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May 2, 2003

 

Composer Christopher Lennertz
The Pen and the Baton

Biography


Born near Boston, Massachusetts

Wrote first song in fifth grade

Studied music at USC under Elmer Bernstein, Buddy Baker, and David Raskin

Resides in Los Angeles, CA.

Official Web Site
 

Composition Credits

Dr. Doolitte 3

Shark Bait

Supernatural (TV)

Gun (Game)


Medal of Honor:
Dogs of War (Game)


Medal of Honor:
Rising Sun (Game)

Medal of Honor:
Pacific Assault (Game)

America! (Hallmark)

Back by Midnight

Brimstone (TV)

The Fourth Tenor

Lured Innocence

Piranha (Showtime)

Saint Sinner (USA)

The Strip (TV)

Warning: Parental Advisory (VH-1)
 

Other Credits:

101 Dalmations
(Orchestration)

The Jungle Book
(Electronic sequencing)

Free Willy II
(Score Production)

Michael Jackson's History (Music Editing)

Unfaithful
(Source music)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Christopher Lennertz - The Pen and the Baton Tracksounds was able to catch up, via cell phone, with composer Christopher Lennertz as he spent a few days vacation on the East Coast.  Christopher Lennertz shares about how the early portion of his budding film music career is going, the pluses and minuses of being a part of a composing team, and his passion for conducting.

 

The Interview

ďI donít think youíd find anyone who is very successful in this business who you couldnít sit down to dinner with and later see what it is about them, outside of their music, that makes them bond with a director. It is that ďbondĒ that keeps directors coming back to them to do more and more scores."

Christopher Lennertz

CC: What has your experience, as what some might call an ďup and comingĒ composer, been like?

CL:  Well, I just turned thirty, so Iím in a situation where Iím just thankful that I have opportunity to write movie scores for a living. Iím not working under the same sort of budgets, like a James Horner is, so that puts me in a challenging position of having to do a score with thirteen people as opposed to one hundred. At the same time, it allows me to do cool things like writing an entire score for a string quartet and guitar.

CC: You definitely have to be more resourceful and creative in that situation.

CL:  Absolutely! I think Iíll be better prepared when I finally get the big one though!

CC: Do you aggressively pursue the ďBig One?Ē

CL:  My main goal is to do features (feature films), but, you know, that has more to do with developing relationships with film-makers. I think coming out to Southern California and going to USC, Iíve met a lot of film-makers who are also ďon their way upĒ right now. I think all I really need is one of those independent films that end up being very good at a Sundance or other film festival and then gets a theatrical release. Thatís what happened with John Ottman with THE USUAL SUSPECTS.  Actually, there are a couple things on the horizon for me, but, of course, I canít talk about them yet!

CC: Video game scores are becoming increasingly popular. Have you considered that avenue?

I have, as a matter of fact. I just donít really know anyone in that business!

CC: Do you think your style of composing lends itself to the video-game medium?

CL:  I think my proficiency is in epic, thematic music, not the minimalistic, wallpaper sort of music, which some directors love and want. I worked with Basil Poledouris for about two years and to me that is what is all aboutÖthat sort of CONAN THE BARBARIAN, big, huge orchestra thing. You just canít forget that score!

Elmer Bernstein, another teacher of mine at film school said to me, that if you canít whistle it on your way out of the theater, then you havenít done a good job. To me thatís what I love about film scoring and if that style is incorporated into a video game, then I think I'd fit.

CC: It seems that there is room for big, orchestral scores in the video game business. Michael Giacchino seemed to have taken game-music to another level with his work for the MEDAL OF HONOR series.

CL:  Yes, he has done some great work! I was in Seattle doing the score for BEER MONEY, which was actually the day after he (Giacchino) left. He had just done MEDAL OF HONOR: UNDERGROUND and the musicians were still playing some of the music that he had written as we set up. It just struck me as really big, wonderful, movie music. I would love the opportunity to do something like thatÖif there are any video game people out there (reading) this! (laughs)

CC: Would you say that it is true with the film-music world, that its not what you know but who you know?

CL:  Well, there arenít a whole bunch of people out there doing this (film music) who arenít good. If there are, say, 4,000 people out there who are good, then out of that 4,000, there are probably 400 who have the social and self-promotional skills to actually get work. Now, out of those 400, there are probably 40 to 80 or who ďreallyĒ well connectedÖor potentially, even lucky.

If you look at any successful composer in this business you will see that they each have their own sort of charm. Hans Zimmer has a very different, European charm while Basil Poledouris has this your-friend-from-next-door sort of charm and then Danny Elfman has this creative-rock-star-charm. I donít think youíd find anyone who is very successful in this business who you couldnít sit down to dinner with and later see what it is about them, outside of their music, that makes them bond with a director. It is that ďbondĒ that keeps directors coming back to them to do more and more scores.

CC: Do you think being a part of a Media Ventures or Asche & Spencer sort of composer-group has any advantages?

CL:  There is definitely an advantage, especially regarding Media Ventures, for those composers coming from Europe who donít really know anyone in the US. For them, if they connect with Hans Zimmer, who is pretty generous about giving credit to these composers, and then recommends them for films he personally canít do, it is a big advantage. Iíve worked with Mark Mancina a lot, and Hans Zimmer really made his career. So I think there is an advantage to that, if that is where you start.

Personally, since I have already been on my own and have a good agent, I couldnít see myself jumping into something like that. Still, I donít think itís a bad thing at all.

CC: Well, what if two or three of your close composing-buddies decided form a similar group? Would that be more appealing?

CL:  Not necessarily. I did one project in a co-composing scenario with a close friend of mine and I think, in the end it didnít sound like either one of us. It didnít have an identity and was a bit generic because we were both trying not to take over too much artistic ownership. We had an extremely short time to do this and almost ended up killing each other in the process. I value my friendships, so I donít think it is worth putting them in jeopardy like that.

CC: Now youíve done a good deal of conducting as well.

CL:  I really love to role of conductor as well. I still conduct other peopleís works. I have conducted quite a few things for Bryan Tyler. I conducted one day for Michael Kamen for 101 DALMATIANS, when he couldnít be there.  I just love doing it, because I love the orchestra.

CC: Now from perspective of a composer, how hard would it be for you to allow someone else to conduct your music?

CL:  I would have a problem with it. I know what I want to hear. At the same time, I completely understand why people donít conduct their own scores. Some, like James Newton Howard, prefer to be in the booth so that he can hear every little nuanceÖand when youíre conducting you canít necessarily hear them. So I understand that, but for me, itís more of a matter of fun and control. I love being that close to the players. I like be able to look at the French Horn player before the solo and give him a nod, just so he knows that it all rests with him for the next eight bars. Thatís something that only I know, because I wrote it.

CC: Now, what kind of look would you give him to communicates that?

CL:  A lot times what youíll do, if itís a big, sweeping thing, is widen your stance, take your baton, and motion in a much more circular and fluid manner. Even if you breathe in deeply and look at the musician when you do it, they will breathe in deeply as well.  The musicians know that they are suppose to play out with more emotion and power. Some of these musicians are just so good at picking those subtleties up. Even if you open your eyes a little wider or give them a little hint like that, they'll play with 20 or 30% more emotion, just because youíve given them the opportunity to do so.

CC: Any particular conductor influence your conducting style?

CL:  My hero was Leonard Bernstein. I was watching conduct in New York and it honestly looked like he was going to have a heart-attack and pass out by the end of the concert! There was just all of this emotion that poured from every move and the orchestra just followed that. It was just amazing to me. It is such unique experience to be that connected to people who are speaking with musical tones instead of spoken language.

Iíve also seen Bruce Broughton and Basil Poledouris at work, as well as Michael Kamen (whom Iíve orchestrated for). I also studied conducting in a master class with Jerry Goldsmith and I saw him actually conduct STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT. In that master class, I got to conduct the end credits for that filmÖafter he did, of course. It was interesting to compare and contrast the differences between how I conducted it with how he did.

CC: Before we finish up here, talk a bit about some of your recent scoring projects.

CL:  I just finished another movie for VH-1, entitled WARNING:  PARENTAL ADVISORY, which is all about the 1980ís censorship hearings regarding Frank Zappa and all of that. It was directed by the same man who directed HOUSE OF YES, Mark Waters, which was a pretty cool indie film. He was a great guy to work with and I think Iíll work with him again.

CC: Is it airing now?

CL:  It aired mostly in May (2002), but it will come to DVD and VHS soon.

CC: What is your approach for scoring this film?

Well itís interesting, because we took a sort of comedic approach to the score, so, surprisingly it has a bit of an Elmer Bernstein edge!

CC: Really? As in the ďjazzyĒ Bernstein?

CL:  Yes. They actually temped it with GET SHORTY.

CC: Do you feel directed or limited by having to work from a ďtempĒ track?

CL:  It depends. Ideally, Iíd rather not work with a temp track. That said, when there doesnít happen to be a lot of time, temps can be helpful. In the case of WARNING:  PARENTAL ADVISORY, we did the entire score in fifteen days. So in that instance a bit of temp score helped me follow what they were looking for - a comedic, jazzy score.

Now given enough time, Iíd prefer that they donít do a temp. What the temp does accomplish is that it keeps me from having to do trial and error. Iíd love to spend a week doing the ďtrial and errorĒ myself.  I'd do three or four different styles for the director to go over, say, of the title sequence.  The director could then say which direction heíd like to go. Of course, then youíre going to get a more interesting and more original score.  This is why I like to work with directors over and over, if I can, and get brought onto movies early. Then, while they are still editing, I can jump in and do those sorts of things.


CC: What else do you have coming up?

CL:  I worked with a director, John Butler, last year on a film entitled BEER MONEY, which aired on USA networks. He is doing another movie for the Sci-Fi Channel, SAINT/ SINNER, which is a Clive Barker production. Itís a bit of a horror film, but it has time travel, demons, and religious overtones. In this case, we have enough time, so here we can come up with several ideas early on and donít have to rely on a temp score.  I'll be heading off to Budapest, Hungary to record the score!  I'm pretty excited about that!

CC: Well, thank you so much for you time and all the best to you in upcoming projects!

CL:  Thanks Chris and take care.


 

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