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Behind the Scenes: The Art and Craft of Cinema, Composer Mark Isham

Talk & Film Screening
UC Berkeley BAM/PFA
02/04/2012 7:30 PM


An extraordinarily prolific composer, Mark Isham has written scores for over one hundred feature films. After getting his musician’s chops down in San Francisco’s eclectic jazz and rock scene, particularly with the legendary prog-rock Group 87, Isham scored his first film, Carroll Ballard’s Never Cry Wolf, in 1983. Many films followed that displayed Isham’s diversity as a composer, ranging from the rustic orchestral arrangements in A River Runs Through It (1992), through the synth-driven ethereal waves in Crash (2004), to the cool, noir jazz of The Black Dahlia (2006). For his efforts as a film composer and a performing artist, Isham has garnered Grammys, an Oscar nomination, an Emmy, and ASCAP’s Henry Mancini Award for Lifetime Achievement.


Composer Isham belongs to a century-old tradition: as early as 1899, films were circulated with original music scores. This “special music” was often the sign of a film’s stature: an important film deserved outstanding and intentional music. With the advent of the sound motion picture, music scores grew from compositions that merely recalled popular styles to highly original tracks serving the aims of the accompanying story. Yet it would be wrong to think that a musical score endures on originality alone. The relationship between the director’s intentions—regarding the pace and temperament of a film—and the score’s intrinsic mood and tempo is one of infinite subtlety and arrangement.


Join composer Mark Isham for some sound advice.


Saturday, February 4, 2012
7:30 p.m. Mark Isham: Illustrated Talk on Film Scoring, followed by A River Runs Through It
Robert Redford (U.S., 1992). Composer and performing artist Mark Isham discusses his three decades of scoring for the cinema, which includes everything from restrained character studies such as Nell and October Sky to bold action fests such as Blade and The Mechanic. Followed by Robert Redford’s Montana-set character study, A River Runs Through It. (c. 200 mins)

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