September 11, 2006

Picture This

By Jim Steinblatt

By Jim Steinblatt

chrisfieldOn a new orchestral album, one of the top composers of movie trailer music, CHRIS FIELD, creates a world of emotional soundscapes

Fittingly, Chris Field, the creator of movie trailer music for such 21st century blockbusters as Pirates of the Caribbean, X-Men, War of the Worlds and the Lord of the Rings films, is a technological wizard and multi-instrumentalist. With his services in constant demand, Field has nevertheless opted to self-release a solo album of instrumental music, Sub- Conscious (Tosca Road Records). "The music I do for trailers is very much behind the scenes, but the album is a personal thing for me; before I leave this earth I'd like to leave some music with my name on it for people to listen to." This album is about taking those broader cinematic feelings � the feeling of a wide countryside scene or a city, for example, and bringing them to people � without pictures." To that end, Field succeeds � his music is orchestral in scope but, with soaring electric guitars and powerful drums, it's accessible and pleasing to rock fans, and contains meditatively ambient passages for new age devotees. Field looks forward to working on more albums and hopes to tour one day with an orchestra.

Of course, he continues to work on movie trailer music, as well. He became involved with trailer music in a roundabout manner. Field grew up in the San Fernando Valley and gravitated to playing electric guitar in bands. "I think from my 20s to my 30s, I probably played a million gigs, playing jazz and rock, and all kinds of styles," he says. At one point, Field began experimenting with musical sounds by "taking classical printed scores, Beethoven, Prokofiev and other stuff I liked, and just started sequencing it into a computer using samples. Once I started to get more confident with that, I started to do some demo sessions in town, hiring an orchestra on a budget scale." In the process, Field learned that creating the kind of soundscapes he was interested in involved much more than just writing � "I had to learn a lot about mixing and production, orchestration, hiring and working with copyists, orchestrators, contractors, engineers, etc." He gave up being a sideman to concentrate on his new music, absorbing classical, jazz and new age music in vast quantities. At the same time, Field discovered that a guitar-playing friend of his had started a company called X-Ray Dog, which specialized in creating promotional, soundtrack and advertising music similar to what Field was working on. It was good fit, and it is through X-Ray Dog that Field has obtained his trailer music work.

Those outside the film music world may not be aware that trailer music frequently does not utilize any elements from a particular film's score. Field explains: Sometimes the music for the film hasn't been written yet; and they're putting together early footage to get people interested. They need music that is going to fit." Other scenarios include film music that just doesn't fit the trailer. "A trailer," says Field, "is like a one-minute or whatever, mini movie that's got to have its own feeling and form to it — trailer music is very intense and gets right to the point. It sounds simple, but it's taken me some years to really figure out. I call it "rock and roll orchestra" because it's got orchestral elements and, sometimes, a choir, but it also has a lot of rock elements like the drive, the drums and the way it just builds and builds."