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Out of the Shadows
A conversation with composer Conrad Pope

"...I have cleared my schedule to orchestrate on Harry Potter, then Minority Report and then Episode 2 of Star Wars.  It truly was a privilege to work for a person  of the caliber of John Williams for Episode One.   He truly is a master."
» Conrad Pope




The Interview - April 18, 2001     



General Info:

Studied at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Awarded The George Chadwick Medal

Studied composition and piano at the Hochschule fuer Musik (Munich, Germany)

Studied at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood

Completed graduate work at Princeton.

Co-Founder of Music: Here and Now

Received the Moxie! Award for Best Film Composer at the Santa Monica International Film Festival (2001) for The Rising Place.

Composition Credits:
Pavilion of Women

The Rising Place

The Amati Girls

Ghost Ship

Orchestration Credits:
Harry Potter


Minority Report

Star Wars: Episode 2

The Mexican

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

The Lost World

Patriot Games

The Rocketeer









CC: You’ve done quite a bit of orchestrating on John Williams, James Horner, and Alan Silvestri projects.

CP:  I have been fortunate enough to work with just about everybody in the business.  Actually, I’ve orchestrated on over 120 films – many times uncredited.  I just finished working on Alan Silvestri’s score for The Mexican.  I couldn’t help on “The Return of the Mummy” as I’ve been preparing to go to China to conduct a series of concerts featuring the Pavilion of Women score.

CC:  Yes.  I see.  I certainly want to ask you more about Pavilion of Women in just a second. 

CP:  Well, I have been very lucky to work with (John) Williams on A.I.  We just finished that.  If everything goes well, we’ll be set to work on Harry Potter starting June 25th.

CC:  Now, I have got ask.  Will you be working on Star Wars:  Episode 2?

CP:  Right now, I have cleared my schedule to orchestrate on Harry Potter, then Minority Report and then Episode 2 of Star Wars.  It truly was a privilege to work for a person of the caliber of John Williams for Episode One.   He truly is a master.

CC:  It appears you have developed a good working relationship with John Williams seeing as you are going to be involved in his four, big, upcoming releases.

CP:  Yes.  I’m fortunate enough to have a good relationship with John as well as with his principle orchestrator, John Neufeld.  He has actually known Williams for some 40 years now.  He actually started playing clarinet under him.  Luckily for me, when they need a little bump, they give me a call.

CC:  Well, that has to be exciting!

CP:  Having worked on every level of this business, and I won’t bore you with the low of the lows and the climb from the “ooze,” I feel very, very fortunate.  Of course, doing Pavilion of Women, a film of such high quality, I feel all the more fortunate.

CC:  So you’ve worked with just about everyone in the business.  Who do you enjoy working with most?

CP:  I’d say I genuinely enjoy working with all the guys, but these days I tend to work for John Williams and for Alan Silvestri.  I used to love working with James Horner; unfortunately, I don’t any longer.  When I did, I thought he was a great person to work for.  In the “business” we sometimes call composers “leaders.”  He was a great leader.

CC:  Now you worked with Horner on Patriot Games.

CP:  Yes on Patriot Games and also Rocketeer.  The Rocketeer was my first big chance to orchestrate.  Neufeld was the main guy and then there was another by the name of Elliot Kaplan.  They got behind and so they brought me on board for The Rocketeer.  That was a great pleasure because I just love the music for that one.

CC:  Now in Patriot Games you actually got credit in the liner notes.

CP:  Yes, I finally got credit in the notes with Patriot Games.

CC:  I just had a quick look at the notes for the original Sony Classical release for Episode 1, but didn’t find your name there, unfortunately.

CP:  John’s point is that, he is the author of that music – fully and completely.  When you take one of his albums, he is saying, “Look I am the architect of all the colors and you (the orchestrator) have just executed them.”  And this makes perfect sense.  I’m the same way.

CC:  But you are credited in many of the film credits.

CP:  Yes.  You see, in the picture business the orchestration credit is a specific facet of the “picture” business NOT the “music” business.   So John makes sure, once you have achieved a certain status with him, that you’ll get that credit in the picture, but not on the album.

CC:  Now, you have done orchestrating, arranging, composing and conducting.  Is there one that you enjoy doing most?

CP:  I started out as a concert composer but ended up in the movie business.  If I’m not composing, I have actually begun to enjoy conducting.  Even last Summer I did a concert in Bulgaria of Star Wars music…and E.T.  I do enjoy conducting because working with musicians is a great kick and to hear the music come alive – that has been the best thing.

CC:  Now you have studied classical music in Europe and are now composing film music in North America.  Do you see fundamental differences between film music from one continent to the other?

CP:  I’d have to say, “Yes.”  I’d say the Europeans have a different slant on film music.  In the US, our scores tend to be more “athletic” and are filled with a lot of power.  We also tend to follow the arc of the picture.  The Europeans tend to find the poetic-heart of the picture – like Morricone finds a great theme and then that theme plays every time that character appears.  They try to capture the heart or the central feeling of the film, while here in the US, we tend to follow the dramatic ebb and flow of a film.




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