Norman Ludwin is a bassist, composer, orchestrator, publisher and teacher. He has been an instructor in the UCLA Film Scoring Program since 2001 and at the Musicians Union Local 47 since 2008. He holds a Doctorate in Composition from the Claremont Graduate University, a Masters in Music from the California State University at Northridge and a B.F.A. degree from The California Institute for the Arts in Valencia.
I first spoke to Norman this last summer when he was preparing to be a guest speaker at Ron Jones' Ravel Study group in LA and trying to make a trip up to our local Portland and Seattle Ravel Study groups. Norman's a great guy and obviously an incredible musician with a diverse skill-set, so I asked him a few questions about his career:
Nick Dolan: How did you get started working in film music? What was your first experience like?
Norman Ludwin: I have been playing bass in the studios for 30 years, but it took awhile until I was used as an orchestrator. My first experience was fantastic. I wrote a cue and also played in the orchestra, which was just so great. All my colleagues were clapping.
ND: What is a normal schedule for you when working as an orchestrator on a film project?
NL: I receive the cue via Dropbox, usually without the film; I might have a MIDI file as well. I usually have two to three days to finish it.
ND: When you receive a cue via Dropbox, what materials are you generally given? A sketch? Audio mockup? Session file?
NL: I’m given a sketch in Sibelius that I convert to Finale. I might also get a MIDI file on special occasion, if there is something that the composer wants me to hear that might not be on the sketch. Sometimes I’m given a MIDI I translate, but that is more rare these days.
ND: What is your most memorable experience as a performer or orchestrator?
NL: The first movie I played on was Cobra with Sylvester Stallone in 1986. I was so nervous and didn’t know where the studio was! My most memorable orchestration was for Star Trek into Darkness, as one of the cues I did was very important being it was the first time we meet the bad guy. When we played it in the studio I felt very proud of the work I had done.
ND: What has changed in the industry since you started your career?
NL: The global nature of the business now is really shocking; in the 90’s it was not unusual to do 12 movies a year plus TV, records, and jingles. Now that number is super reduced as producers do projects all over the world for the lowest dollar.
ND: Where do you see the future of the film music industry going?
NL: More globally unfortunately, as the push for the almighty dollar increases. Here in the States we can’t, and shouldn’t, be involved in a race to the bottom, as we will only lose. Hopefully, a new breed of composers and producers will start to see the importance of quality and the benefit of working at home.
Write all the time, and strive to get your music played by real instruments; even if you have to pay for the privilege. Write chamber pieces so you start to learn how the instruments sound and blend, plus you learn how players think about music.
ND: You published a new book on orchestration earlier this year, can you tell us about the book and your process of writing it?
NL: I have several books now, but the first one is a 15 lesson course including 20 scores annotated for the orchestration student. It has taken me several years to put it together, and it developed from the classes I teach. I had been presenting my analyses to my classes and finally realized that I could put it all together in a meaningful, logical book. My new book contains only scores from the 20th century including great pieces by Bartok, Britten, Bernstein, Copland, Stravinsky and John Adams.
A huge thank you to Norman for taking time out of his schedule to answer my questions! If you'd like to see which movies Norman will be playing/orchestrating on, you can check out his IMDb page here.
Film | Music
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