Avatar is the story of an ex-Marine who finds himself thrust into hostilities on an alien planet filled with exotic life forms. All the drumming and dance sequences were removed because “the film became too long to show anybody playing anything!” (Horner personal communication 01/12/09).
For our demo recordings, he specifically requested singers with diverse vocal qualities so that he could combine them for interesting sounds. The artist’s rendering of the Blue Flute (the clan totem) was not a flute, but organologically speaking, a trumpet.
Our next step was to begin creating alien music that was informed by the timbres, structures, textures, and styles of those samples. We also worked with a few non-Western singers (Bulgarian, Israeli, Indian, North African).6. For the final score, he asked his singers to manipulate their voices to produce a timbre that was “half African, half Na’vi, children/adults” (“Capturing Avatar,” 2010). The “Tree Song” was conceived as a hymn, “a Gregorian chant, a rhythmic meditative progression,” that could be used in multiple scenes: at “the funeral, as a chant at the Well of Souls scene . Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. It, like several pieces here, also exhibits string elements familiar to fans of Celtic music – something that’s become a Horner trademark, for better or worse. In this case, Horner and I constructed the musical culture for the imaginary Na'vi of Pandora. So we stripped it down, simplified the melody again and recorded a group of us singing in unison. Horner often says that he starts his scores with a black-and-white sketch or a charcoal drawing and fills in the colors later. Cameron described it as “rhythmic, with strong percussion” to accompany a trance-inducing dance “like African and voodoo/santeria dancing” (Horner 2008b). “Had I been more avant-garde in my musical choices, I believe I would have pushed the audience further away from an emotional centre. A History of Film Music. But I also delved into field recordings and the repertoires of lesser known minority cultures. Eventually, we gave them some Na’vi words to play around with (Tompayä kato, tsawkeyä kato, Trrä sì txonä — “rain’s rhythm, sun’s rhythm, day and night”) and Horner cued each singer when to come in. You can add or edit information about Avatar: Music from the Motion Picture at musicbrainz.org . Our first recording session centered on two sound samples, one from Sweden and one from Burundi. They were programmed” (Boucher 2009a). Prior to our demo recording sessions, Horner and I considered the nature of the Na’vi and their world from an ethnomusicological perspective. ———. ———. Personal communication with the author, 12 January. 2008a. Horner featured Bulgarian singer Radka Varimezova, singing a re-envisioned melody and including limited improvisation and ornamentation. ———. I had been a teacher prior to entering graduate school and with my passion for education, it seemed the logical next step.
2520 Schoenberg Music Building Horner was reminded of it in some of song examples I played for him and in improvisations by some of our singers, Radka Varimezova and Kate Conklin, both of whom sing in Bulgarian style, and Tehila Lauder, an Israeli singer. Screenwriter Alan Kishbaugh commented on many similarities: “The Na’vi phrase ‘I see you’ is not unlike the Hopi saying ‘I manifest you.’ The glottal stops [of the Na’vi language] reminded me of the Quechua language and Navajo. For our demo recording sessions, Horner asked me to find singers with different timbres and very flexible voices who could imitate, improvise, ornament, and sing microtonally without vibrato.5 I contacted the vocal coaches at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, for leads.
––––––. I decided that the drone represented Eywa, the supreme deity of Pandora, a quasi-sentient energy that flows through and links all life forms on Pandora.10. The vocal colors in Avatar come primarily from mixing and manipulating timbres. Pasadena City College Courier 101(9):6. The microtonality of the men’s drone eventually informed both vocal and instrumental styling in the score. After Cameron had rejected most of the Na’vi songs, Horner told me: “My ONLY hope at beautiful colours is with vocals at this point” (Horner 2009a). While we would prefer that our artistic choices supersede all others, that is often not the case. While this melody-and-moving-drone texture was interesting theoretically, it would not work as part of the score. Lecture, UCLA film composers class, 17 March. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Boucher, Geoff.
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