Dark Reflection Film Score

© Stephen Melillo, IGNA 14 September 1981, 2-3M

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From the Score Notes, Downloadable with Photos in PDF:

In May of 1980, my first work for band was premiered at M.I.T., with Dr. John Corley conducting a 70-minute, 9-movement suite for augmented Wind & Jazz Ensemble. It was called “Only for Now”. It was named for the young adult novel I had written in 1978. Only months later, during a hectic summer of moving and looking for my first job as a Music Educator, Jonathan Heap called.

A mere 40 years ago, as of this resurrected Score composed for Dark Reflection, Jonathan asked me to write Music for his student-made film. It would fulfill a four-year promise. We had made a Super 8, striped, almost impossibly and fastidiously sound-tracked film while at Greenwich High School. Having won all sorts of contests and recognitions, it landed Jonathan into the Ithaca Film School.

I had never composed for the Orchestra before. I had never scored a film before. How do you do it? How do you take motion pictures, respond to a Director’s descriptions, measure the flow of Time, compose Music, then conduct it with Live Musicians, and have it sync to the picture?

In 1990, while implementing the Film-Scoring Program at SUNY, Purchase, I penned the real-time case study, “Music to Picture”. The curriculum was written while composing for, and eventually recording the score to Jonathan Heap’s, “1201PM”. The course begins with a simple, but involved question. “If you didn’t read a book, or as it is today, watch a video, how would you score a film?

The Dark Reflection score was written before MIDI, before computers. The score and parts were prepared by hand. The recording made by Marice Stith, then the Band Director at Cornell University, was on 1/4-inch tape and microphoned as simply as possible. We were at the mercy of:

  1. Sight-reading, college-aged Musicians.
  2. Only 1 or 2 takes per cue due to Time constraints.
  3. The existing frequencies of the rehearsal hall and pre-existing seating set-up.
  4. The use of only 2 microphones.

Given all of that, I am AMAZED at what Jonathan and I achieved. The Music was synced to the film within an accuracy of 3 frames. In other words, an 1/8th of a second. There were no streamers, no punches, only a metronome. The score called for rubati sections, accelerandi and fermati. In addition to a metronome, played on the fly against the video, (within 3 frames accuracy) I conducted the Orchestra to the images played on a small video monitor. (I still have the monitor in the garage!)

The Orchestra was recorded during a scheduled rehearsal with the gracious and dedicated assistance of Dr. Pamela Gerhardt. I’m sure I thanked Dr. Gerhardt and Marice Stith profusely at the time, but I’d like to do so formally again. As SYNC would have it, Marice nominated me to ASCAP as a result of the recording. The date? 11 September 1982, the date on which my Son would be born in 2001.

Apparently, because of Time, two cues were never recorded. Frankly, I forget how we handled that. I may have simply played the cues on Piano.

The score is unabashedly Dramatic, like the film. Elements of the score would later find their way into the library of Music that followed, called... “Stormworks.”

Enjoy & Godspeed! S

Here is a quick recap of dates surrounding this score:

1978 - Only for Now, the young adult Novel was written.

1979 - Only for Now, the 9-movement suite was premiered at M.I.T., John Corley, Conducting.

1980 - Jonathan asked me to score Dark Reflection during my first year as a Teacher at Chester High School, NY. Here, I wrote a now widely-spread, but author-removed letter to my kids, “Why I Teach Music”.

1981 - Finishing touches were made to the film and to the film score. I gave it a completion date of 14 September 1981. We recorded Dark Reflection at the Ithaca School of Music.

1982 - Donald Spoto, the official Biographer of Alfred Hitchcock, sponsored a special screening of Dark Reflection at the New School in NYC. In his greeting to the attendees, Donald introduced Jonathan and me as “the next most significant collaboration since Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann”. (We both believed our careers were set! Ah, the foibles of youth.)

1984 - Jonathan and I created, “A Cold Night,” an experiment in Music and Film that will be premiering during this same SYNC year of 2020.

1988- As you can see in the photo above, I composed piece #404, “S-Matrix Symphony # Numberless”. It wasn’t until this work that I called myself a “Composer”.

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