He’s already won two Academy Awards, and a Golden Globe! Composer Justin Hurwitz for the first time ever will play Toronto live as WHIPLASH IN CONCERT touches down at Danforth Music Hall later this month! This event gives fans of this acclaimed 2014 film directed and written by Hurwitz‘s longtime friend and collaborator Damien Chazelle, a chance not only to see the Movie, but also hear the Score performed in-person by a Jazz Ensemble, conducted by Hurwitz. Above this, the production will play one night only in Kitchener, giving fans a rare chance to experience something magical.
We had the joy of chatting with the brilliant Hurwitz, who walked us through his process scoring a film, what fans can expect when they attend WHIPLASH IN CONCERT, the challenges of presenting this live, his Halloween favourites, plus some teasers about his upcoming fifth collaboration with Chazelle, BABYLON. Trust us, we’ve been waiting.
We ask Hurwitz about his memories and impressions of Toronto.
Hurwitz: “I’ve never done a concert in Canada. I’ve been to the Toronto International Film Festival, but never performed there or worked the Musicians there, so I’m really very excited to come.”.
What can fans expect of WHIPLASH IN CONCERT?
Hurwitz: “We get to see the Movie and all the Music will be performed live with the Movie. It’s a Movie, and kinda like a Concert. You can watch the Movie, you can look at the Musicians. You can look either place and both are very exciting. The Music is very exciting for us to play for the audience to see because we have to keep it perfectly in-sync with the Movie, which is really hard to do. It’s kinda like a high-wire act. The Drummer has to stay in-sync. The Movie has these incredible Drum Solos. He’s gotta watch and we have these special tools that go in our ears, and our video screens help us stay in-sync. It’s really kinda a magic trick.”.
Hurwitz is accustomed to making Music in a large school, including working with 90-piece Orchestras in-studio. He will be working with a much smaller Jazz Ensemble on WHIPLASH IN CONCERT. We ask about some of the toughest challenges of doing this live.
Hurwitz: “When you do these live shows, you have to adapt the Music. Something like LA LA LAND took a lot of work to create Music. When you record in the studio, you record everything separately. A lot of times you just record just the sections of the Cue separately. When you do it live, you have to adapt it so all the Music flows together to be performed all the way straight through. WHIPLASH actually had new challenges – there’s the underscore of WHIPLASH. The tense mood music, the Movie’s almost a Thriller and Horror, so these’s a lot of Tension Music, and a lot of Score Cues doing that. Eight or nine years ago when I did that Movie, I did a lot of manipulation of instruments – slowing down, detuning and pitch-shifting – a lot of electronic things with Production. But how do you create a live version of that with 18 Musicians on a stage? And how do you stay faithful to what the original intention was, but also make it work and concert pieces that work in and amongst the Jazz?”.
We ask Hurwitz to walk us through his process of scoring a Film.
Hurwitz: “It depends on the Movie. For a Movie like WHIPLASH, we have bands on-screen who are performing, so we had to ‘pre-record’. But then later there’s a process where I have to watch the scenes of the Movie to add the Score or the Underscore. You watch the Movie and respond to it. What is the Movie telling us? Do we want music in this scene? Is it tense? Joyous?”.
We wonder what sounds we can expect with upcoming release BABYLON, marking Hurwitz‘s fifth film together with Chazelle. We learned he in fact was off to go work on the Film following our interview.
Hurwitz: “There’s so much Music. There’s over two hours of original music in the Movie. I’ve never done this much Music in a Movie. I think LA LA LAND had an hour of Music, WHIPLASH maybe less than that. It’s gonna srurprise people because they’re thinking 1920s Jazz – it’s not 1920s Jazz. We made a real point of being more contemporary and modern. Not so modern that it’s an Anachronism that takes people out of the Movie. I was more inspired by Rock ‘n’ Roll, modern Dance Music, modern EDM – stuff that gets people moving and dancing. The Movie’s full of drugs, people partying hard. There’s this fun, aggressive, four-on-the-floor Music throughout most of the Movie.”.
Since Hurwitz actually will be in-town for Halloween, we ask him about his favourite Horrors, Scores, and Halloween Candy.
Hurwitz: “That’s a good question. For Halloween Score, John Carpenter‘s Theme is pretty iconic and so are those Movies. It’s hard not to say that’s not my favourite. For Halloween Candy, Butterfinger. That’s what got me most excited as a kid going door-to-door. You’d get boring stuff. And then you get a Butterfinger. Hopefully a big Butterfinger, and those are the houses you didn’t want to miss next year.”.
We learned that Hurwitz originally aspired to be a Pianist through high school, which led him eventually on his path to becoming a Composer after some realizations.On a parting note, we ask Hurwitz to give one piece of advice to aspiring Musicians.
Hurwitz: “Keep learning, keep trying to get better, never think that you’re good enough. I spend so much time learning new things. That doesn’t mean school. That could mean YouTube. There’s just so much to learn and get better at in anything in life. Just always try to keep growing and expanding.”.
WHIPLASH IN CONCERT takes place at Danforth Music HallOctober 30, 2022, and will be at Centre in the Square in Kitchener November 1, 2022.