If You Go
* What: "The Matrix Live," featuring composer Don Davis conducting the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera
* When: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2
* Where: The Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.
* Admission: $19-$49
* Phone: 267-8583
The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera is asking people to register for the Southeast Film Music Symposium, set for March 1-3, by today.
Space is limited for the event's first year, which includes presentations by professionals in the film music industry, a movie screening, concert rehearsals and performances that showcase film composing.
Chattanooga native George S. Clinton, whose credits include film scores for the "Austin Powers," "Mortal Kombat" and "The Santa Clause" franchises, is the artistic advisor for the symposium. Other guests include Paul Mariano, Kurt Norton, Peter Golub, Edmund Stone, Doreen Ringer Ross, Don Davis and Robert Bernhardt.
Admission is $150, which grants entry into the opening reception, screening of the documentary "These Amazing Shadows," seminars and presentations, Saturday lunch, admission to "Hooray for Hollywood" and "The Matrix Live" rehearsals and concerts.
A student rate of $50 is available for Saturday's symposium events through dress rehearsal. Individual tickets to "The Matrix Live" and "Hooray for Hollywood" also are available.
To view a downloadable brochure, visit www.southeastfilmmusic.org, or call the CSO box office at 423-267-8583.
Some of Don Davis' film-scoring credits include:
• "House on Haunted Hill" (1999)
• "Jurassic Park III" (2001)
• "Antitrust" (2001)
• "Valentine" (2001)
• "The Unsaid" (2001)
• "Behind Enemy Lines" (2001)
• "Long Time Dead" (2002)
• "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever" (2002)
• "The Matrix Reloaded" (2003)
• "The Matrix Revolutions" (2003)
• "The Animatrix" (2003)
• "The Marine" (2006)
• "The Good Life" (2007)
Writing a score for a movie is hard enough; performing it live while that movie is onscreen above you is some serious heavy lifting.
But in March, with musical muscles flexed, composer Don Davis will be standing, baton in hand, in front of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera as it performs his score to science-fiction blockbuster "The Matrix" while the movie plays on the screen of the Tivoli Theatre.
"I've worked out the kinks and I know where the booby traps are having done it," he says. "But it's really quite different from recording a score for a film because (when recording), if you make a mistake, you stop and record it over."
No such do-overs when the music is live.
The "Matrix" score has some intricate and speedy passages, "so just getting off a little bit is disaster, but if I'm on top of it, then the orchestra is on top of it and that is a thrill that is beyond description really," says Davis.
Titled "The Matrix Live," the March 2 performance is part of the inaugural Southeast Film Music Symposium set for March 1-3. The symphony, which is presenting the event, will perform two concerts on back-to-back days.
"It will be a crazy couple of days, but it should be a lot of fun," said CSO Executive Director Molly Sasse.
The symposium will end March 3 with "Hooray for Hollywood," the CSO's annual tribute to Tinseltown favorites in which CSO Music Director Emeritus Robert Bernhardt will conduct a run through of some of Tinseltown's movie favorites, including works by John Williams, Max Steiner and Dmitri Tiomkin.
This year's show also features guest conductors George S. Clinton and Peter Golub. Clinton will conduct his "Austin Powers Suite," taken from his work on the Austin Powers franchise, and Golub will premiere his suite from his "These Amazing Shadows," a documentary about the work of The National Film Registry.
Over the phone from his home in California, Davis says he has performed "The Matrix" with symphonies around the world and, while playing the soundtrack live is thrilling, it does have it's challenges.
When the music is being recorded for the movie, all musicians wear headphones so they can hear a click track to stay on beat. "Live, I'm the only one who has clicks," Davis says.
In the 1999 film's score, Davis used orchestral, choral and synthesizer elements. He also scored the follow-ups "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions." Davis said he knew upon first seeing the script that "The Matrix" and its dystopian world in which Earth is dominated by sentient machines would be groundbreaking.
"I was delighted to see a script that was about Descartes and the Cartesian cogito ["I think, therefore I am"], as well as Plato's "The [Allegory of the] Cave," he says.
The allegory tells the story of a group of people who have lived all their lives in a cave, chained and facing a blank wall. From behind them, a fire projects shadows of manipulated puppets on the blank wall and they begin to see the shadows as true reality. Plato said that many people are like those prisoners, seeing only the shadows of life and knowing nothing of true reality.
"To see something like that occur in a movie that was made for mass consumption like 'The Matrix,' my feeling was that it was a watershed moment," Davis says.
Davis says he found the whole experience to be "liberating."
"I was free to be as creative as the writers/directors were and free to explore stylistic choices that I wouldn't be free to try on other films."
Film music, according to Davis, can be vital to establish the emotional reaction being sought by the director. Moviegoers sometimes need auditory clues so they'll know how to react, he says.
"What a film score needs to do is to help the audience along with their suspension of disbelief," he says. "I think that goes all across the board. There are almost always moments where the audience needs to have permission to relate to the film."
Davis has scored all types of films and says writing for comedies is the hardest because "as a composer, you give the audience permission to laugh, but you can go too far. It is a very tricky tightrope, I find."
Conversely, if most horror films didn't have music, the audience would laugh, he says.
"Horror films have a specific need for music. Just look at a horror film objectively and it can almost make you laugh. The fake blood and special effects. Without music telling you that the noise you hear is scary, it can almost be silly."
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...