Sooooooooo where to begin…I’ll keep this brief, in the interests of insomnia, undelivered movie scores, schmoozing and (God help us all) an extremely sore arse from skiing (what the hell was I thinking? We all know how musicians and white powder don’t mix…).
As seems to be the custom these days, I preceded my departure to Utah with three weeks of sleeplessness, trying to deliver the score to my latest movie. Cut to, one bleary-eyed composer standing at Burbank airport, being bombarded with 80’s muzak over the tannoy, whilst loitering at the magazine stand, wondering whether it would be more horrific to read about the disaster in Haiti, or Heidi Montag’s liposuction. It’s too close to call, so I get on the plane and pass out…
Arriving in Park City is a slightly different experience for me this year since I am playing at the opening night gala. Sundance has organized a sort of super-event called An Artist at the Table this year, which involves several artists such as Morgan Spurlock and Joseph Gordon Lewitt, sitting down to dinner with some of the institute’s highest ranking financial contributors. Somehow (and I blame the lack of sleep over my inherent slowness entirely), it has failed to dawn on me that I am one of those artists. At the table. Me. OK then…it turns out that I am to spend the evening prior to the concert entertaining Kenneth Cole and his entire family…no pressure then…thank God, they’re so incredibly nice and easy going, and that part of the evening goes off without a hitch. So, to the concert in question.
Peter Golub, the much revered head of Sundance’s music department, has drawn together for this event five composers who have at one time or another attended the Composer’s Lab program (if you don’t know anything about this program, and you’re a composer, get Googling right now, unless you particularly enjoy missing out on great things) – those being myself, Gingger Shankar, Lili Haydn, Kim Carroll and Will Calhoun.
The interesting part is that none of us have played together before, we have no idea what we’re doing and we don’t meet Will until the day before the show—pretty much the perfect storm needed to create either a brilliant or disastrous show.
As it turns out, we will each be playing a piece from one of our movies and a sort of jam on a few well known movie themes (Chariots of Fire being one – little do we realize that the producer of that very movie is sitting in the audience)…
We do a couple of run-throughs and somewhat map it all out and before you know it, it’s ten minutes to show time – it’s right then that I unpack my Guitarviol (a sort of unholy cross breed of a guitar and a cello) to find the bow for the instrument snapped into two pieces. Marvelous…where does one find a cello bow in a temple at close to 10 p.m. on a Wednesday? (There isn’t a punch line to that one, it’s a real question.) Turns out we find a replacement which is far from perfect but at least spares the audience the sight of me attempting to play the instrument with a salad fork. Aaah, the joys of rock n’ roll disasters…
We are introduced first by Robert Redford, and then by Mark and Jay Duplass, who give us the most beautiful and flattering intro, closely followed by Mark breathing into the microphone: “there you go chaps – now don’t f— this up.”
We start the set with our movie theme jam and, to my surprise, the audience is kind of rowdy – at least for the kind of audience that was munching on foie gras five minutes previously. Morgan Spurlock is at the front of the stage, punching the air like he’s at a Metallica concert, and it’s around that time that I get the feeling that this is actually going really quite well – and that’s the genius of Peter Golub. If there’s one thing the man knows how to do, it’s to bring together five complete strangers, and somehow know that they won’t make an un-listenable racket when allowed to mingle with musical instruments…quite something.
All in all, an amazing show, amazing audience and, as I said on stage, all of us Lab Fellows could never thank the Sundance Institute enough for the work they do. If the movie industry is to have a future, there have to be places where talent is nurtured, encouraged and given opportunity, and Sundance is that place. By the same token, it would be wrong not to thank the sponsors and donors who made that evening possible – generosity that does not go unnoticed or unappreciated by the five of us on that stage.
OK…did I say I was going to keep this brief?