Review: Trailer Music Live in NYC

Last night we went to the NYU Skirball Center to see a performance of Trailer Music Live. For those not familiar with this, basically there are a bunch of groups and companies that make music for film trailers. Think of every trailer you’ve seen with some form of epic music – a choir chanting, huge drums and bombastic noise. That’s all made by a handful of organizations. Now imagine that one of those groups performed some of their music live. That’s what we saw.

Or at least, that was the expectation of what we were going to see. What we actually saw was a valiant attempt at such, but one that more or less fell flat.

I’ll state this upfront: the performance of the music was very good. The NYU Symphony Orchestra played the pieces very well, and the NYC Master Chorale did a really spectacular job with what was basically two straight hours of chanting. From my uninformed viewpoint, they pulled off all the songs – some that I’m quite familiar with – and they were pretty close to the official recordings. They even pulled off a semi-ad libbed version of a song really well, which I’ll get to in a bit.

But the rest of the production suffered quite a bit. The first person I blame is the sound engineer. I don’t know what s/he was doing, but the whole event needed to be remixed. The drums were way, way too loud, and all of the strings and female vocals were largely drowned out. After the first half they seemed to have corrected the sound issues, but three songs in it went back to sounding terrible. The other person that gets blamed is John Graham, the conductor. A lot of the songs were disorganized and messy. During Preliator, easily their most well-known track, the three sections got slightly off cue, and for a good twenty seconds the entire thing was a jumble of noise. Each section was fine on its own, but somehow when they all came together it just didn’t work.

Other production issues included technical difficulties at the beginning (so no video was shown for two songs), odd lighting (particularly during the videos) and extremely awkward dialogue from the emcee. I’m blanking on his name now, but they said he was a blogger for HuffPo. Perhaps he should stick to writing for a website, because his banter just did not work. Coming back after two songs and saying, “Wasn’t that amazing?” (or some such) and having a decent chunk of the audience snicker is really not good. They also had a section where they showed a trailer without music, played three pieces, and asked the audience to vote on which one fit the best. The answer they were looking for was #3, but the audience went with #1. But when the emcee responded, he seemed to put #3 as the audience’s pick, and people grumbled in response.

There’s been a movement in the past few years to do multimedia performances like this. I’ve seen my share of them, but I’ll use Video Games Live as the archetype. Basically during that show, they play a medley from a video game and have video to accompany it; it’s usually clips of in-game video and such. Well, they tried to do that here as well – using clips from trailers – and it worked most of the time. The combination of watching part of an action trailer and hearing action-themed music really did work, and those songs were really enjoyable. But when it didn’t work, it really failed. The first two songs were supposed to have accompanying video, but for whatever reason they didn’t show. At the beginning of the second half, they actually commented on it and replayed both songs with the video, which were actually much better. During the last song of the night, the video was a trailer recap to sort of round things off. Let’s say the trailer was four minutes long. Around 3:30 into it, the song ended – but the trailer was still going. So Yoav Goren, the composer, yells out, “Once more – 1, 2, 3, 4!” and the orchestra and choir went into another few iterations of the main part of the song. By then the video had already ended, so it was really just them playing longer – an awkward thing to witness overall.

I understand that this was the second performance of Trailer Music Live ever, and that there were bound to be mistakes. I guess compared to the polish and gloss of Video Games Live – which is performed by a touring group that is constantly on the road – the show fell flat. It was pretty awesome to hear a bunch of epic music performed live, but there were some serious issues in the production itself that really detracted from the experience. The biggest disappointment was that there was such potential for this to be a really awesome performance: badass source material, capable musicians, and a pretty good venue – and yet somehow it just didn’t work out. Here’s hoping they get it right the third time.

February 20th, 2011 - Posted in music |

Sad for the world

Three days ago “Geek and Gamer Girls” was released on the Internet. Those of you who missed it can watch it here, but basically it’s a song where four chicks sing about how they’re geeks. The intention is good but ultimately misguided, and the song ends up really just being an enormous embarrassment. I admit that I spent most of the video cringing.

The first thing I noticed is that it’s less of a song and more of a list put to music. At its core, the song’s lyrics are just references to TV shows, video games, board games, and other things that are traditionally considered geeky. That doesn’t prove that you’re a geek – it only proves that you have a cursory knowledge of some things that aren’t considered to be mainstream. It’s probably hard to come with lyrics for a song like this, but maybe that’s a sign you shouldn’t be writing one altogether.

I think I’m questioning the need for a song like this altogether. Was it in question that there are a bunch of girls out there who play video games – and that a portion of them are good looking? Why does that need to be declared in a song? Yes, most geeks are still guys, but females are a still growing minority. There are far better ways to make such a declaration, anyway; take a look at Felicia Day’s The Guild for an example.

But the part that gets me the most is that, in a song about girls who are geeky, there’s a fairly lengthy rap session by Seth Green. I don’t understand why his cameo is necessary. I get that the original song (Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”) has a rap section with Snoop Dogg in it and maybe they wanted to reflect that in this song, but it seems contrary to the point of the song. Clearly the song is meant to be some form of anthem for geek girls, but then you have a guy perform in roughly one third of the song? The song is about empowerment, and having a guy in it waters it down, I think.

Ultimately I think the song falls flat and really just ends up hurting the cause (whatever you defined it as) more than helping it. And unlike other people on the Internet, I’m not insulted that the song references things that I like. It’s really just an unnecessary piece of fluff that sets back female gaming. The right way to do it would have put the girls in a Gears of War group, have them go around wrecking other teams, and then laughing over the mics.

September 13th, 2010 - Posted in essays, music, video games |

Pandora what?

I recently created a Pandora station around Nine Inch Nails. I wasn’t really sure what songs I expected to hear, but here are the first four songs I got today that weren’t NIN:

  • Marilyn Manson – Resident Evil (main theme)
  • Bush – Glycerine
  • Orgy – Blue Monday
  • Marilyn Manson – The Dope Show

Wow, really? That’s lame. When was the last time anyone even played that Orgy song… I may have to delete this station if it keeps turning this stuff up.

August 26th, 2010 - Posted in music |

How Hans Zimmer scored Inception

We saw Inception today, and it was totally effing awesome. Christopher Nolan has to be one of the best living directors. And Hans Zimmer did a really great job scoring the film. It was dynamic and interesting without being too distracting, but most of all, it really heightened the tension in the movie and brought it all together. On top of all that, he actually wrote the score himself (rather than passing it off to John Powell or someone!)

But I was thinking about what his process was when he wrote the score, and this is what I came up with.

  1. Listened to the score he and James Newton Howard wrote for The Dark Knight
  2. Played a few hours of Metal Gear Solid 2 and listened to what Harry Gregson-Williams wrote for that
  3. Drank a few pints
  4. Found a guitarist, a trumpet and a bass drum, and sequenced it so they just played one after another ad infinitum

To be honest, I really do like Hans Zimmer, and the score was great. But, well, there you go.

July 25th, 2010 - Posted in music |

How To Destroy Angels (EP)

It’s pretty safe to say I’m a big NIN fan. I’ve been listening for eleven years now and have seen Trent Reznor live five times. I may not fap over his music the way some people *cough*ETS*cough* do, but overall I like his sound.

Anyway, his new group, comprised of him, his wife Mariqueen, and Atticus Ross released their new EP today. Six tracks, free to download. And honestly? I didn’t really like it. Overall, the mood of the album is dark and beat-heavy. It’s all slowed down and laid back; when I listen to it I get this image of emo kids having sex… or cutting themselves. Maybe both, I don’t know.

I think more than anything, though, the album is just forgettable. There are no tracks that really stand out, no interesting hooks or anything like that. I suppose BBB could end up being an anthem of sorts to annoying teens, what with its repeated line of “Listen to the sound of my big black boots”. Clever lyrics!

Although nothing in particular is excellent, I do like some parts of some tracks. There’s a bunch of glitching sounds in The Believers, and the beat to Fur Lined is pretty reminiscent of NIN’s Only (from With Teeth). I think I would have liked the album a bit more if it had been just an instrumental and they had swapped out the vocals for more weird stuff.

I know that HTDA is its own group and not connected to NIN directly, but you can’t help but draw comparisons, especially when you can hear influences from the latter. I guess there’s potential here, and of course I’ll keep my eye on it – but I’ll still be waiting for more of what Trent Reznor does best.

And just as a side note, I’m marginally pissed that they have a boatload of shirts for sale on their site, including a limited edition T-shirt for $50. That cash gets you a “handmade silkscreened hand-numbered with a custom HDTA tag” shirt, whatever that is. A band releases six tracks and you sell a shirt for $50? Did I miss something?

June 1st, 2010 - Posted in music |




The last show I saw was Mythos at 92nd St Y - New York, NY on Oct 6, 2014.
view all shows

About Me

Hey there. I'm a web developer who works and lives in New York City.