|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.
The Numinosum Blog
You can now watch scenes from my new score to Ernst Lubitsch's 1922 film The Loves of Pharaoh. Commissioned for the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) 30th Next Wave Festival and performed live with a screening of a restored version of the film by Numinous October 18, 19, 20, 2012 at BAM Harvey Theater (audio recording was done live at October 19, 2012 screening).
The Loves of Pharaoh Act 1 Scenes 1 & 2
Synopsis: A message is received by the King of Egypt from the King of Ethiopia offering an alliance. An accident occurs at the Pharaoh's treasury.
The Loves of Pharaoh Act 2 Scene 2 Ramphis & Theonis
Synopsis: The son of Pharaoh's Treasury builder, Ramphis, and the slave girl stolen from the Ethiopian King's daughter, Theonis, begin their falling in love but the Pharaoh has other plans.
The Loves of Pharaoh Act 3 Scenes 1 & 2 & 3
Synopsis: Pharaoh "loves" Theonis, Theonis loves Ramphis, so Pharaoh plans to kill Ramphis, unless...
The Loves of Pharaoh Act 4 Scenes 3 & 4 & 5
Synopsis: Theonis becomes Queen to save her love Ramphis while the Ethiopian army approaches Egypt; Ramphis escapes the prison quarry and returns to his father
The Loves of Pharaoh Act 5 Scene 3
Synopsis: Ramphis goes to Pharaoh's Treasury to seek revenge on the imprisoned Queen for the cause of his father being blinded and finds an unexpected surprise
The Loves of Pharaoh Act 6 Scene 3
Synopsis: After being believed killed by the Ethiopian King in battle, King Amenes returns to Egypt to claim his wife and maybe his throne
The Loves of Pharaoh Act 6 Scene 4 & 5
Synopsis: Two Kings and one Queen, the Game of Thrones begins…
Flutes: Jessica Schmitz
Clarinets/Saxophone: Ken Thomson
Trumpet: Stephanie Richards
Horn: Lis Rubard
Tuba: Jacob Garchik
Guitar: Amanda Monaco
Vibraphone: Tom Beckham
Piano/Keyboard: Carmen Staaf
Celtic Harp: Maeve Gilchrist
Voice 1: Sara Serpa
Voice 2: Jean Rohe
Violin 1: Ana Milosavljevic
Violin 2: Scott Tixier
Viola 1: Hannah Levinson
Viola 2: Brian Lindgren
Cello 1: Richard Vaudrey
Cello 2: Mariel Roberts
Bass: Matt Aronoff
Conductor: Joseph C. Phillips Jr.
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 6:08 PM
Thursday October 10th Numinous will perform on pianist Simone Dinnerstein's Neighborhood Classics concert series. This series features well-known classical artists such as Richard Stoltzman, Maya Beiser, Pablo Ziegler, Zuill Bailey, Simone herself, and many others who donate their time to perform an evening concert at a local NYC public school, with all of the proceeds benefitting programs at that school (the series started at P.S. 321 in Brooklyn and since has expanded to a couple of other schools in the city). It's a wonderful series with incredible performances and ALWAYS sold-out with enthusiastic crowds of parents, kids, and neighbors.
For our show, a reduced-sized Numinous will play live with a screening of a few scenes from my score to Ernst Lubitsch's silent film The Loves of Pharaoh, which premiered at last year's Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)-this will be the first performance with the film since the premiere last October; in addition, we'll perform some of my chamber music including an audience interactive piece based on seeing synchronous fireflies in Malaysia a few years ago and a new composition based on a children's picture book.
Thursday October 10th, 2013
Neighborhood Classics concert series
P.S. 321 Auditorium
180 7th Avenue
You can order tickets here
To get you in the mood below is the promo from the Next Wave Festival performance at BAM last year, with music for a scene from my score to The Loves of Pharaoh.
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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2012
The Loves of Pharaoh was a resounding success this past weekend! Thanks to all of the incredible musicians, the enthusiastic and sold-out audiences, and to BAM, BAMcinématek, and the Next Wave Festival. Check out some other great photos from our show here.
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 4:52 PM
Here's the official trailer from BAM for our Next Wave Festival performance in October. Tickets are available here. In a few weeks I'll post video and discuss a completed scene featuring a full version of the music you hear in the trailer, so check back!
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 11:43 AM
The schedule for the 2012 BAM Next Wave Festival was just announced yesterday and this year the Festival will include Numinous! I have been commissioned by the Next Wave Festival to compose an original score to the newly restored silent film, The Loves of Pharaoh by director Ernst Lubitsch. Numinous will perform the score live with the film at the new Steinberg Screen at BAM's Harvey Theater. We are deeply honored to be apart of the one of the preeminent festivals in the country, especially in this its 30th year. This has been in the works for a while now so I'm happy to (finally!) share the news.
Here's the info:
October 18, 19, 20, 2012
The Harvey Theater
651 Fulton Street
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Tickets: $25, $35
Subway: 2, 3, Q, B, to Atlantic
C to Lafayette
N to Pacific Street
Film runs about 100 minutes, with no intermission
Tickets are available at www.bam.org/nextwavefestival.
There will be an Artist Talk on Friday October 19 after the showing, featuring myself and Thomas Bakels of Alpha-Omega Digital GmbH, who did a wonderful job with the restoration (they also did the digital work on the 2001 and 2010 restorations of Fritz Lang's Metropolis).
Released in 1922, this film was Lubitsch's last silent film in Germany before coming to Hollywood; in fact, this film was a calling card to Hollywood to show he could direct spectacle and "a cast of thousands" as well as D.W. Griffith in his infamous influential The Birth of a Nation (1915). Like that film, as well as later epic films such as Fred Niblo's Ben-Hur (1925) or Cecille B. Demille's The Ten Commandments (1923), The Loves of Pharaoh is grand in scope and ambition and shows a master director's skill even though it was a few years away from the famous musicals and comedies that cemented him and his "Lubitsch touch" in the pantheon of great Hollywood "Golden Age" directors from the 1930s and 1940s.
(photo credits: top photo, scene from The Loves of Pharaoh from Alpha-Omega; bottom photo, German poster from IMDb)
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 3:47 PM
On Monday John Turturro screened his film Passione at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) as a fundraiser for the school I teach at P.S. 321 (THANKS JOHN!!!). The film, which he directs, is a heartfelt tribute, a musilogue if you will, through Naples, Italy. John described it at the fundraiser as a sort of "Italian 'Buena Vista Social Club'" and there are some similarities between the two films (GREAT music and personalities). However most people in the States probably have little knowledge of Neapolitan music going in, whereas Cuban music is more widely known.Personally, I knew very little about the music of Naples before seeing the film and must say was quite impressed with the mixed music tendencies inherent in the influences; music from the Middle East, Spain, reggae, Catalan, America, and more all meet in a culture of miscegenation. It was an ear-opening experience and when the film is released in the States on June 22, I would suggest GO-SEE-IT!
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 12:56 AM
I'm not a gamer, nor much of a DC Universe guy (Marvel was mostly my comic of choice back in the day) but I have to say that this looks cool. I'd pay $12 to see this movie (live action or CGI), well if it were a movie instead of a game. Glad Green Lantern's coming but where's the Wonder-Woman movie? Or how about a Deathstroke movie? From this game clip, I'd say bring it on! Well I hope DC gets their act together someday for a Justice League movie at least, Marvel can't have all of the fun with the Avengers...DC, I'd even pay $20 for the 3D version...
On a Marvel note, heard the first looks at Comic-Con of the upcoming Captain America and Thor movies, were positive. I hope so...Avengers Assemble! (thanks Shadow and Act for the tip on the video)
Exclusive Who Do You Trust Trailer HD
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 1:12 PM
Last night I went to see director James Cameron's Avatar. I did enjoyed the film and its vertiginous use of CGI technological advancements in telling a basic (and often quite predictable, although not unenjoyable) story. And since seeing the film I have had subsequent continued contemplation of the movie's ecological message, with the obvious corollary to our own world. Despite my pleasure at the world James Cameron and crew placed on the screen, there was one aspect of the film which left me a bit disappointed: the music.
James Horner, the composer of the score to Avatar, has worked with James Cameron on a few previous films such as Aliens and of course Titanic (THE-GREAT-EST-MO-VIE-E-VER-MADE!) and he has a controversial reputation in film music circles as a recycler of his own themes and motifs as well as some say a, ahem, 'borrower', of themes and motifs from other composers (in Avatar, I notice a few obvious moments of recycled Horner, such as a snare motif borrowed from 1986's Aliens which in itself, was also used in 1982's Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan). Avatar's music is generally pleasant and serves the film's visuals passably as the sound world James Horner creates certainly having elements from what we've come to expect from blockbuster film music. For example, rousing and rhythmic battle scene music to accompany the hordes of CGI warriors (with a parallel to Howard Shore's score to The Lord of the Rings), an exotic sounding choir matched with ethnic percussion (similar to Ennio Morricone's music to The Mission, with nods to Horner's own Titanic), and the requisite 'hit song' during the closing credits and which, not always but often, seem out of place and jarring, as it did in Avatar (think the song at the end of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or "My Heart Will Go On" at the end of THE-GREAT-EST-MO-VIE-E-VER-MADE). But in many ways the music is an antipode to the visual technological innovations.
Why do directors, who claim to be breaking boundaries in their films, fall back on using standard movie music memes? In Avatar, sadly there is no musicological equivalent for the stunning visual world saturated with beautiful dendrological, entomological, botanical, zoological, and geological interest and imagination (most things are based on recognizable earthly models such as a glowing forest floor, the 'helicopter' lizard, the white butterfly-like seed from the sacred tree which looked like a cross between a jellyfish and a dandelion seed head, and the Hallelujah Mountains (which all during the film I was speculating on how they would be able to float, perhaps some kind of terrestrial variation on Lagrangian points)). And while there is not much source music in the movie (music that emerges from a source in and from the world on-screen, as opposed to the music score, which is strictly outside it), the few times there were, particularly a scene toward the end where the entire Na'vi tribe chants, musically it was fairly straight-forward and plain. Now this is not to say the music doesn't help the visual images, but if James Cameron's team were able to create such a visually striking alien people, with their own legends and spoken language which was commissioned for the film, why couldn't there also be some hint of an equally imaginative, forward-sounding music, if not in the score at least in those moments in the film when the aliens are actually singing? Maybe I'm a bit unfair since my criticism stems from what James Horner (and James Cameron) did NOT do and what the music is NOT. After all Star Wars was looking back, not forward with its pseudo-Wagnerian romanticism including its one source material moment, the Cantina Band and its galactic-steel-drum electro-swing. However, where John Williams created a great and memorable score for Star Wars which was in the vanguard of helping popularize a return to big, sweeping 'operatic' orchestral music in movies (after a decline in the 1960s and early 1970s due to more pop music being used), James Horner only creates a decent, functional, and prosaic score. And for a film as 'next generation' as the moving-graphic-novel Avatar, that is disappointing.
(Photos from the official Avatar website)
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 11:15 PM
These last days of December are when some people are not only trying to find that perfect last minute gift but also trying to finish watching their favorite classic holiday movies and TV shows. Are you really allowed to watch It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street anytime besides December? In this age of DVD, Blu-ray, and movies-on-demand, there was always something special about only being able to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and the many great Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass shows Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Frosty the Snowman when they were shown on network TV in December. If you didn't see it then, sadly you had to wait until next year--and you made sure you did (remember there was also a time when you could eat only vegetables and fruits that were in-season (am I the only one or does 6 inches of snow on the ground and green beans and oranges in the fresh produce aisle doesn't seem to go together?); luckily for me, the one thing that is still seasonal is egg nog and another reason to look forward to this time of year!).
These past couple of weekends we have watched two films, along with some of the above, that have become favorite parts of our Christmastime movie traditions: Love Actually and Millions. Both are British films, from 2003 and 2004 respectively, and while neither are cinematic tour de forces, they are movies that are modest and lovely in their own rights, with charming performances and characters: from Love Actually, the scene with Emma Thompson, when she gets a present from her husband (Alan Rickman, he of another holiday classic, Die Hard) is both beautiful and heart wrenching--one feels the interior anguish of Emma's character as she grapples with multiple emotions, all done with no words, just her facial expressions and the words and music of Joni Mitchell's song "Both Sides Now" (and Wayne Shorter's plaintive and tasteful cooing on the soprano saxophone) the only sounds we hear in the scene; the Liam Neesom character, who at the start of the film is grieving the loss of his wife (watching it now, it is strangely prescient, with the tragic death of Natasha Richardson, Liam Nelson's real-life former wife, in March of this year); the sad call of duty in the life of the Laura Linney character; the joy of happiness that radiates from the character played by Martine McCutcheon, particularly at very the end, makes me smile every time; and the story of the romance of the Colin Firth character and the one played by the beautiful Portuguese singer Lúcia Moniz and from Millions: the little boy who sees and talks and interacts with saints, obscure and known, throughout the film; the scene when St. Joseph helps out during the Nativity play at school; the little boy giving money to Mormon missionaries and what they do with the money.
The full synopsis of both films can be found on-line including here and here but if you haven't seen either film, or even if you have, add them to your holiday lists of films to watch and they might become classics for you too.
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 8:52 PM
Along with being busy converting and editing Pulse and Numinous videos, last weekend I finished Donald Spoto's Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and his Leading Ladies. I originally checked this book out from the library to take with me on my Paris trip early last week; I wanted something light and fun for the plane ride. However the Hitchcock quote on the front cover was an indication that this book wasn't going to be what I thought: "The trouble today is that we don't torture women enough." Ah, okay. Now once I began reading the book, I found the context for the quote-Hitchcock was describing the traditional way, since the early days of film, of creating excitement on-screen: the "lady in distress" which Hitch felt (at that time) was lost. However, I'm thinking Hitchcock actually DID believe in his quote what with the treatment endured by many of his leading women, usually from Hitchcock himself, which was often rude and controlling, sometimes misogynistic, and with a few women, downright sexual harassment.
Now growing up, I knew OF Hitchcock. He was an icon--the rotund, jowled avuncular figure who made those old horror movies, Psycho and The Birds. Of course I never actually SAW Psycho or The Birds growing up. But I didn't really need to; shower scene (check!), Bates Motel (yep, check!), crazy birds attacking (you betcha!)--I knew it all without ever seeing it because it was all just part of the stream of American culture. I was young when Hitchcock died in 1980 and his death never really marked anything for me. He was apart of that long ago world which also included people such as Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn, Joe "Mr. Coffee" DiMaggio, Princess Grace, and Betty Davis; all of whom were alive when I was younger and while I was cognizant then that they were somebody back in the day (especially Joltin' Joe, since I was hugely into baseball), I knew little to nothing about them at the time, well except for occasional glimpses in the National Enquirer or featured on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.
It wasn't until about six years ago that I began to be interested in Hitchcock and his body of films. I don't really know how it started except that I check out one or two of his movies from the library and was hooked. The 39 Steps, Notorious, Spellbound, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much (both versions), North by Northwest, Shadow of a Doubt, Rear Window (seeing Grace Kelly in that movie inspired me to write a piece about her, "Passion of a Quiet Flower"), Frenzy and yes, finally Psycho and The Birds, I saw all that the library had (seems like I had more time to watch movies back then). I was struck how Hitchcock was able to balance artistic demands, technical virtuosity, humor, and serious psychological and human nature study all wrapped up in a bon-bon that feted a wide and diverse audience, one that Joe Six-Pack and Mademoiselle Cinema-ista could both enjoy. Indeed, Hitchcock was the public's auteur. Even his last movie, Family Plot from 1976, when he was going through the motions and young, hip directors such as Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, and Steven Spielberg seemly past him by, there were still wonderful moments that demonstrated he still had the touch: such as the (literal) killing scene on the staircase where the woman's long purple dress gracefully flows full, all shot from a perspective high above the scene. And of course the music, especially the Bernard Herrmann scores to Psycho and Vertigo, was fantastic. Listening recently I'm still impressed and moved by the end of the shower scene of Psycho and how those strings sound like last gasps of air or the opening montage in Vertigo with the wonderful Eb minor-major 7th, contrasting motion arpeggios with the Saul Bass swirling graphics and later in the film with the growing tension and climax of the Madeleine 'revealing'.
Spellbound by Beauty is a chronological overview of Hitchcock's movies, with a focus on his relationship to not only his leading ladies but also the supporting actresses as well. Through interviews with many actors and actresses, writers, and other collaborators who worked with Hitch over his long career, most agreed that he could be charming and witty and certainly a genius but who was also frustrated sexually which manifested itself through crude sexual and bathroom humor, a controlling manner, and an often standoff-ishness with women not his ideal (of course his ideal was blond: Madeleine Carroll, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Vera Miles, Tippi Hedren). There was one quite sad quote from Hitchcock himself which said he had the same feelings as everyone else, just "wrapped in a body of fat". The book is mostly gossipy, but there are many interesting tales and facts to be found: what wonderful and warm people Ingrid Bergman and Madeleine Carroll were, what a control freak producer David "Gone with the Wind" O. Selznick was, how Tallulah Bankhead was the Lindsay Lohan of her day, and astonished in how the treatment of Tippi Hedren during The Birds and Marnie was criminal and who NEVER happen or be allowed today--the final scene in The Birds basically involved the crew throwing live birds at Tippi Hedren for a week of filming; the isolation, controlling, stalking and sexual harassment on and off set of Marnie. Also there is some interesting analysis of how some of his films, particularly Vertigo and Marnie, could be autobiographical but overall I wasn't very happy with the writing of the book. I guess a question that could be asked is whether all of the salacious details of Hitchcock, change my high opinion of his films? Will Grace Kelly be diminished in my eyes? I hope not (I can still listen to Wagner even though he was a reprehensible person), but even I'm curious to find out if it will the next time I watch Rear Window (I guess either way, I'll always have the first time of the "Kiss")...
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 7:00 AM
Went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince yesterday (no, not the midnight showing-I don't do that anymore...). And while I have eagerly read and loved the books, I have been ambivalent about seeing the movies. In fact this was the first of the movies I have seen in the theatre and have only seen a couple of the previous films adaptations, well after their initial theatrical release. I think one reason I'm not so excited about the films is that they only hint at the fullness of the world JK Rowling created. Yes, film is a different medium and SHOULD be different than the books, but I often find myself missing the subtle nuances that are in the book. And sometimes, because there is only so much time to show things, you get (in my opinion) awkward breaks or gaps (I found that in all of the movies I've seen but an example in Half-Blood Prince is the scene where for the first time in the movie Dumbledore and Harry are talking about the recalled memories of Tom Riddle; this scene seemed to me to come about unprepared).
Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing how the director and creators of the film translate Rowling's words to visual images: the Qudditich scenes in Half-Blood Prince were quite thrilling and exciting and there are many beautifully composed shots, even some of the casual, quiet moments (a shot of Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Jenny just sitting, for example). I really did enjoy the movie but I also felt it more of an expositional penultimate place-holder for the ultimate finish in the next two planned movies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (I felt the same way after seeing Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, it was all just a lead up to revealing Darth Vader in The Revenge of the Sith). It was also exciting to see that one of my former students was one of the 3D artists for Half-Blood Prince. When her name rolled across the credits at the end, I was happy and proud to know that she has done so well for herself.
One other thought after seeing the movie was that it made me realize once more what a wonderful creation JK Rowling came up with when she brought Harry Potter into the world. The books (and many parts of the movie) are such a richly detailed world, full of mystery, humor, fun, and tragedy, it makes me marvel at her imaginative acumen. In many ways, the epic sweep of the books create a totality that mimics the best of all myths and stories. In fact from the lightness of the first two books to the change to a darker, more ominous tone starting with The Prisoner of Azkaban, but more so in Goblet of Fire and the later books chronicling the "dark times", Harry Potter's journey reminds me of the classic enlightenment stories of so many cultures throughout the world. And that kind of creativity is very inspiring to me. Laurie Anderson in an interview said, "I feel that [a] work has really succeeded when somebody says, 'I saw or heard your piece and I got so many ideas from it'" and that good art work makes you "want to jump up and get out of there" and create something yourself. JK Rowling's Harry Potter is a reminder to me to go out and create my own musical worlds equally enriched, layered, textured, and memorable.
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 12:00 PM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.