CHILD OF GIANTS, my first film score, tells a story of two titans of American photography and painting that happened to be married to one another – the documentary photographer Dorothea Lange and western painter Maynard Dixon – and the effect their careers had on their two young sons, Daniel and John. Expressing in sound the power and majesty of their art was a challenge that actually came quite naturally to me. The combination of poetry and realism in their work had long haunted me. Director Tom Ropelewski took a chance on me as a first-time film composer and I have to say we were both surprised and gratified with how well it turned out. This well-received documentary has played in film festivals around the world and aired on KQED, the PBS affiliate in San Francisco.


TAKING THE LONG VIEW is a documentary about the great Chinese mathematician Chern Shiing-shen directed by George Csicsery. My challenge was to express Dr. Chern’s Chinese ancestry and upbringing (naturally, one had to make use of the pentatonic scale) in a manner that suggested Chinese music but would not be crude parody of it. Something about the dignity of the subject made this easier. I also had to find a way to suggest the unfathomable inner space of higher mathematics. We had to write, perform and record this music in a very short amount of time, so the completion of this project turned out to be doubly rewarding. For this score, I began employing virtual instruments to create musical cues with symphonic color and weight.


17 GAUSS WAY is a short film directed by George Csicsery about the building that houses the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI),  which overlooks  San Francisco Bay from atop the Berkeley hills. From the outset, George wanted a score inspired by baroque music, so I immediately put on my powdered wig and went to work composing some stately contrapuntal sequences and even a canon. As Goethe famously observed, architecture is frozen music, so in the courtly geometries of Handel and Corelli we found an appropriate analogue for this cool modern edifice.

17 Gauss Way from Simons Foundation on Vimeo.

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