled orchestra players who work on these sessions, all who play on headphones so that they can hear the click (the tick-tick of an electronic metronome), and all who, more often than not, have little screens next to their music stands that display the current bar and beat of the music in the cue being recorded, further require a person standing on a podium flailing their arms around to add to the already abundant information is preposterous.  And yet it prevails, save us all.

I have some advice for these clowns – including those with websites that endorse and condone this absurdity – get off the podium and hire a real conductor – yes, a real honest to God musician who knows how to elicit shape, contour, expression, articulation and dynamics from the incredible musicians playing the instruments.  In other words, stop being nothing more than an unnecessary policeman and go do some other job.  Or, better still, learn to be a serious conductor!  Warning:  It takes more than the Hollywood minute.

Fortunately there are a couple – not many – but a couple of extraordinary conductors who reside in LA who can do just that – CONDUCT.  When they start to be appreciated again (because there was a time long, long ago when they were) and we start to hear soundtracks once again which have an emotional arc and a sound that has been artistically sculpted out of the efforts of the playing musicians, then all will be right with the world.

Until then..avoid clowns and policemen at your own peril.

Kevin

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