In School of Music, Students

Music composition major Kalysha Chandler and commercial music major Zach Griffin headed up technical aspects of the project, which culminated in the 2019 live screening

The BYU Philharmonic made history when they presented “King Kong Live!” — the School of Music’s first movie in concert — during the Fall 2019 semester, but the performance was just one facet of an extensive ongoing research project centered on the Harold B. Lee Library’s Max Steiner collection and a broader movement to preserve and celebrate movie music. 

Music composition major Kalysha Chandler coordinated student efforts to transcribe the score on digital notation software. (Ben Williams)

“We want our students to branch out from classical music and be conversant in a lot of musical styles,” said music theory professor Brent Yorgason, who headed up the ambitious project of transcribing Max Steiner’s beloved “King Kong” score and preparing it for the Philharmonic performance. “Film music is a major musical style that has been overlooked by concert musicians until recently, despite great public interest. We want our performance majors to enjoy and understand this kind of music, our commercial music students to develop the skills they might need to work in the movie music industry and our student composers to be inspired from working with these scores.”

One such student composer — Max Steiner research assistant and ALMA Lab TA Kalysha Chandler — found herself in the thick of a musical labor of love as she coordinated and managed a team of students in translating Steiner’s handwritten score and transcribing it on digital notation software Finale.

“Sometimes trying to interpret the score was a little bit challenging — the handwriting was difficult to decipher,” said Chandler. “It required a bit of musical detective work to figure out exactly what he was going for musically. It was really cool to have taken four years of music theory and to have been able to employ what I had learned to problem-solve. It was a perfect example of a real-world application of a very theoretical knowledge base.” 

Zach Griffin was tasked with managing the technical aspects of the audio, video and click tracks for a seamless, balanced performance. Griffin attended all rehearsals, working closely with the Philharmonic musicians and director Kory Katseanes to settle on convenient and reliable solutions to prevent the orchestra from losing sync during the film. Griffin created visual cues to accompany Persinger’s audio cues and rented an assisted listening system to ensure that each individual performer could hear the click tracks through an earpiece.

“When it comes to the audio world, you’re working with lots of different equipment and different people, so you have to learn how to organize each element to make it all work together,” said Griffin, who plans to work as a producer or a post-sound engineer. “This was a really good experience for me to be able to take a technical challenge and be able to find technical results for it.”

Read the full story at the School of Music website.

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