Master and Commander
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
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:
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
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
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
else has been going on?
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.
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:
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
A photo can
be seen here.
Thanks to Damien English for providing the link!
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
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
I've noted with interest the recent review posted on the filmtracks
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
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
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"
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
There is more information to be found about the soft sampler
and the soft synthesiser Prophet
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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!
issue of the Australian magazine MacWorld has an article
within its pages featuring Iva and Simon Leadley.
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
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.
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.
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!