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Listening for China's great movie music

(Shanghai Daily)

09:15, June 28, 2013

Nathan Wang, Chinese movie soundtrack composer with a long list of credits including "Sophie's Revenge".(Photo/Shanghai Daily)

Movie music is still in its infancy in China, the process is rush rush rush, music like movies is merchandise, composers' pay is low, so is creativity, and there are issues of intellectual property.

That's the view of noted composers, including visiting Chinese American Nathan Wang and professor An Dong from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, who composed the music for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

But there are many young composers who are passionate and interested in film music ? they need experience and a chance.

The film industry is maturing, and good directors are bound to realize that a good film needs a good score, and a memorable theme. And a great film needs a great theme.

So maybe there will be a Chinese John Williams, the American composer of iconic scores for "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones," "Superman" and "Jaws."

"It just takes one movie, one director who is really passionate about music and is willing to spend as much money and efforts to put into the music," said Wang who was in Shanghai this month to conclude recording his soundtrack for the upcoming film "My Lucky Star" directed by Zhang Ziyi.

"You need a John Williams," said Wang. "I think when somebody is able to do that, then all of a sudden it kind of unlocks the heavens and people will definitely notice music a lot more.'

An was less upbeat.

"Sound track composing is going the same way as the films, most films are merchandise that is not high in artistic value. In this case, the director doesn't have high requirements and it's more like a routine ... I think in reality the Chinese film music is going toward a more functional and utilitarian path."

Wang, who is in his 50s, has long list of credits including "Sophie's Revenge" (2009), a romantic comedy. "My Lucky Star" is a sequel that he describes as "sort of cat and mouse."

In a studio at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Wang and conductor Qian Yu led the RJ Big Band, a local jazz ensemble, to conclude the soundtrack. The producer had wanted something very much like "Ocean's Eleven," with a big-band sound, he said.

Wang has also composed for string orchestra and recorded with the Beijing Philharmonic earlier.

His projects in film, television and documentary include "Charlie's War," the latest Jackie Chan movie "Chinese Zodiac," Disney's "The Game Plan," the documentary "The Lost Children of Berlin," and the animation "Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry."

"Writing music for any genre is always exciting, the music is about story-telling and being able to support the kind of story the producer and director want to tell," he says.

Many composers and their teams can complete three or four full-length feature films a year and fast production definitely can impact creativity, Wang says. "It's the nature of the business."

"But the more time you have to think about the project and to be brought on board in an early stage, the better," he says. "That gives you more connection to the people involved in the movie."

A typical production can take nine months to a year, and producer and director often meet with composers at the very end. Wang says he often has four to six weeks to compose.

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Email|Print|Comments(Editor:LiXiang、Yao Chun)

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