Updated 29 March 2004


More Master and Commander

The year 2003 will be a year that fans of Iva Davies will long remember. It will be marked as the year the brilliant soundtrack for the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World was released.

The trio of composers - Iva Davies, Christopher Gordon and Richard Tognetti - left Los Angeles in June of 2003, having created a wonderful musical complement to the impending movie. Iva's fans counted the days until the soundtrack was released. There were several debates on the Icehouse list as to whether it would be best to hear the music pouring forth from a movie theater's sound system or to enjoy the music at home on one's own stereo system.

As the time drew closer to the movie's release, reviews began to appear in newspapers and magazines. For those reviewers who commented on the music, the consensus seemed to be that it was very well done. Here are a few excerpts from the various reviews:

"The Aubrey-Maturin bond also provides the cue to the film's singular musical approach. For recreation, the two play violin-cello duets of Mozart and Bach. From there, the score inventively incorporates the work of more recent composers with that of the modern Australian team of Iva Davies, Richard Tognetti and Christopher Gordon, which introduces significant percussive and synthesizer effects. Against the odds, this combination of diverse elements coalesces and bridges the gap between authentic period sounds and contemporary excitement." - Variety

"Weir and his impressive crew have created something truly special. The cinematography, montage, sounds of the ocean, sets and costumes are all part of a constantly exhilarating whole. Composers Iva Davies, Christopher Gordon and Richard Tognetti have provided an unforgettable score." - Washington Post

As you'd expect from a blockbuster, this is a big score. Dashing, daring, you can fairly feel yourself flowing along the waves. I was tempted to say it's a long way from the score to Titanic but that favourite of current soundtracks - the Irish folk moment - is present in a medley form. That means plenty of fiddles and drums. But what the composers have also done is mix their own music with that of classical composers. Thus, Mozart, Bach and Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis all appear. It adds up to a quality product." - BBC

What else has been going on?

As previously mentioned in Spellbound news, Icehouse were invited to perform at the L'Oreal Colour Trophy Awards in Melbourne. On August 11th, they did just that. Iva, Paul Wheeler, Paul Gildea and Steve Morgan performed the classic Icehouse song "Man Of Colours." Oh, to work in the cosmetics industry just for that evening!

In the midst of the anticipation for the release of Master and Commander, Fox Studios in Sydney held a grand opening on September 9th for a $2 million orchestral film scoring stage. The Trackdown Scoring Stage's technical director is Simon Leadley, who worked in an engineer capacity for the Master and Commander soundtrack. Iva was in attendance at the opening.

Icehouse performed at the Australia Commercial Radio Awards on October 18th. It was an eventful evening as a new song from the unreleased Bipolar Poems was given its first public performance. Iva wrote about the performance on the Icehouse list:

"The line-up was myself along with David Chapman on guitars. Paul Wheeler played drums and Stephen Morgan bass. Keyboards were played by Jason Fernandez (who was my assistant for the preparation of the Master and Commander project). We played "Great Southern Land" and a new song, called "Your God," which was incredibly well received. Every major Radio network (they were all present that night) has requested that they be supplied with a copy of the new song. For the moment, however, I am holding back on doing so. It is my intention to include this in a proper release in the future (this is one of the Bi-polar collection)."

A photo can be seen here. Thanks to Damien English for providing the link!

On October 31st, Iva sent a wonderfully detailed message to the Icehouse list in response to the many questions concerning his work on the Master and Commander soundtrack. Here is the message from Iva:

Dear Friends,

Thank you once again for your patience.

Now that some details of the soundtrack are beginning to emerge I am pleased to be able to give you at least some further information about it.

I've noted with interest the recent review posted on the filmtracks website.

The general tone of this review comes as no surprise and I dare say there will be more of the same emerging along the way.

I am pleased that I am able to respond via this list to explain some detail of the score.

Because I am not, as you know, continually engrossed in the composition and production of film scores my perspective of the role of music in film perhaps differs from those who are specialist film composers alone.

I am generally engaged in projects where the paramount consideration is the music, i.e. the primary focus of the audience is on the music. This, of course, is a luxury for a composer and I consider that I have been very lucky to be able to work in this way. I would also include the two ballet scores in this group. Although the music is intended to accompany the choreography the music has such an important role that this sort of project provides a perfect showcase for it.

The role of music in film, in my opinion, differs greatly.

It is the medium of film itself which is the work of art and there are many elements which work together to produce the complete film. Only one of these is music.

This film is (as are most) the vision of the Director. It has been an extraordinary honour to work with Peter Weir. There was never any doubt in my mind that my role as a composer was to provide, to the best of my ability, exactly what Peter required for the film and this remained my primary objective throughout the whole process.

Peter Weir has distinguished himself as an outstanding Director of films partly because he does not follow the usual formulas applied to the process of film making.

Anyone who is familiar with his body of work will recognize that he has used a wide range of both original and extant music for all of his films and that he uses music in a masterfully subtle way.

My impression, from early discussions, was that Peter is not terribly enamoured of the over use of large orchestral scores.

The trend for expansive and relentless scores seems to be increasingly popular of late. I have immense respect for all of the composers who produce these scores, of course. Apart from anything else they seem to be able to produce an extraordinary amount of music and are generally given very little time to do so.

So it must be understood that in no way would I detract from the achievements of these very talented composers.

I simply point out that in the case of this movie a different approach was taken.

As you have probably gleaned by now The Ghost of Time was the initial catalyst for my involvement in this project.

Whilst Richard was already involved with the film by way of his friendship with Russell Crowe and subsequent role as Russell's violin coach for the character of Captain Jack Aubrey, it was Peter's introduction to The Ghost of Time which precipitated his first call to me from their filming location in Mexico. You can imagine what an extraordinary thrill it was to receive that call!

So ultimately Peter requested that I "reawaken" The Ghost of Time team which of course included the skills of Christopher and the wonderful virtuosity of Richard.

Another key member of that team was Simon Leadley. I have worked with Simon for more than 15 years. His talents are many. Apart from anything else he is the god of all things technological. Without him I simply would not have been able to assemble my entire studio into one Macintosh G4 to take to Los Angeles (or keep it functioning whilst there!).

By now Simon is very experienced and respected as a Music Editor for film (he has won awards for his work on Moulin Rouge and other films). I heavily recommended to Peter that he be included in the team and subsequently Simon became Music Editor for Master and Commander.

Thus it was that all four of us found ourselves resident in L.A. for the period of work.

The Village Recorder studios provided a room for each of us, and this became the hive for our work. The majority of the material was recorded and produced at The Village Recorder. I even used a corridor to record both Richard and a flutist because the sound produced in that corridor particularly suited those pieces! Some additional orchestral recording was done at the Newman Scoring Stage at Fox in L.A.

A question from the list inquired regarding my "hands on" involvement in the engineering activity. I did engineer a number of recordings myself and undertook a great deal of the mixing process as I was deriving the pieces themselves. I worked exclusively with ProTools from my G4. This computer was running all audio, the movie picture as well as MIDI and soft samplers and synthesisers. This is quite an ambitious feat from a technology point of view and Simon was kept on his toes nursing the system on many occasions!

As my computer ultimately became the central point for all of the material a great number of hours went into putting all the elements together within ProTools.

These finished pieces were then passed through Simon's computer system so that the final mixes could be completed at the Village Recorder's main studio.

You have probably noted that some of the elements of The Ghost of Time became important parts of the score. There has been comment on the frequent use of drums. The vast majority of these are Taiko drums (as used in The Ghost of Time). The composition of the drums was accomplished in this way. I discovered that I am greatly advantaged by the fact that I can operate comfortably in a number of different worlds including those requiring written scores and those depending on sampling and synthesiser technology.

Early in the process I was introduced to Mike Fisher. He is a wonderful percussionist and an enthusiastic musician. I went with him into the suburbs of L.A. where he keeps a warehouse which is literally full of drums and percussion. His collection is very possibly the most extensive in existence. From his vast collection I chose a number of Taiko drums and an assortment of other drums and percussion to be used.

The process of composing the drums for each piece involved using the samplers to create the multiple drum parts. These were then transcribed to sheet music. Mike would bring his collection of selected drums and percussion to the studio where I then oversaw the recordings of his performances of these parts. Although there are multiple layers of drums on almost all of the pieces, these were all played by Mike.

My soft sampler also enabled me to produce pieces using other "demo" instruments as well. As preparation I equipped myself with a full library of orchestral samples which I subsequently used where the pieces required them. The sampler orchestral "demos" were then transcribed to sheet music and replaced by real orchestral performances recorded at the Newman Stage.

The most surprising addition to the score, however, was produced by a piece of quite old technology. Early in the period of submissions of music I used a software emulation of the very first polyphonic synthesiser, the Prophet 5. This, once again, was running from the same Macintosh G4.

As a texture this instrument was not something which had figured in the early discussions with Peter. However there was one particular scene which I thought merited an experiment using it. Peter's reaction was immediate and this element was subsequently requested by Peter so often that it is possibly the most dominant signature of the score.

Although I was using a software replica of the old synthesiser I do, in fact, have an original one of these. It is by now roughly 23 years old. This, in fact, is the very same machine which Flowers/Icehouse used as its main keyboard. The song "Icehouse" itself was performed using it and it is the only synthesiser used on Primitive Man (you may recognize that opening note on "Great Southern Land" as a "Prophet 5" moment!).

The software emulation of this synthesiser has brought its existence to the attention to a whole new generation of electronic producer/composers and it is enjoying quite a revival in popularity by now.

I must say that the extensive use of this in the score was not something I would have imagined but as I progressed further into the project it seemed to become increasingly useful and appropriate.

There is more information to be found about the soft sampler KONTAKT and the soft synthesiser Prophet 5.

In addition to the original material generated there was quite a deal of work to be done on other musical components as well.

Some of you will be familiar with the Patrick O'Brian books on which this film is based. You will already know that the two main characters are drawn together because of their mutual love of music and their respective violin and cello talents. So there were a number of moments in the film which required examples of the two characters playing together as well as music appropriate to their period and joint interest.

Richard's input and performances were most valuable in these instances. Faithful to the pieces referred to in O'Brian's books are the inclusion of pieces by Bach, Mozart, Corelli, Boccherini and others. A number of authentic folk pieces were also required for various scenes. These had to be recorded as well. I was, of course, involved in the arrangement process and served a role similar to that of a record producer in the control room for these recordings. Richard was, of course, performing with the ensembles and Christopher conducted where necessary.

One of the most interesting of the additional tasks involved producing the necessary audio for various occasions when the ship's drummers were called on. The ships carried drummers for the purpose of giving signals to the crew and for various ceremonial occasions, e.g. the "Beat to Quarters" is a call to battle stations.

Once again Mike Fisher's vast collection of drums was called on to provide authentic period drums for these moments.

Simon, however, made an ingenious suggestion as to how we should record them. During some of these scenes the activity on board is viewed from a number of places in the ship whilst the drumming continues. The action may go from the deck to below deck in the Captain's cabin at the stern, to further below in the hold. Obviously the sound of the drums would vary greatly depending on one's position on the ship. Peter provided us with a diagram of the actual ship he had used for the filming and this included all the detail of the various rooms and areas represented on film. Accordingly we set up microphones to represent the "point of view" of the listener. Some microphones were placed close to the drumming source whilst others were at some distance. We set some mics up in adjacent rooms so that we could create the necessary perspective. Working with the edit Simon was thus able to reinforce the point of view represented on screen by applying the appropriate sonic perspective of the drumming.

Working on this score has been a fascinating process for me and I have learned a great deal from the experience.

I am happy to be able to tell you that Peter is very pleased with the score and that everything is now in readiness for the imminent release of the movie. At this stage it appears that I will be attending the Los Angeles Premiere on the 11th November with him.

I look forward to the time when you will finally be able to see the movie. It is an extraordinary achievement for Peter Weir and all concerned. I am grateful for the wonderful opportunity he has given me by his invitation to become involved.

November 3rd saw Iva appearing as a judge at the Screen Music Awards in Sydney. Members of Icehouse alumni were part of the evening's list of winners:
Best Television Theme -- David Chapman, Enough Rope with Andrew Denton (NSW)
Best Music for a Television Series or Serial -- Roger Mason, MDA 'Episode 8' (NSW)
Best Music for a Documentary -- Roger Mason, Horses - The Story of Equus (NSW)
It should be noted that Iva did not judge in categories where personal bias would have caused a conflict.

The soundtrack to Master and Commander was released in the US on November 11th. It did not take long for the soundtrack to make its presence known on the charts! The soundtrack debuted on Billboard's Classical music chart at #3 for the week ending November 29th. The soundtrack then debuted on Billboard's Soundtrack chart at #12 for the week ending December 6th. The soundtrack hit #1 on the Classical chart for the week ending December 13th! As we go to press, the soundtrack is #2 on the Classical music chart, with many of its 17 weeks on the chart spent at this position.

Iva flew to Los Angeles to attend the film's premiere there on November 11th. He had a wonderful time and was most impressed by the way the premiere was organized.

He and his wife, Tonia, had another exciting evening when they attended the Australian premiere on November 26th. At the party for the premiere, Iva, Richard Tognetti, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Taikoz performed a medley of the music from the Master and Commander soundtrack.

In December, Issue 30 of the Australian magazine Audio Technology contained a 5-page article that featured an interview with Iva and Simon Leadley. The article also featured photos of Iva, Richard Tognetti and Christopher Gordon working in Los Angeles. The article focused on the thought processes that go into scoring a movie, as well as the technical side.

Iva had a fun night out on December 13th, attending the Duran Duran/Robbie Williams concert in Sydney.

Once again, Iva was called upon to be a judge for a music award. The event was the Johnny Dennis Music awards, held at Government House on December 19th. Iva was one of three judges chosen to pick the best song. The winner was Joshua Brown from Queensland with his song "There's Hope."

The Oscar nominees were announced on January 27th, 2004. Although vastly deserving of a nomination, the soundtrack for Master and Commander was not given a nod by the Academy. The rules regarding soundtrack nominations stipulate that the score must not be based on music previously performed or broadcast in public. As the music for Master and Commander contained elements of The Ghost Of Time, this negated its eligibility. Master and Commander received 10 nominations, including Best Picture and Directing. The film ultimately took home two Oscars: Best Sound Editing and Best Cinematography.

Iva was honored to be named an Australia Day Ambassador in 2004! Iva and his father, Neville, traveled together to Wagga Wagga, a town in New South Wales. Iva grew up there and so spent some time reminiscing with his father. He also gave a speech at the City Council's Australia Day ceremonies. Here is the speech in its entirety:

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I begin this speech with acknowledging the traditional owners of this land and thanking them for their warm welcome.

I would also like to acknowledge the support of Woolworths Limited to the Ambassador Program. Their generous contribution has enabled the Australia Day Council to send Ambassadors to over 200 destinations throughout New South Wales to celebrate Australia Day.

I'm very grateful for this opportunity to celebrate Australia Day with you in Wagga Wagga because I spent my childhood here and it's been a very long time since my last visit.

I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you a story about my time here, which I think is appropriate to our Australia Day celebrations.

Firstly let me apologise in advance. I grew up here in the days when it was not considered impolite to call this the city of "Wagga." I've been told that nowadays it must be correctly called "Wagga Wagga" but I'm almost certain that I will commit the unforgivable sin at least once today so ..... I apologise. I hope that, as I grew up here, you will forgive me for taking such a liberty!

I have come here today with my father and it's been a long time since his last visit too.

What is interesting for me is that my experience here and the experience of my father's work here is in part responsible for my role as Australia Day Ambassador.

Some 20 odd years ago I wrote a song and it's amazed me that this song is still so widely known after all these years. The song is called "Great Southern Land."

It is, of course, a song about Australia. In writing the words to the song I never really attempted to paint a whole picture of Australia. I don't think that could be done, even if the song went on for weeks! What I attempted to do was to choose a whole collection of unrelated images which might suggest things, like having a few of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, so that the imagination could fill in the complete picture.

Over the years many people have asked me about the meaning of some of these words. But in particular these are the words which have produced the most questions…

Great Southern Land … burned you black

Most of the words in the song have a number of meanings. I've generally avoided giving away all the meanings … I think a song is probably more successful if continues to prompt questions.

However, there is one important meaning that I will tell you about because it's appropriate to today's Australia Day celebration.

Great Southern Land … burned you black

This was my attempt to describe what a unique place Australia is; how different Australia is from anywhere else in the world. This is what it means.

When I was a small boy here we had a Ford Falcon. But our family car was different from all others because under the dash board was a wondrous device. It was a box, with a hand held microphone attached. This thing crackled and hummed and occasionally a voice would emanate from it. Our car was fitted with a 2 way radio.

My father was District Forester of the Riverina. Especially during summer months his eyes were constantly scanning the horizon while we drove along and occasionally he would pull over and pick up the hand set to report in to the office something he'd seen. So he was, of course, looking for smoke … for signs of a bush fire.

There is nothing unique about bushfire, of course. Many countries experience terrible fires.

But there is something unique about bushfires and Australia. This was also taught to me by my father and it emerged many years later when I was a young man and I wrote…

Great Southern Land … burned you black

Bushfire is something which has had a devastating impact on the lives of many here. Last year, at exactly this time on Australia Day, we were mourning the loss of lives and of hundreds of homes in Canberra. We have had to adapt our lives to bushfire. It has changed the people here. It has changed the way we live.

The indigenous people of Australia have lived with bushfire for countless generations. We know that their habits have also been shaped by bushfire. Their traditional hunting methods depend in part on harnessing bushfire and by hunting the renewed grazing land which generates following the path of a bushfire.

But Australia has a secret which is less widely known.

The simple fact is that Australia needs bushfire.

When we look at our National symbol, the green and gold Wattle Tree, very few of us are aware of that secret.

The Wattle Tree, along with more than half of Australia's native species of trees and plants, needs to be burnt by bushfire.

These species have evolved; they've been shaped by the unique conditions of Australia. They've evolved in such a way that their seeds are so tough, in order to protect them from predators like birds and insects, that the only thing that will free the seeds from their protective shells is a bushfire. In other words the only thing that will allow them to produce a new generation of trees and plants is to be "burnt black."

Great Southern Land … burned you black

What struck me as so unique about this Australian condition was this great irony; that for Australia something like bushfire, which we most often view as having no possible redeeming quality, is absolutely essential for the continuation of most of its life.

There was never any possibility that we humans would be able to beat the continent of Australia into submission. It is too vast and ancient a survivor.

It has made us adapt to it.

It has forged those qualities in us which we recognise as being so "Australian;" the determination, the resilience in the face of adversity, the generosity of community spirit... the good humour and laconic wit. These are qualities which Australians have had to evolve in order to survive here.

Today is a special day for a great number of people because today these people, from many countries, will become Australians.

They will contribute in a large way to that unique quality of Australians. They bring with them new ideas, new cultures and languages, new talents and skills and new energy.

They too, will find themselves adapting to this land and what it demands. But they will also find themselves being brought together with other Australians by it.

What they bring from other countries and cultures will add to that wonderfully unique Australian quality and that will enrich all our lives.

So I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of those people who we today welcome for the first time as "Australians."

Thank you so much for listening to me today. I have enjoyed the opportunity very much indeed and in closing I'd like to thank Wagga Wagga City Council and the broader community for your efforts in celebrating Australia Day.

Thank you for having me as your Australia Day Ambassador - it is truly a great honour.

Happy Australia Day!

The March issue of the Australian magazine MacWorld has an article within its pages featuring Iva and Simon Leadley.

Luna Park was a harborside amusement park in Sydney. For many years it has been closed. Recently, the park has been renovated. To celebrate the reopening of this Sydney landmark, the Premier of New South Wales will be having a command performance at the park on April 2nd. As we go to press, there is a possibility that Iva will be performing. The tentative plans are for a reprise of the performance from the Sydney premiere of Master and Commander. As this event is open to the public, fans can hear Iva, Richard Tognetti, the ACO and Taikoz perform a medley from the Master and Commander soundtrack.

Update on Bob Kretschmer
Many Icehouse fans ask about Bob Kretschmer and what he is doing these days. The last Spellbound had heard of Bob was that he was living in L.A. and involved with the movies. He was supplying his talents to make-up and wig making in the movie industry. Well, with the finding of this article at the Hair Again website, it shows that Bob is making wigs for more than just the movies! It is a very touching article and we thank Neil Yardley for sharing the link with the Icehouse list.

Andy Qunta's Official Web Site
Andy Qunta now has an official web site! Filled with facts, photos and news, fans of Andy are sure to enjoy this new site.

Baby News
Guy Pratt and his wife, Gala, are the proud parents of a baby boy! Congratulations to the Pratt family!
Baby girl Holly has been born into the Gildea family! Georgia and Paul welcomed Holly in March 2004. Holly joins her big brothers Oliver and Jackson. Paul is currently lecturing in Music Business Management at two private colleges in Melbourne. He is still managing Motor Ace, who are working on their 3rd album.

We are looking forward to the remainder of 2004, knowing that Iva has much more in store for us all!