Back to the Chris(tophe) Beck index page
Disclaimer: The transcript was made by Blunt Instrument. The original interview is not the property of Blunt Instrument.
Source: Fred Karlin and Rayburn Wright - On the track. A guide to contemporary film scoring
Forward by John Williams. Revised Second Edition by Fred Karlin. New York, 2004

Quotes from Christophe Beck

As Christophe Beck discovered, "Directors can have their favorite and least favorite instruments. On a movie I recently did the director came over about once a week to hear cues, and there were a couple of cues with flute and by the time he heard the second cue with flute he haid he didn't like the flute, it was like 'You know, I think i pretty much don't like flute.' And I said, 'Okay, so noted.'"

[On temp tracks] "They say, 'We really don't need you to come this close to the temp. We'd love it, but please, don't feel you have to copy it.'" - Christophe Beck

[Still on the temp] "Sometimes it feels like yit's wide open and there really is a genuine desire to hear an objective person's opinion," Christophe Beck says, "but more often than not this is something they have spent a good deal of time thinking about and talking about and trying different things and for an outsider to just come in a say, 'No, no, it's all wrong,' is very disrespectful, so in that situation (and it's pretty easy to read whether that's the situation or not, and it usually is) then I try to be as respectful as I can to the temp. Obviously every composer tries to avoid being in a situation where they have to rip off another composer, but you can always try to find out what it is about the temp they like, maybe it's a particular instrument, a particular feeling, rather than the whole shebang."

[On working on a small budget] Christophe Beck points out, "I would just say for somebody just starting out, barter with other composers. They may know some composers who were instrumentalists and maybe they could come over and play a little trumpet on something, that kind of thing. You know, if you're doing a really low budget production, even an amateur trumpet player who doesn't play trumpet for a living would sound better than a sample, even if it's not an A-list session player. If it's simple enough, of course."
[is he talking about Hostile Intent???? :O)]

[about mock-ups, demos, etc.]
Composer Christophe Beck expresses a similar concern. "You can't write for the orchestra and then mock it up. You really have to write for the limitations of the sounds you have." He points out that as the sounds continue to improve, there are fewer limitations, but they still do exist. "There are certain kinds of passages that simply don't work. and there are certain kind of instruments that have not been sampled particularly well yet. You'll hear very few trumpets of any kind in 'Buffy [the Vampire Slayers]' scores."

[continued after a small gap - "Making them convincingly real"]
Beck also advises you to be relaxed about using instruments outside their register if the overall effect is good. If you end up orchestrating an out-of-register line, you'll have to adjust accordingly. And, like most experienced synthesists, he suggests playing your parts into the sequencer one by one (Violin A, Violin B, Violas, 1st trumpet, 2nd trumpet, and so on) rather than simply grabbing a full chord with your right hand and playing the entire trumpet section in one pass. For the strings, use different samples or groups of samples for the violins, violas, and celli; this brings more individuality to the sounds in your sampled orchestra.

Beck's technique for bringing life to his performances depends greatly on inserting expression into the music. "When mocking up any sustained sound, my right hand is playing the line and my left hand is on the volume slider. And that's where I get my phrasing. In fact, it's so second nature to me now that I don't even think about it. I just think of that volume slider as an extension of the instrument. And I ride the slider up and down to create breathing and phrasing and forward motion."

[p.103 also has a photo]

[continued after a sizeable gap]
On the other hand, Christophe Beck and Mark Mancina are often careful not to make the mockups too good. ... Beck has discovered that some of his mockup tracks are better than the final live recordings. "I obviously spend a lot less time on my mockups because there are two standards: one is good enough to give an idea for the director and the other is good enough to put on a CD. It's hard to convince yourself that sampled strings sound better than real strings, but certain percussion elements that were just so in my mockups you can't expect another player to get just so. So many sampled elements that are intended toi be replaced by live instruments end up staying in."

[just a mention of an earlier explanation]

[in 'Scoring with electronics']
"I'm not writing anything on paper. So it's basically just a MIDI file." Christophe Beck [no more detail - what is he talking about?]

[part of same section, on 'The Equipment']
"The good news is you really don't need much these days," says Christophe Beck. "When I came out of school you had to spend ten times as much for equipment that was one-tenth as good. These days it's simply a matter of $6,000 or so, starting with nothing, gets you a basic studio that sounds great and that you can do anything with. You may not have the flexibility and the efficiency that you would if you could afford better computers, better equipment, but there's nothing stopping you from making incredible sounding music. With a laptop!"

In the year 2003, what would that get you, Beck suggests this list: "One mid-level Macintosh, one PC to run GigaStudio [a software package, requiring accompanying hardware "for complete functionality," that includes the potential for storage and manipulation of very large samples and sample libraries, using a PC hard drive], a master keyboard, and audio interface so that the audio can get from Giga into the Mac (something like a Mark of the Unicorn 2408 - that's for audio), a MIDI interface, and then maybe a thousand dollars for sound libraries for Giga. Because it doesn't really come to much. If you're desperate and unscrupulous then that thousand dollars could become zero by begging and stealing. That would be a great starter system." You will need a strong sequencing program and hard disc program (something like Digital performer). As Beck says, the cost of the whole package isn't really very much to invest in order to start your own business.

[in 'contemporary scores']
A contemporary drama about a con man (Ed Burns) who works a scam on an accountant for the Mafia, Christophe Beck scored Confidence (2003) with a blend of orchesstra--"a slightly old-fashioned sound in the strings, call it 'Neo-Schmaltz,'" says Beck--and a variety of contemporary elements. "The stylist nature of the film's cinematography and editing suggested an equally stylish approach to the score. I juxtaposed the strings with more overtly futuristic sounds like a sine-wave bass, spacy filter sweeps, and lots of delay effects." Figure 21.6 illustrates how Beck handled the sometimes difficult task of making a very romantic moment sound and feel contemporary. It begins on the fullest statement of the love theme, approximately 62 minutes into the film."

[p.389-91 - excerpt from CONFIDENCE]

[on 'Scoring for television']
Christophe Beck's schedule for Buffy the Vampire Slayer was similar; he spotted on a Tuesday, and the show dubbed the following Wednesday. He would send his score to the producers midway through the process and continue working while he waited for their notes to come back, "which, for me, meant bringing over one or two live players, recording them, and then mixing it down. Which usually took a day. And then by that point, if I had notes I would address them the best I could. Sometimes it would involve bringing a player back. And sometimes I didn't get notes until the second day of the mix, in which case, depending on what they were and how many they were, I'd do the best I could." The scores were 18 to 30 minutes long: "It got longer as we went on, we spotted with more music. So I would be comfortable budgeting myself six minutes a day, writing Buffy music, which to me now seems preposterous." ... // <b>Spotting.</b> There is sometimes a formal spotting session, but sometimes not. With <i>Buffy</i>, "it's a formal spotting session at the production [p.426] office," says Christophe Beck. "And it's a very efficient spotting, it rarely takes much longer than watching the show without stopping to spot, simply because after the first few episodes anyway, we sort of had it down. And there wasn't much to duscuss in every episode

[on 'Agents']
While a composer is increasing his experience and developing his technique, he would be wise to begin with establishing a connection with an agent if he can get one's attention, even though there is not yet the possibility of being signed. With Christophe Beck, "I was represented even from the first gig, non on a regular basis, but I would get my own gigs and I would bring them to the same agent and say, 'Got another gig. Can you negotiate it for me?' And I would pay the ten or fifteen percent, which I'm sure I didn't need to pay, in many of those cases the money was what the money was. But it established a relationship with an agent and after a certain point she realized I was working more than some of her clients and so she took me on."

[on 'The use of samples to re-create an orchestral sound']
For Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Beck presented a basically orchestral-sounding score, using samples supplemented with some live musicians. Figure 22.2 illustrates this sound; it occurs approximately 49 seconds into the cue. "This episode," says Beck, "features an alternate universe where planet Earth is over-run by vampires. The penultimate scene in the show is a tragic slow-motion montage of several of the main characters (including Buffy herself) dying in an all-or-nothing vampire battle. The elegiac quality of the cue was suggested by not only the tragic content of the scene, but also the dreamy nature of the slow-motion images." Beck added a wordless female solo and a live flute, "used in key places to sweeten string lines, to help with the legato problem common when using sampled string libraries."

[on 'Working with the producers']
Generally, the producer or an associate producer will be working with you on a television series. On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Christophe Beck was sending over every cue every week to the executive producer's office, dubbed onto videotape. A day or two later he would receive a fax with his notes. "In fact I don't even know what it's like to work on any project without previewing every cue. I've always done it that way."