Richard Davis

Professor

"Film scoring is a wide-ranging discipline that involves composition, orchestration, and technology skills. Mostly, teaching film scoring is about teaching kids how to make musical and dramatic decisions."

"A big part of what I teach is storytelling through music. It's also understanding how the music fits in as a partner. It must have an intention, and a flow that communicates very specific feelings or ideas to the audience."

"If I'm teaching an orchestration class, I might use something from an orchestral score, like John Williams's score to Star Wars. There's a favorite scene of mine, when Yoda dies and Luke Skywalker has to go off on his own. There are a lot of wonderful ideas there. John Williams weaves together several different themes that each tell a part of the story in a four-minute scene. Then I might use a more contemporary film to demonstrate another way of doing things, another kind of style."

"The major change in film scoring has to do with technology. Because of computers, the film scoring field is open to many more people than when rigorous training in composition and orchestration was a prerequisite. The downside is that there is a lot of competition. The upside is that there is a lot more opportunity for composers—with cable TV and the Internet, there are tons of jobs out there."

"I try to emphasize the idea that we're constantly making a series of decisions, and that the goal is to satisfy a dramatic intention. In an orchestration class, I can't teach kids what notes to write. I can't stand over them and say, 'Write this note and this note,' or 'You must use this combination of instruments here.' But I can show them how to identify styles, genres, or gestures they're making through the music that the audience will relate to. I can show them how to make decisions about what instruments, what combinations, to use to achieve a certain effect. It's decision-making and overall concept that I tend to emphasize."

Career Highlights

 

  • B.M., California State University at Northridge
  • Performer and composer in classical, jazz, popular, country, and East Indian music
  • Performance credits include Phylicia Rashad, Betty Buckley, John Denver, and Illinois Jacquet
  • Film/television credits include Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Last Boy Scout, The Fall Guy, and others