5 composers roundtable on the joys of returning to in-person recording sessions [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Among the hundreds of things the pandemic has affected is the way composers work as recording sessions became virtual. But thanks to vaccines and COVID-safe plans in the the past year, in-person sessions were (mostly) back, though not to normal — and it was a welcome return for our five Meet the Experts: Composers roundtable panelists Daniel Pemberton (“Being the Ricardos”), Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (“Candyman”), Germaine Franco (“Encanto”), Carter Burwell (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) and Nicholas Britell (“Don’t Look Up“).

For Pemberton, the Oscar nominee doesn’t believe his orchestral score for the Aaron Sorkin film would exist had he not been able to record it in person. “We got 70 people in a room and we got super lucky because I got to go there and it was just fantastic being in the room with all those people. And COVID restrictions had just changed in Britain so we could get 70 people,” he explains. “If we couldn’t do that, I probably would not be chatting with you right now because the whole score basically needed that element of everyone there at the same time. … It’s really nice to do huge orchestral stuff. I’m often trying to do stuff with weird electronics or stuff that I don’t really know if it’s gonna work. With [orchestral], I’m like, ‘Lots of people have tried that before, it’s a good system,’ so it’s great.”

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In Franco’s case, she joined “Encanto” during the pandemic, so all of her meetings with directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard were via Zoom. “When you’re trying to get a cue across to the filmmakers but you don’t know what they’re listening on, so that was definitely a challenge, just getting the technology to work in terms of their personal computers so when you’re playing a cue that they’re hearing what you want them to hear,” she says. By the time it came to record the score, vaccines had rolled out and they spent three and a half weeks in the studio recording section by section.

“We weren’t able to have the woodwinds in the same room as the strings. We did have a COVID scare one day. We had the whole session shut down because one string player was exposed and that was pretty chaotic in the sense that we were wondering are we gonna get another session the next day. But Disney was fantastic and we were at Fox for literally three and half weeks recording for a really long time. Seven Latin percussionists, a rhythm section, a choir we did at Warner Bros. We hoped to have 30 singers but got 22 with Edie Lehmann Boddicker conducting,” Franco shares. “Everybody was wearing masks, there were restrictions, but we made it through before it got too bad. It was excellent being in the room as everyone knows after a year and a half of working alone.”

Watch the full panel to hear how technology has impacted their jobs and more. Click each name above to watch that person’s individual interview.

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