Please Miss Lurie, for the readers of inter-activities, how would you personally introduce yourself?
I'm a show biz fanatic...or addict, depending on how you see it. I love movies, plays, and shows of all genres and forms of media. I've always been passionate about the process of putting a show together, so it was natural for me to bring my love of music to the film world. Like most film composers, I live and breathe music, but in my case, I'm as enthusiastic about the collaborative process as I am about music itself.
When and how did you come to work on film music?
I grew up around theater. I acted in dozens of shows, sewed costumes, painted sets, ran the spotlight, and eventually ended up playing the piano quite often in the orchestra pit. In high school I began writing original music for theater, and it was a pretty natural process from there into writing film music.
May you tell me about your training?
I started playing the piano at about two years old, and I started lessons at six. I was always more interested in accompanying singers and playing in bands than I was in practicing the way my teachers wanted me to. In all of my theater and pop music activities, As a child, my theatre and pop music activities afforded me the opportunity to learn a lot about music theory on my own. Then, in high school, I started studying music formally with my jazz piano teacher. I graduated from the USC School Of Music in Theory and Composition, where I’d also completed their film scoring program. I was a really good student when it came to academic music, but to me, the stuff I was learning in the rock/jazz bands and in the theater orchestra pit was just as valuable and challenging.
And what about your background?
I grew up in Palo Alto, CA. I was lucky to grow up in a place that was very rich in the arts. I started modern dance when I was about 5, and that was an important part of my early experience connecting music to a visual aspect. I grew up singing in a choir, going to summer camps with lots of (pretty stupid) singing… everything I did seemed to involve music. My parents were both accomplished musical instrumentalists, but they gave music up for "real jobs." They could not have been more supportive of my pursuing a career in music and the arts. Sometimes I feel a little guilty that they didn't get to do it themselves!
What are your sources of inspiration when you compose some music?
I certainly have a lot of heroes, but as for the style of music I'm composing on a particular score, I tend to look outside of film music. If a movie takes place in another country, I'll surround myself with as much music from that culture as I can find. If a project takes place in another time period, or another region of the US even, I’ll study what was happening at that time and place musically. I'm a big researcher.
Are you inspired by a composer in particular? Do you have any mentor?
I've always wanted to have a true mentor, and unfortunately I tend to feel like I'm sort of flying blind most of the time. However, in the past few years, I've had the incredible experience of working on a number of projects with with Danny Elfman, and it doesn't get more inspiring than that.
Do you consider yourself as being part of a “school” of composition?
That's a really interesting question. Rather than talking your ear off about it, I'll just call it "Postmodernism." Do they apply this term to music? Well, I'm going to try. I'm sure if I looked into it, I'd find out that this term refers to something that's long since passed, but I like what the concept represents. I'm someone who holds academic music and pop/folk/rock, etc in equally high regard, and I strive to integrate the best of their qualities into.... you know what, I'll just stop before I make a fool of myself!
How would you describe or characterize your own musical style?
Melodic, bold, energetic, modern… In fact, you should ask my engineer. I'm sure he'll give you an earful.
How do you choose a project to work on?
Well, usually I look for something that will teach me many lessons the very hardest way possible without killing me.
Did your way of working change along the years or according to each film, and according to each composer you work for ?
Very much so. The most dramatic change was going from pencil and paper to computers. I think it was during a movie called Imaginary Heroes when I learned that a three-week composing/scoring schedule required bypassing the pencil and paper phase. I've switched software systems and outboard gear to be, for example, more compatible with Danny Elfman, but the biggest change was learning to write the music on computers rather than paper.
What’s the role of a music additional composer?
It depends on the project. Sometimes it’s a direct collaboration with the head composer of a film, and sometimes it’s a solo effort between the additional music composer and the filmmakers. It depends on the situation on each film.
Do you have a method of working? How do you proceed to compose?
My method consists of several stages, beginning with a lot of research. As I said before, I work hard to make sure I know as much about the time, place, and cultural setting of a movie before I write anything. I’m a very thematic, melodic composer, so writing the main themes for a film is the big first step when it comes to the writing. I definitely seem to follow the same writing process on most projects. Most of my themes are written in the middle of the night or while on a walk. I have a horrible memory, so I have to write it down quickly on whatever paper is around.
What do you feel when you’re composing and what do you like in this process?
What do I like? I like when it’s done! For me, writing music is much like vigorous exercise. Totally worth it in retrospect!
How do you manage to immerse yourself within the musical universe of another composer? Do you listen his former scores? Read his scores?
This isn’t always the case, but in my experience, I’ve usually been brought in as an additional composer on a project for which a fair amount of musical material has already been developed by the lead composer. In that case, the material for that project alone is the thing I focus on, not that composer’s previous work. It’s tempting to try to imitate musical gestures reminiscent of their former projects, but I don’t think that’s as constructive of a method. The last thing a head composer needs is a star struck fan who desperately wants to rehash their old “signature” moves. This is my take anyway.
YOUR WORK WITH DANNY ELFMAN
Can you tell me about your collaborations with Danny Elfman ?
It was a combination of hard work and kid-in-a-candy-store experiences. I had the chance to work with the best orchestras at the best studios and to learn from the master.
I don’t know. You’d have to ask Danny.
How did you work with Danny Elfman ?
How cool do I feel when I say our mutual agents introduced us? That's the kind of thing you dream about saying when you're in music school. I can tell you exactly where I was when I got the call from Laura Engel telling me that she and Richard Kraft decided to have me work with Danny Elfman on a movie. That was a good phone call.
Did you collaboration evolve from one film to another ?
I think it has. We've only worked on a few things together, so I'd say it's still evolving, or so I hope!
What are the kind of suggestions he gives you ?
He's very specific about the ways in which his themes are to be represented and developed. There's a fair amount of discussion pertaining to the development of thematic material, as one might expect because he's such a thematic composer. Danny has very honed techniques for everything from harmonies to orchestration, so there are a lot of different things to take into account all at once when writing a cue. He was very patient with me and very articulate when it came to explaining what needed to change. I'm not sure I could be that clear headed myself.
When you compose additional music for a composer, do you think you’re influenced by his own style ? In what way?
Absolutely. Often times, that's the goal. It's such a valuable experience to immerse oneself into the musical language and style of another composer. I'm sure I leave each of those sorts of projects with an influence that will stay with me for a long time to come.
It's funny. During some of my sessions on movies for which I've done additional music, members of the orchestra will come up to me and say, "I could tell that last cue was yours." It's never my intention, but I like it when that happens.
He was my teacher in the USC Film Scoring Program. He was the badass that we all hung around before and after class, because he was so cool--and entertaining.
How did you work with him ?
I’ve actually never worked with him outside of class at USC. I’ve worked on a couple of movies that he also worked on, but our paths didn’t really cross during the projects themselves.
How did you work with the crew of Spidey 3 ? The director?
I had the incredible opportunity to work directly with Sam Raimi on Spiderman 3. He was definitely running a three ring circus by the time I got on the project, but somehow I was able to meet with him a number of times which was really great.
Did you appeal to the same orchestrator as Chris Young ? The same orchestra? What size of orchestra did you use?
I recorded with the same orchestra as Chris Young at the same scoring stage. The only difference is that I didn’t need those bass saxophones or whatever was making that cool sound for the Sandman! We had different orchestrators. I worked with Steve Bartek, which was really great. He’s the coolest.
Who greenlights you work ? Chris Young or the director ?
I definitely wasn’t around for the approval process, but I think it was done by the director and producers. The cue submissions and approvals were often facilitated by the music editors—who worked tirelessly.
These two tasks require different sets of skills and have very unique challenges and rewards. I work quite a bit as an arranger on records as well, and it’s those arranger skills that come into play when I’m working in collaboration with another composer. Writing my own scores can be a nice relief after a musical collaboration is done, but I really enjoy both kinds of work. I’d say the level of difficulty is about equal.
In what way does your collaboration with different composer help your style evolve ? Please, may you explain?
Striving to look at a film through another composers eyes and adapting that musical style is one of the most valuable experiences a young composer can have when developing their own style. It sounds odd that
To you, what is the most interesting, the most successful or the most complex scene you had to score for this film? May you tell me how you did it? May you analyze for us the relation you created between picture and music?
One of the more challenging things was to come up with the music for the last scene in the film with Peter and MJ at the music club. I worked with Mary Jane’s theme quite a bit in the film, and there were some big challenges in this. When the theme was written for the first film, Peter and MJ were young, innocent, and experiencing true love for the first time. In Spiderman 3, they’ve grown up, and life is not such a fairy tale anymore. That last scene is certainly not just a happy ending by any means. However, it was important to keep the themes very much intact and recognizable rather than to develop them into that darker place. It was a bit of a puzzle.
Well, the whole thing is a bit of a blur. Sometimes I’m still not sure if it was real or all part of my imagination. I think the most memorable moment for me was on the last scoring day when there were three different composers all writing cues based on the same themes, and a few times we were all doing the same scene. It was such a trip to hear all those different takes on the same material. It was like having three different cover bands playing the same song. I loved it.
How did you approach the scoring of a sequel?
You have to learn the material from the previous films extremely well. When your homework is watching the Spiderman movies, I’d say life is pretty cool.
Not that I know of.
Why didn’t you work on Danny Elfman’s Meet the Robinsons ?
At one point there was a possibility of me doing some work on it, but from what I've heard, the process on that one was so smooth that he didn't need any extra help. I think I would've been brought in if there were any surprise picture changes or an unexpected challenge late in the game, but I think things basically went as planned.
Would you like to be Spiderman’s girlfriend ?
I think the movie actor is taken, but if you're talking about the real Spidey, sure, tell him I said hi.
Are you working on another project? If yes, may you tell me about it? Do you have any other projects to come?
I just finished a movie called Sydney White which was directed by my good friend Joe Nussbaum. I have a movie coming up at Warner Brothers called Spring Breakdown starring Parker Posey, Rachel Dratch, and Amy Poehler. I'm currently producing an album for a stage musical called Bare.
What if you were offered your dream project… What would it be ?
There's so much I want to do. I'd love to work on some top notch movie musicals. Also, I'd love to work on really good movies meant for young people. Every so often, a movie comes out that treats kids like they're smart and capable of appreciating really good stories.