During the past few years, several film music orchestrators have started to receive the attention they deserve. Names like Arthur Morton, Herbert Spencer and Jack Hayes are recognized by film music fans through their association with great composers (Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and Elmer Bernstein, respectively). However, what a film music orchestrator actually does isn’t as widely known. Two orchestrators, one veteran and one newcomer, were chosen for the following examination in order to provide two differing perspectives on the orchestrator’s contribution to motion picture music.
An Interview with Jack Hayes and Mark Mckenzie by David Kraft
Originally published in CinemaScore #15, 1986/1987
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor and publisher Randall D. Larson
Jack Hayes is a highly respected Hollywood veteran who has orchestrated hundreds of scores. He started his career in the 1940s as an arranger for big bands, dance bands and radio programs (including FIBBER MAGEE AND MOLLY). In the early 1950s, he met the already-established film orchestrator Leo Shuken and the two formed a legendary collaboration which lasted until Shuken’s death in 1976. The pair worked with many composers, starting at Paramount Pictures with Victor Young, Mario Nascimbene (on A FAREWELL TO ARMS) and Walter Scharf (orchestrating many Jerry Lewis films). This led to a long tenure with Elmer Bernstein (orchestrating THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and almost every Bernstein score since, until Elmer’s son, Peter, began orchestrating his father’s scores in the late 1970s. The pair also orchestrated for Henry Mancini (BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, EXPERIMENT IN TERROR and the PINK PANTHER films), Quincy Jones (IN COLD BLOOD) and Alfred Newman (HOW THE WEST WAS WON, NEVADA SMITH, AIRPORT).
When Leo Shuken passed away, Hayes continued on his own with notable work for Marvin Hamlisch (THE SWIMMER, SOPHIE’S CHOICE), Randy Newman (RAGTIME, THE NATURAL) and John Morris (THE ELEPHANT MAN, HAUNTED HONEYMOON). In addition to orchestrating, Hayes has composed several of his own classical works, and wrote the scores for the short-lived Andy Griffith TV series, SALVAGE. Also, Bernard Herrmann selected Hayes to conduct his TAXI DRIVER score when he became too ill to conduct it himself (Herrmann, in fact, died only hours after the final recording session).
The “new kid on the block” is Mark Mckenzie, yet with only a few films under his belt, he has clearly demonstrated exceptional talent. Mckenzie came to California from Wisconsin to get a Master’s Degree and Doctorate in Music Composition from USC, where he currently teaches Music Theory and Orchestration. A summer internship sponsored by the Television Academy brought him to the attention of composer Bruce Broughton, who gave Mckenzie an episode of DALLAS to orchestrate. Mckenzie has gone on to orchestrate YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE BOY WHO COULD FLY, SWEET LIBERTY and the GEORGE WASHINGTON mini-series sequel (all for Broughton) plus the film EXTREMITIES for composer J.A.C. Redford. Mckenzie has written his own “Chamber Symphony” and “Horn Octet” and wants to continue orchestrating, though eventually he also desires to compose his own film scores.
First of all, who hires the orchestrator for a film? Are you paid by the composer of the producer?
Jack Hayes: In the old “studio system” days, orchestrators were under contract to a particular film studio and worked on he studio’s films that he was assigned. However, today the composer chooses his own orchestrator. Our fee is budgeted into a film’s music budget; that budget includes the composer’s fee, the orchestration fee and the cost of recording the score (which includes the musicians).
Mark Mckenzie: I’ve always been paid by the producer or studio through the musician’s union, which has a minimum scale. However, orchestrators are often paid above that minimum. Nevertheless, union pay varies, depending upon whether the project is for live performance, video tape, PBS, a record, a commercial, television or a feature film. Motion pictures and TV are the highest paying. Technically, the number of individual instrument lines on any given page of music determines the amount of pay. For example: a score with 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets and 2 bassoons would add up to 8 lines, plus a line for the measure numbers and a line for the timings – that makes 10 lines in all. A 4-bar page with 13 lines or less orchestrated for TV or a film gets paid $17.27 (the minimum). It goes up from there, all the way to 43 lines or more, which pays $38.59 for 4-bars, minus, of course, union dues. Most orchestrators are paid above these minimums, but the more music, the more we’re paid. We also get a re-use fee for a TV network showing of a feature, plus a re-use fee if the score is put out on a soundtrack album.
When are you usually brought in on a project – at the initial spotting session when the composer first sees the film?
Jack Hayes: Henry Mancini liked to bring my partner Leo Shuken and me in early, but other composers work differently. If a composer’s sketch is complete and clear then I don’t really have to be too familiar with the film itself.
Mark Mckenzie: Bruce Broughton likes to bring me in at the beginning and I go to the spotting sessions with him. Then, during the time Bruce is writing his score, I think about what orchestral colors might be appropriate.
Would you explain just what an orchestrator does?
Mark Mckenzie: An orchestrator is someone who helps he composer note his ideas. The specifics of each orchestrator’s job will differ depending on each composer’s process or manner of composing. Many composers compose in complete detail. When they write a movie score they specify which instrument will play which musical line, at what dynamic level, and with an exact articulation. This leaves little guesswork or creative work for an orchestrator. He becomes, in many respects, a glorified copyist; copying from the composer’s detailed sketches (anywhere from 2 to 9 lines) onto a full orchestral page (4 measures long, anywhere from 10 to 50 lines). As I said, though, each composer is different. Some composers are termed “hummers”. They will hum a tune and ask the orchestrator to notate the tune, harmonize it, write the counterpoint, the arrangement and instrumentation. Another type of composer might play a cue on the piano and ask the orchestrator to notate the music and then arrange it for an orchestra. In general, though, composers will notate all of the pitches and indicate, to varying degrees, the instrumentation while leaving some of he details of specific instrumental combinations, articulations, dynamics and «voice leading» up to the orchestrator.
Bruce Broughton’s sketches are very detailed. My main job as his orchestrator is to accurately realize his detailed sketches onto the orchestral page. While doing this, though, many times I will get an orchestrational idea that is different, or ideas that will highlight one of Bruce’s instrumental choices. I’ll then make these suggestions to Bruce and we’ll discuss the pros and cons. Sometimes he’ll be excited at my idea, sometimes we’ll strike up a compromise, and sometimes he’ll politely say, “No way!” For example, when working on YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, I suggested that Bruce change a particular string voice leading into ‘Elizabeth’s Love Theme’ to allow the 7th of the chord to resolve down. We had an interesting discussion on “voice leading” during which Bruce explained to me why he wanted to leave it as it was. In THE BOY WHO COULD FLY ‘Main Title’, Bruce was thinking of using the clarinet to take the main theme. I suggested he use the alto recorder and Bruce loved the idea. In the same movie, during the scene when Louis is being attacked by the vacuum, I suggested we try doubling the marimba with the solo clarinets. We ended up compromising by using the marimba, but Bruce decided not to make it an exact note-for-note doubling.
I think the ideal situation is one in which the composer and orchestrator know each other well, trust and respect each other and feel free to discuss their ideas. Everyone benefits by this kind of situation and the film score can possibly end up with an extra sparkle it may not have otherwise had.
Before the orchestrator leaves the composer’s studio to go home and orchestrate, most composers will show me a video of the scene that cue is for. Many composers are accomplished pianists and will play the cue, discussing options for instrumentation. The composers I have worked for also give me a copy of the music editor’s timing notes so that I can always be aware of what is happening dramatically in each moment of music. Many times the composer will have a particular style in mind and will give advice like “orchestrate in the style of Stravinsky.”
Since many orchestrators are aspiring composers they sometimes are asked to “ghost write.” That is composing cues for the composer who is too pressed for time or unable (for some reason) to write all the music. The idea is that as the orchestrator “ghost writes” and proves himself, the actual composer will recommend him at some point to a director or producer as a possible substitute or replacement when the actual composer can’t take a scoring assignment.
Jack Hayes: The orchestrator is also very important to the composer, when it comes time to record the score. I’ll sit in the recording booth while the composer is out with the orchestra conducting his score. John Morris relies on me a lot in the booth as I’m the only other person there who knows the music and what it’s supposed to sound like. John is very open to ideas and we will often make last-minute changes. With Henry Mancini, however, what he goes in with is what he records – he knows just what he wants. Mark Mckenzie: When I’m in the recording booth I can follow the score and catch any mistakes. Not only does the orchestrator help catch mistakes and give approval of good takes, but options can be discussed, such a deleting instruments, taking things up or down an octave to better suit the balance, or, in some cases, adding an instrumental double. For example, in SWEET LIBERTY I suggested that Bruce consider taking the brass and woodwind doubling off of the tune and allowing the synthesizer to carry it alone. Bruce agreed and it made quite a difference in the final take.
It’s often said that orchestrators have “saved” many composers, and that the acclaim for many scores really should go to the orchestrator. How do you feel about this?
Jack Hayes: I hear this all the time and it’s the kind of thing I don’t like to hear. It’s rumor-mongering and it isn’t fair to the composer. I deny those rumors when people ask me about them. All the people I’ve worked with write their own music and each offers a very distinct, unique talent that makes a score what it is.
Jack, I’m curious how you and Leo Shuken worked as a team. Would you work on the same cues together?
Jack Hayes: We sometimes would split up cues, especially if it was a long one, or he’d take some cues and I’d do others. Occasionally we’d sit down together and work on an especially challenging cue. Leo was a great orchestrator and I enjoyed my many years of working with him; he taught me a lot.
Are there any particular scores or cues you’ve found especially rewarding?
Jack Hayes: THE ELEPHANT MAN with John Morris was a great score and marvelous to work on. To get the right sound for the score I listened to tapes of old English carousel music. A lot of the old instruments were had to re-create, so we had a lot of fun trying to duplicate them on a synthesizer.
Mark Mckenzie: In YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES there was a lot of need for high tension sounds, and in order to avoid writing a lot of notes, Bruce and I discussed using aleatoric, improvisational techniques (Aleatoric means “chance”). For example, trumpets were given 10 or 15 notes in one grouping and then the players played the notes in that particular order as fast or slow as they wanted for several measures. We used composers such as Henze and Penderecki as models for ways of notating things and getting large masses of sound without having to take forever to compose and orchestrate it all.
What makes a good orchestrator?
Mark Mckenzie: A good orchestrator, in the academic sense, is one who has a thorough understanding of instrumental color (also known as timbre or sound), instrumental technique (what players can and cannot do) and correct notation. A good orchestrator knows voicings and combinations of instruments used in all styles of composition. He should know all the music literature from the middle ages to the present. In the film business, a good orchestrator has to be all of the things I’ve just described, plus more. He must be patient and flexible, must work quickly with very little rest and must get along well with all types of people. It’s a lot of hard work, but I find it can be quite enjoyable and, in the end, very rewarding.