NAKED CITY: THE ART OF THE SOUNDTRACK
Movie soundtracks are a distinct musical genre in their own right and the best surely rank as definitive pieces of art. They infiltrate our psyche and remain with us long after we have seen the original movie. Think of soundtracks to films such as The Godfather, Jaws, Anatomy Of A Murder, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Raging Bull, Requiem For A Dream and Star Wars, to name just a few, and your subconscious has surely logged many of their distinctive passages.
Ben Gurton is a young Sydney-based musician and composer, very much inspired by film music including both the great composers and the session musicians who make it happen. He recalls, “I first became interested in film music through my idolisation of the session musicians who record the soundtracks in L.A. For me they are some of the greatest musicians in the world. As a result I ended up listening to and falling in love with a lot of film music. However, I was always intimidated by the ‘pen, manuscript and piano’ process of composition itself. It was the arrival of computer-writing programs that allowed me into the world of composition.”
Originally from Adelaide it was a ‘Meet The Orchestra’ concert by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, while still in Year Three, that first inspired him to take up the trombone. Years later while studying at the Adelaide Con he joined ‘acid jazz’ combo Crisp, touring Australia and introducing a young singer called Sia Furler – yes the same Sia who has now gone on to take over the world.
Now based in Sydney Ben has busied himself with session work and touring with some noteable composers and musicians including Darcy Argue, Maria Schneider and the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra. More recently he has begun to explore his love of film soundtracks seriously, recording his debut album Prelude To A Scene, using a unique recording and production process. Engineered by the renowned Ross A‘Hern, one of the best jazz recording engineers in this country, and mastered by Morten Linderg of 2L Records in Norway, it’s the first album produced in Australia at audiophile DXD resolution 352khz/24bit. And the first release from Mir Creation.
That might all sound a bit technical but the end result is an album that definitely evokes the cinema experience and suggests an imaginary scenario even though it wasn’t written with any film in mind. Recorded with live takes in the legendary 301 studio in Sydney Ben explains that he “wanted to create the best environment for the musicians to feel comfortable and inspired by the sound in the room. I wanted them to mix the album within the space at the time of recording.”
Ben would certainly enjoy the opportunity to compose and record soundtracks in the future. He is realistic enough however to note that “it’s a very tough world though and one going through a lot of change at the moment. New technologies are changing many of the skills required. He further explains that he does “enjoy working collaboratively and find the constraints of writing to film and theatre far more inspiring than the blank page of writing music for myself,” and notes that he’s “just finished composing music for a new short film by Sydney filmmaker Graeme Robertson called “Backspace” which is looking and hopefully sounding beautiful.”
Finally when asked what composers really inspire him Ben lists his current favourites as Mark Isham, Alberto Iglesias, Carter Burwell, James Newton Howard and Jonh Williams. Locally he is a fan of Cezary Skubiszewski, noting ‘everything he writes is beautiful, even when it’s ugly.”
Prelude To A Scene is out now through iTunes, the Klicktrack Music Store (in high res) and at Birdland Records in the Sydney CBD.