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An Interview With Film Composer & Musician Glover Gill
By Holly Day
(more articles from this author)
2002-09-29
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Yet another film that was inexplicably restricted to limited engagements at art houses and late night showings at movie theaters across the country was Richard Linklater's animated drama, Waking Life. With its wonderful effects and characterization, coupled with the subtle and beautiful chamber music strains of the Tosca Tango Orchestra, this is the animated film that should have beaten out Shrek and Monsters Inc. at the 2001 Oscars.

Glover Gill is, of course, the man behind the Tosca Tango Orchestra, as well as the smaller ensemble, Glovertango, which also contributed to the Waking Life soundtrack. A native Texan, Glover Gill makes a living as a professional musician, performing at various cabarets in the Austin area.

[Holly Day] How did you get involved in Waking Life?

Glover Gill Rick [Linklater] had been lurking around our performances in Austin, and just had a vision that this music was going to fit very well with his images, and it did. When he approached me, we had written most of the material for our fourth and last record, and we had not yet recorded all of themówe were in rehearsal and getting ready for the initial production of that. Now, of the music that you hear on the score, very little of that was actually custom-composed for the score. A lot of that was pre-existing material. Many of the pieces on the film just happened to work with certain cues, timewise - and just everything, so it was pretty easy to lay some of that stuff in. Of course, some stuff had to be re-recorded, or sped up, or slowed down, or edited. So the main things that were custom-composed for the film were sound-effects, string-quartet stuff that does not appear on the soundtrack CD, and also the lastólet's see, the closing music for the end titles. One of those is a new piece that was performed by my new, smaller tango group, Glover Tango, and then another one of them was also performed by Glover Tango. It's an old, classic tango by Julian Plaza, and we had a heck of a time getting permission to use that. We wound up paying more money in purchasing the rights for that one song than my entire paycheck for working on the film.

[Holly Day] What did you think of the film when it was finished?

Glover Gill It was so pretty to look at! I was hoping at least Bob Sabiston, who invented the software that was used for the animation, would get an Oscar nomination. He invented the program that was used throughout the film. The movie was filmed very rapidly on hand-held digital cameras, with absolutely no makeup and very little lighting, because they knew they were going to animate it after the fact. In your average film, one scene will take half a day just to get the lights and makeup right, especially the lightsóbut in this case, he was able to get the whole film filmed in a very short period of time. Then at the studio, there were at some points, a dozen and a half artists working ten-twelve hours a day on big computers with these giant mousepads and they were drawing with a stick over each frame. I don't know how many frames are in a film, but I think it's probably about a million. So these artists had to draw and color and fill in maybe a million frames. So that took probably a year, giving me a lot of time to finish my part. Most film composers, they've got a couple of weeks to write, arrange, rehearse and record, and it's just very stressful. I didn't have that problem, because I had a completed copy of the film a year before my deadline was up.

[Holly Day] What other projects are you working on?

Glover Gill I did a student film here, a short, just recently, and that was a lot of fun. It was very short, just piano and clarinet and bass clarinet and accordion, so it was only five staffs. The Tosca Tango Orchestra has disbanded, but the string quartetótwo violins, viola, and cello, are still together as the Tosca String Quartet. I'm still affiliated with them and providing them with arrangements and compositions. They're giving a concert here in Austin on Memorial Day, performing one of my long-haired string quartets, and then a couple of my less-long-haired tangos, and a couple other local composers' string quartets. And they are also touring on and offóand have been for over a yearówith David Byrne. They are his string section now.

I mostly do a lot of arrangements for Pop bands. I have my new tango quartet, Glover Tango, and we play here in Austin every Thursday, and we're planning a trip to the West Coast, late summer/early fall, as soon as we get our first record finished. I've also just begun recording a solo piano record of old tangos, old classic tangos, from the 1910's through the '50's, which is also what Glover Tango performs. Those will be available through my little label at my snail mail address or online at Waterloo Records. The snail mal address is Nois Records/1905 Goodrich/Austin, TX 78704. I'm almost positive that Waterloo Records is just www.waterloorecords.com, and I believe you can sample things online. They also sell my records online. There are four Tosca records in addition to the Waking Life CD, which is on TVT Records. I think that's available just about everywhere. So look out for the Glover Tango Records and the solo piano record, coming out later this summer.


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