At the end of October, specifically from Wednesday 17th to Thursday 18th, the 19th edition of the World Soundtrack Awards festival was held, celebrated within the Film Fest Gent. Gorka Oteiza attended this year’s 19th edition, and leaves us here this exclusive summary for SoundTrackFest.
NOTE: You can find detailed information about the festival’s program in the following link (read news) and complete information about the awards given and videos of the ceremony in the following link (read news).
Before starting with the festival’s article, here you have the following video-summary to warm-up:
Although the World Soundtrack Awards festival officially consisted only of 2 days, Wednesday 17th and Thursday 18th of October, as it was marked on all leaflets and official posters, in fact the previous weeks several complementary events had been happening, encompassed within the Film Fest Gent, such as the VIDEODROOM series of concerts (read news).
Thus, today, October 16th, the day before the official start of the festival, a complementary event, the Film Music & Sound Seminar, was going to take place at the Theaterzaal Vooruit in Ghent from 9:00h-16:30h (read more).
This event, which is repeated every year within the festival, allows having first-hand information of the different points of view of the process of creating a soundtrack. On this occasion, it was going to be focused on the artistic collaboration between filmmaker, composer, and sound designer, having the privilege to count with two core collaborators of the Coen Brothers: world-renowned composer Carter Burwell, central guest of the festival, and sound designer Skip Lievsay.
In the first conference, a very kind and friendly Carter Burwell, gave all kinds of details about his work, his composition process, and his way of collaborating with the directors, especially with the Coen brothers, of which he is a regular team member, and answered one by one to all the questions that the moderator asked, dr. Martine Huvenne, leaving at the end time for questions from the audience.
After a lunch break, it was time for the conference of the sound designer Skip Lievsay, who gave us a different point of view from what we are used to, explaining how to approach the application and implementation of music and sound in a movie, to convey and support the story.
An interesting day, and a good warm-up for what was going to happen in the next two days.
Regarding the didactic activities, the second day of the festival was going to be dedicated mainly to the Industry Day, from 9:00h-18:00h in the Theaterzaal Vooruit, presented by the composer Vasco Hexel (Royal College of Music of London), which included different master classes and panels throughout the day, where guests exposed hot topics within the international film industry.
You can see complete information about the program of that day in the following link:
However, the fact of having scheduled in the morning interviews for SoundTrackFest with Nicholas Britell and Philippe Sarde, meant that I could not attend the morning sessions of the Industry Day.
Nicholas Britell, whose interview has been published recently, was relaxed, friendly, and very happy to answer the questions, resulting almost more in a chat or an exchange of opinions, than in a proper interview. Throughout the nearly half hour of the meeting, Britell spoke about how he decided he wanted to score movies, how he created the musical world for the Oscar-winning movie Moonlight (and the funny moment that happened at the ceremony), his first TV series: Succession, or the Hip-Hop band he had in college, among many other things.
You can read the complete interview in the following link:
The interview with Philippe Sarde, a lovely, affectionate, kind, and very peculiar person, was quite curious, since despite having a series of very specific questions, the answers were varied and quite unexpected in many cases. This interview, which is being processed at this moment, will be released in the near future.
After a brief lunch break, a new act scheduled in parallel in my agenda, made me miss the afternoon sessions of the Industry Day. It was a roundtable with all the composers nominated for the Discovery of the Year award, an award that was going to be presented at the festival that night during the gala-concert. That roundtable, in which varied journalists from various media/specialized websites participated, including SoundTrackFest, was moderated by Tomas Mikusz of White Bear PR.
The composers present at the roundtable were:
- Laurent Eyquem – ‘Nostalgia’
- Tamar-kali – ‘Mudbound’
- Valentin Hadjadj – ‘Girl’
- Amelia Warner – ‘Mary Shelley’
- Hildur Gudnadóttir – ‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado’
For almost an hour, and following a set system of Q&As, each of the reporters asked a general question for all the composers, and each person responded by offering his/her point of view and experiences. A very interesting and original event, which allowed a direct talk with all the nominees to know more about their creative process, their ideas, their inspiration, or how they face the different problems they encounter in their day to day, talking in addition about experiences and specific projects.
Following, and almost with very little time to get ready, came the big moment of the festival, the concert and gala of the World Soundtrack Awards, which was going to feature the music of Carter Burwell, Nicholas Britell and Philippe Sarde. It was held at 19:30h at the Capitole Gent of Ghent, and the music was performed by the Brussels Philharmonic conducted by Dirk Brossé.
The full program of the night was as follows:
Indicate that the concert, which had sold out its tickets, had three giant screens over the orchestra, close to each other, where images and videos were projected synchronously with the music, as well as close-ups of the conductor or the musicians who lead the melodies in the different pieces. A very interesting visual reinforcement that contributed with useful information to what we were listening to.
The concert started on time with Dirk Brossé raising the baton and giving an energetic and majestic start to the evening through the World Soundtrack Awards Fanfare composed by Elmer Bernstein. Next, a brief introduction by the host of the show, who would continue appearing on stage throughout the evening, led to the first award of the night: the Sabam Award for young composers, where nominees had to score a short fragment of the movie “The Grave of the fireflies” of the recently deceased Isao Takahata. The clip was projected three times, each time with the music of each of the three composers (Bruno Ferreira, Logan Nelson, Stefan French) performed live by the orchestra, being the audience able to see how a different musical approach can alter the meaning of the images. The winner of the Sabam Award was Logan Nelson.
You can see all the awards that were given throughout the night as well as the nominees and videos of the various moments in the following link:
The gala continued with another award, the one corresponding to the Best Original Song Written Directly for a Film, that was for the movie Black Panther, and so, when it was briefly past 20:25h, we began to listen to the music of the main guest of the festival, Carter Burwell, with the first of the two blocks that he would have in the concert.
The orchestra started with the theme End Credits – Miller’s Crossing that offered a soft, sweet, and sentimental music, in counterpoint to the hardness of the images and the story, something that Burwell himself had already said that was the goal of his music in that film.
Then came a block of 3 pieces of True Grit, very well performed, being the third one an exquisite piece that started with a delicate piano. In total, they lasted about 6 minutes, and they were three very brief and nice pieces, leaving you wanting more.
Next, a great performance of My Dear Anne – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri came, a soundtrack nominated in the latest edition of the Oscars, that gave way to the Opening Titles – Mildred Pierce, after which Carter Burwell went on stage, said a few words to thank the festival and the public, and conducted the Brussels Philharmonic with his music for Anomalisa – Overture, a curious theme with funny and bittersweet touches.
Then was the moment to present another of the awards of the night, the Best Original Score for a Belgian Production, handled to Rutger Reinders for the music of the movie Zagros. And following, and almost without pause, the moment of the Discovery of the Year 2018 award arrived, that was for composer Tamar-kali for her music for Mudbound, who went on stage visibly moved, and picked up the award from Nicholas Britell, who had won the same award the previous year.
Continuing with the presence of Nicholas Britell on stage, the composer made a presentation of the second block of the first half of the concert, which was devoted entirely to his music. This block started with two great pieces from the movie Moonlight, an Oscar-nominated soundtrack, and followed with a concert suite of If Beale Street Could Talk in a world premiere, a movie that was his last collaboration with Barry Jenkins. Interestingly, Barry Jenkins, who was also invited to the Festival and was sitting in front of me and next to Britell throughout the whole concert, did not stop accompanying the rhythm of the pieces with his head and his hand, in a clear gesture of being enjoying the moment.
The suite of If Beale Street Could Talk offered us a very melodic music, with a great predominance of the strings and a very powerful cello in the middle of the piece, which resulted in almost 7 minutes of very interesting music.
After the intermission and when it was nearly 21:40h, the second part of the concert began with the presentation of the Public Choice Award that went to Laurent Eyquem for Nostalgia, who went up on stage to pick the award very surprised, since he had just seen that he didn’t get the Discovery of the Year Award 2018 earlier, and he did not expect to be having this second opportunity to be one of the winners of the night.
Next came the second block of music dedicated to Carter Burwell that started with two tracks from Hail, Cesar!, where the brass section was strong and a glorious in a way, but with a comic touch, leaving clear the Roman background of the movie. Then, almost 20 minutes of Burwell’s music arrived, where we could highlight Fargo with its soft start with the harp, or the sad and peculiar theme for Being John Malkovich, for an equally peculiar film, or the intense and delicate, but at the same time cheerful and fun Opening of Carol.
It was over 22:10h and another award moment arrived, first with the Best TV Composer of the Year that was for Ramin Djawadi, who sent a brief video, and afterwards with the Best Film Composer of the Year that was for the sadly deceased this year: Jóhann Jóhannsson. This award, which was introduced by Ray Costa, was picked up by Hildur Guðnadóttir, collaborator and personal friend of Jóhannsson, who gave a very emotional speech.
Then came the moment for the Lifetime Achievement Award of this edition of the festival, in a celebration of a whole career, which was presented to Philippe Sarde, who went on stage and gave a long but very funny speech of almost 7 minutes, which made us smile in more one occasion. There was a phrase that was especially funny in his speech, and it was when Phillipe Sarde said he was crazy, and then he explained that only being crazy one could endure 50 years composing music for movies, as he has, because of the difficulties and demands of the profession.
You can see his speech and the rest of those that happened throughout the gala in the following link:
And so, when it was 22:30h and we had been enjoying 2 and a half hours of event since the beginning of the concert, started the block dedicated to the music of Philippe Sarde, the last block of the concert, with Générique – Barocco, a theme with a lot of rhythm, which gave way to a romantic waltz on piano on the Thème Principal – Les Choses de la Vie, which had later a fabulous accompaniment with the strings section.
The piece Thème d’Amour – La Guerre de Feu had a delicious performance of the pan flute; a sound characteristic of the film, to then give way to a correct Thème Principal – Coup de Torchon.
Then came the theme Générique – Le Locataire, with an outstanding crystal harmonica playing and offering the piece a very interesting touch, to finish with one of the highlights of the second part of the concert, a suite of almost 10 minutes of Tess, that was a real delight and that put an end to the concert when it was 23h, without giving any option for encores.
All the composers and awardees who had participated in the evening, went up on stage to receive a final applause and to give an end to a great concert, with music brilliantly played by the Brussels Philharmonic under the baton of the expert Dirk Brossé, offering a balanced program, very complete, and very interesting.
Mixing the music of the three festival guests in different blocks, and distributing the music of Carter Burwell at the beginning of the two parts of the concert, was very wise, since it allowed to complement his music with Nicholas Britell’s first and with Philippe Sarde’s later, in a perfect balance and harmony, ending the concert with the music of the honoree of the night, the Lifetime Achievement Awardee.
The fact of having the awards scattered between the different music blocks was also a very good idea and was very well executed, since the breaks were agile, did not extend the concert excessively, and gave dynamism to the night.
It was already the third day, and it started at 11:30h with the press conference and the meet & greet with several of the main guests of the festival in the Provinciehuis of Ghent, a government building of noble characteristics.
This press conference was moderated by the artistic director of the festival Patrick Duynslaegher, and featured Carter Burwell, Dirk Brossé, Rutger Reinders, Lauren Eyquem, and Tamar-Kali, where the audience present at the place, both journalists and fans, could ask to any of the guests their doubts or curiosities. After the conference, a signing session with all the guests took place, except Carter Burwell who only agreed to take pictures with the people, which compensated the lack of him signing any goodies.
And then at night, at 20:00h, and again at Capitole Ghent, the second concert of the festival arrived, the one entitled ‘2001 and Beyond: A Symphonic Odyssey’, with a program full of music from films that take place in the space, and that was also in charge of the Brussels Philharmonic conducted by Dirk Brossé.
The concert had once again screens over the orchestra to offer visual reinforcement, and a host who offered brief explanations from time to time. With almost an hour and a half of concert, all came in one shot, without any pauses or breaks.
At 20:15h, and after some delay, the concert started with the iconic piece that became so famous because of the movie 2001 – A Space Odyssey, the theme Also Sprach Zarathustra composed by Richard Strauss; a very appropriate start for a concert dedicated to the space music. After a brief introduction of the evening by the host, the theme of the Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II was performed, skillfully used in 2001 – A Space Odyssey. Another classic of space science fiction movies, with the scene where we see spaceships floating and “dancing” in space to the rhythm of a waltz. Then came the music composed by Alex North for 2001, and that was not used by Stanley Kubrick in the movie, the great theme Space Station Docking.
After a new pause, where the host introduced the next block, the Main Theme of Star Wars was played, in one of the best performances that I have seen, both for the fidelity to the original, as well as for the power and balance of the different sections of the orchestra. Magnificent conducting by Dirk Brossé of John Williams’ music.
It was 20:40h and we had the dark, anguished, conflictive, and intense music of John Barry for The Black Hole. Wonderful performance. Then came End Titles – Alien – Jerry Goldsmith with a really accurate brass section and a trumpet that offered intensity and perfect precision. Next, we continued with another piece by Jerry Goldsmith, End Credits – Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a true hymn to exploration and space adventures, which gave us goosebumps.
Let’s highlight among the following pieces the sound and the cohesion of the orchestra in the End Credits – The Rocketeer – James Horner, and the power and energy offered in the always joyous Klendathu Drop – Starship Troopers – Basil Poledouris; both with two excellent interpretations.
Entering the final part of the concert, a special mention should be made of the theme First Sleep – Solaris – Cliff Martinez and its hypnotic and captivating sound, which had the help of pre-recorded electronic tracks, and the two themes of the music composed by Daniel Pemberton for the TV series Black Mirror episode USS Callister: Alive and Space Fleet.
When it was 21:50h, the concert ended with the theme Mine Mission Suite – Solo: A Star Wars Story – John Powell, with a military rhythm, agile, intense, and powerfully symphonic. A real delight for our ears, both for the piece itself and for its execution, which closed the concert without the option of having any encores.
A very good concert, offering a great review of the music of the most important sci-fi films set in space, in a brilliant performance once again of the Brussels Philharmonic, conducted by the attentive, precise, and expert baton of Dirk Brossé.
I have to start saying that it was not possible for me to attend the World Soundtrack Awards in 2017, so the reference I have and the comparison I can make of this year’s edition, is with the edition of the festival celebrated two years ago on 2016 (read summary article).
The level of quality, perfection, and excellence achieved this year has been very high. In three days we were able to enjoy a compact festival, full of very interesting contents, with two main concerts of the highest quality, and with activities of great value both for professionals and fans of film music alike.
As it is usual in the summary articles that we publish in SoundTrackFest, let’s make a brief balance of the strong points and points to improve of the festival:
ORGANIZATION. The organization of the festival is impeccable, both logistically and at the level of distribution of events, making the World Soundtrack Awards a solid festival and a reference at European level. An example to follow on how to organize and structure the contents of a film music festival.
DURATION and CONTENTS. Speaking of duration and content, sometimes “less is more”, and that has been perfectly demonstrated in the high quality of the current edition of the World Soundtrack Awards. The festival consists mainly of two days and two concerts, perfectly organized and with very interesting programs, which are complemented with several activities for professionals and for fans, such as the Meet & Greet, the Industry Day, or the Seminar prior to the festival. A perfect balance.
ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES. The fact that the World Soundtrack Awards is celebrated together with the Film Fest Gent, makes that the previous weeks a series of very interesting film music related events can take place, which prepare the public for the arrival of the festival.
POINTS TO IMPROVE
NONE. I think it is the first time that this section is empty in a summary article of a festival, and thinking about it, the truth is that I do not have important points that have to be corrected or that require an improvement in the following editions. It is true that you can always do small things to be a little bit better, but on a general level, you could talk about a perfect edition, where you can see that there’re 18 years of experience behind the team, and the total synchronization with Film Fest Gent.
Film Fest Gent already has dates for 2019, from October 8 to 18, 2019, and World Soundtrack Awards also has set dates: Thursday, October 17th and Friday, October 18th, 2019, although it is possible that, as in this year’s edition, it is complemented with an extra day of didactic activities.
Save the dates in your agendas, because we have here one of the oldest film music festivals in Europe (and in the world), which offers a large quantity and quality of contents in just 2-3 days. And if it also coincides that the main guest is one of your favorite composers, you should not hesitate a moment to travel to Ghent next year.
Article by Gorka Oteiza