July 16, 2010

Making magical music for “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”…

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment at 3:45 am by dinaheng

Music brings emotion to life in the movies, and no one enjoys playing the unseen magician more than composer Trevor Rabin.

Rabin’s latest work is Disney’s new family adventure, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” a film that stems from a 1797 poem written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German writer and natural scientist.

The poem, about the apprentice of an old “Hexenmeister” who calls upon a broomstick to do his magical bidding, inspired a small segment in the 1940 animated classic “Fantasia.”

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” in theaters now, offers a modern sidestep tale about a sorcerer and his bumbling apprentice who must work together to resolve an ancient battle between good and evil to save Manhattan and their lady loves.

“I read the script and thought it was charming and colorful,” says Rabin, who composed the scores for “National Treasure,” “Remember the Titans,” “Con Air” and numerous other films. “It was quite a challenge because I had to adapt Paul Dukas’s music, rearranging it and putting my own touches to the new film.”

Dukas’s memorable symphonic piece “L’apprenti sorcier” has entranced audiences through the ages, giving life to the “march of the broomsticks” sequence in “Fantasia.”

“In ‘Fantasia,’ they cut the film to the music, but I had to put the adaptation to the film,” Rabin says. “This is an action film, and the timing to animation was very different. I tried to make the scenes cohesive with the rest of the score, making sure that there weren’t huge changes in energy and style.”

If you’ve ever wondered what a film composer’s job entails, here’s an abbreviated  snapshot of the process. The composer develops themes for the various characters, which alert the audience that the character is part of the scene, as well as overall theme music for the film. He or she then creates a list for where music will play throughout the film. As the movie is shot, the composer writes music to rough cuts, changing the score as the film progresses.

“The commonality with all films is the time pressure,” Rabin says. “There are always last minute changes and differences of opinion among people to be resolved. It took two months to do the score for this film. We had several several orchestra scenes and worked with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. It’s thrilling to hear the music come to life, and that never changes.”

Rabin, who worked with various rock bands in his native South Africa, was a guitarist with the band Yes before deciding to become a film composer. He says music has always been in his life, with a father who was first chair violinist in the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra for 14 years, and a mother who was a piano teacher.

“I grew up in an anti-apartheid household,” Rabin says. “The movie ‘Cry Freedom’ was (inspired by books) written by Donald Woods, who’s a cousin of mine. What’s great is there are people who are living and functioning in South Africa now who are oblivious to apartheid, so they’re the beneficiaries of it being dismantled.”

The composer has scored more than three dozen movies, ranging from action films like “Glimmer Man” and “Snakes on a Plane” to family fare like “Race to Witch Mountain” and “Get Smart.”

His next project is “Georgia,” a drama about the conflict between Georgia and Russia. “The music is very dramatic and Eastern European,” Rabin says. “Not very Disney.”

So if the musical magician were to compose a theme for his own personality, what would it be?

“Impulsive,” Rabin replies, quickly.

No doubt it would be memorable, as well.


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