Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I've had two recent, rapidly reoccurring dreams. They're both panic dreams, but I'm panicking about things that have almost no bearing on my life. For example, the first panic dream is that I'm being asked about the specifics of the Catholic dogma ex cathedra. For those interested, it's when the pope speaks with doctrinal infallibility. It doesn't happen very often. But I'm not Catholic, nor have I ever been. Why am I having nightmares about their dogma? I'm not facing catechism or confirmation. I haven't even been watching Cadfael recently. I blame it on Jack White and St. Jerome.

[I just got bit by a spider while writing this. Perhaps a future of spandex and crime fighting awaits.]

The other panic dream is that I'm trying to find my group flute instruction class in the HFAC. The thing is, I know the insides of the HFAC pretty darn well. Also, I've never had any desire to learn to play the flute, nor do I think they teach it in bulk.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Art and the Interpretation Thereof (Deux)

Images come from here.
Faithful readers will remember that I once scored a movie. Previously, I wrote about how fun it was and all the things I learned by making it. But now I'd like to write about what I've learned from watching the movie—or rather from watching others watch it.

The first time I watched METRO with people who weren't on the team was at BYU's Final Cut Film Festival. I heard one girl behind me telling her friend how excited she should be to see the last film on the program. That film happened to be none other than our little METRO. I thought that perhaps she was just saying that because Jake and I were sitting right in front of her.

I would be surprised if people liked it. Almost everyone I showed the sketches to said something like, "So there's no dialog? Are there going to be sound effects? No?" For one, I was insecure about the score (and still am). It was, by far, the most derivative thing I've ever written. Anyone who's ever heard one of Satie's "Gymnopedies" should be able to recognize the influence immediately. As the score-writing progressed, I tried to make it more sexy so as to hide my daylight-robbery of Satie's work, but it's still pretty obvious. Also, I never write for piano. I'm a poor pianist, and I feel like solo piano is overdone and kind of boring.

When the first screening of Final Cut was over, the friend of the girl who was pumped to see METRO said, "Oh. I get it. It's artsy. Artsy fartsy." Before that point, I had never considered that there was something to get. I thought it was just a shiny video of a girl chasing a fox. Since then, I've had quite a few people tell me what they think METRO is about.

To my surprise, METRO did very well at the festival. I didn't know that festivals were competitions, so I was shocked when Jake told me we were nominated for something. I assumed he was nominated for some technical award. He assumed I was nominated for the score. The awards ceremony started with the "Audience Favorite" award. This award was based on the number of votes via text message each movie received from the audience. There was no chance METRO got this one. I heard people laughing all the way through the second screening. (METRO, by the way, is not a comedy.) At one point I almost stood up and screamed at them for being such jerks. My vote for Audience Favorite was this fantastic documentary about high school band competitions. So I was more than a little baffled when they announced that Jake Wyatt's METRO had won audience favorite. The only other awards were honorable mention and first through third places. I was doubly surprised again when they announced that METRO had taken first place. (Two films that we were up against had won Emmys. We did not win an Emmy!)

So ultimately, I'm shocked at people's responses to the movie. I liked it, but I didn't think it had any profound meaning. After the awards, we went to a diner up in Orem to celebrate. After we were seated, a group of people came up to us and said, "Are you the guys who made METRO? We were talking about it the whole way up here!" I thought, How?! The thing is four minutes long! I was equally surprised to learn that the making of the movie did have serious philosophical meaning for Jake. I'm glad he didn't tell me about this interpretation until after the movie was finished because I don't particularly like his reading of the movie, and I know it would have changed how I wrote the score. I still don't understand why people were laughing during the screening or why it was dubbed "artsy-fartsy" by the one chick behind us.

This is yet another reason why I think the creator of a work should have no say in its interpretation. I think it's fair to say that the music contributed to the overall effect of METRO, so I was a contributor to the overall message of the movie. But if people take something from the movie that's greater than what I thought I was putting in, good for them. Once the thing is made, I don't really feel like it's my place to trample over anyone else's experience.

This post is largely an excuse to get people excited about the upcoming interwebs debut of METRO. It's still in submission to some other festivals, so we can't publicly post it online just yet, but the day is coming! So as a sampler of what is to come, here's a preview of what the score sounds like. None of this music is actually in the movie, but I recorded this when I was still doing concept work on the score. It's pretty close to how the score ultimately turned out:

METRO Preview by Alfonso X

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Art and the Interpretation Thereof

Even though my mother is an art educator and my brother is a professional artist, I don't have a lot of experience with art. I gave up on trying to draw when I was in first grade and couldn't for the life of me draw X-MEN fighting sentinels the way I had it in my head. I got no pleasure out of making grotesque scrawls of what I had in my head.

So I've been reading this book on how to look at art. It combines art history and art theory and is a fun little read. But it got into this long discussion about what in literary theory is called authorial intent. This is the idea of asking what the author or artist is really trying to say. Most modern literary theorists call this "the intentional fallacy" for a few reasons: 1) Shouldn't the work speak for itself? Why do we have to figure out what the creator meant by it? Why can't we just ask what the piece itself means? 2) There is no way we can ever know what the creator meant, even if he or she told us. They could be lying, they could say something off hand that they really hadn't thought through, or they could not really understand the piece themselves.

For the most part, I don't care what artists or authors or composers have to say about their work. Well, I should specify that I don't care what they have to say more than anyone else talking about the work. They may have some insight, but their views do not trump those of others. I'm not an accomplished artist or poet, but I have written my fair share of music, and one thing that I've found in writing all those pieces is that rarely do I begin a composition thinking, "What do I want this piece to say?" When I do write music that has some kind of meaning beyond the notes themselves, I tend to discover that meaning as I'm writing it (or sometimes long after I've finished). The goofy thing about art (in general, not just visual art) is that the creator often undergoes the same interpretive experience as the audience. So if it's the same experience, why should theirs overwhelm others'?

Obviously, there are exceptions to this. We have all read books where the author set out to prove a point, and we've all seen posters that were created solely to express a singular idea. But we call this "didacticism" and "propaganda," respectively.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Palin, Lear, and Paul Revere

In the first scene of King Lear, the old King becomes unjustifiably furious with his only noble daughter, Cordelia. When Lear refuses to pay her dowry, the king of France declares that he would still marry her since, "She is herself a dowry."

Now, without making any kind of political commentary, I cannot help but think that comedians feel the same way about Sarah Palin. She is herself a punchline. Behold:

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Hobbit Movies: Get Excited!

I am really excited about the new Hobbit movies coming out in December of 2012 and 2013 for many reasons. Here they go:

1) Guillermo del Toro, although no longer director, is still working closely with Peter Jackson on these movies. Let me explain what that means. First, Guillermo del Toro is a) a genius,  b) a champion, and c) a golden god. He's a big advocate of practical effects and puppetry, which I think always hold up better than digital effects. Compare his Faun and Paleman from Pan's Labyrinth to Gollum. Gollum is impressive as a digital creation, but he is obviously a digital creation, whereas Pan and Paleman are astonishingly organic. Guillermo is maybe the most poetic director working today. His movies are beautiful and powerful. I think he'll do a really good job of pulling in Peter Jackson and helping him refrain from excess.

2) On a related note, this reigning in of Jackson is good because The Hobbit is not The Lord of the Rings. The former is a much more quaint story of treasure hunting and goofy adventure. It's not an epic. Frankly, I get weary with the Lord of the Rings movies these days because they are simply too long. Also, they are often guilty of melodrama of the first degree. I feel that there's less room for that in The Hobbit, which hopefully will result in a more enjoyable movie.

3) The cast for this looks amazing. All the regulars are back on: Ians McKellen and Holm, Christopher Lee, etc. But also joining the cast are Martin Freeman (from the Hitchhiker's Guide movie and Watson in BBC's new Sherlock series) as Bilbo and Benedict Cumberbatch (who does such a fantastic job playing Sherlock in BBC's new Sherlock series) as an unknown character. Frankly, I don't care who Mr. Cumberbatch plays; he's just fantastic. Also Stephen Fry and Leonard Nimoy are supposed to be joining the cast. Fantastic. Also Howard Shore, whose excellent score I wrote about here, is back on. I can't wait to see what new things he does with this movie. Seriously, he treats these things like they're operas.

4) The fanboys of the interwebs are going to attack me for this, but I think this might actually be a prequel that surpasses its trilogy. Better looking, shorter, less melodramatic, and all the things that made the first movies great. Plus, GUILLERMO DEL TORO!!!!!

Also, I think Peter Jackson lost all that weight so that the cast and crew would be able to tell him and Guillermo apart. They looked too much like hobbits anyway:
(Guillermo) (Peter)

Post weight loss:

(Peter again)

And more fun pics just for kicks: