News | Kusiak Music

Stay up-to-date on Kusiak Music projects, screenings, creative collaborations, and other news.

Composers Attend Team Foxcatcher debut at TriBeCa Film Festival

Last week, John and Kenny Kusiak caught up with filmmaker Jon Greenhalgh at the Team Foxcatcher TriBeCa Film Festival premiere. If you've seen Foxcatcher (2014) with Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, this is the true story and even more poignant as it makes frequent use of home video footage from the Shultz family. John composed the score for this moving, well-attended documentary and says he tapped Kenny to compose additional music for "some of the more ambient sections." (Andrew Willis also assisted with with additional music and Rob Jaret helped with orchestration and score preparation.)

During and after the Monday and Tuesday screenings, the Kusiak Music group got to meet Nancy Schultz (wife of slain wrestler and the documentary's focus, Dave Shultz) and other people interviewed for this absorbing film. At one of the after parties we met Bill Ordine, a reporter on the scene who wrote "Fatal Match," a true crime novel about the events. We also had an interesting conversation with Joe McGettigan, the prosecutor in the DuPont trial. Aside from the fun of the film festival scene, the further details and context we got from these conversations was a special treat. All the questions raised from the film about professional sports, propaganda, and wealthy privilege were passionately discussed.

Working with Jon Greenhalgh was a great pleasure and Ben Cotner of Netflix did an amazing job in producing the film. It was great to see so much interest in the film: all four screenings were sold out!

Team Foxcatcher makes its Netflix debut on April 29th. Highly recommended by all of us at Kusiak Music!

Art & Sound Installation Opening Photos

Here's some photos of the opening last Monday. Kenny wasn't able to make the trip from Brooklyn after all, but it was great to see Shelley and to experience the exhibit with the public. Remember this installation will be live until December 14, so check it out in the meantime and let us know what you think!

All photos © Laura Barrett.

Prelude & Altered Landscapes: A Sound Installation with Family Ties

There is a special opportunity for our Boston-area blog readers coming up. John and his son Kenny collaborated on a sound installation for artist Shelley Reed's beautiful exhibit at Wheaton College entitled Tiger in the Living Room.

Reed's artwork has "a contemporary edge, despite its reliance on centuries-old artworks. Her black-and-white palette imbues the work with a cinematic quality, and the large scale of the work (some life-size) invite the viewer to step right into her sumptuously charged environments, filled with figures and wild animals of all kinds in various states of tension with their surroundings and each other..." Read more at the Beard Gallery site.

Artwork by Shelley Reed

John described how this unique father-and-son project came about...

I had composed music for a film called "John Portman: A Life of Building" in 2011. The score came out very well and we had the opportunity to record some live instruments for it. Then in January of this year, John Portman asked me to create a surround sound mix of some of the cues from the score to be background music in one of his new hotels in Atlanta. For various reasons, the plug got pulled on that project –– especially unfortunate since the environment of sound came out really well! 
When I played it for my son, Kenny Kusiak, he said, “Well, you’ll just have to find another venue for it. How about a gallery or an artist?” I immediately thought of Shelley Reed, an amazing painter (and also the wife of Peter Rhodes, a film editor and friend I’ve known for years).
This past July I played the surround music for Shelley and she immediately responded to it. In a fortuitous coincidence, she was planning a gallery show of her artwork in the fall at the Beard Gallery at Wheaton College. After some discussion, we decided on one section of the music that was about 12 minutes long called “Prelude.” She mentioned that it would be ideal to extend it and create a total of 24 minutes of audio, which she said is approximately the average amount of time someone might spend in the gallery looking at her work. She requested something that had environmental sounds related to the imagery in her work.
That’s when I brought in Kenny, who is a sound designer and musician in Brooklyn, NY. He came up with a very cool ambient section created almost entirely with environmental sounds, sound effects and a few other audio odds and end. We called his section "Altered Landscapes.” When we put the two sections together, it became “Prelude & Altered Landscapes.”

You can view this exhibit and sound installation during gallery hours from October 23 through December 16, 2015.

Kenny and John will both be attending the Gallery Opening & Reception on Monday, October 26, from 5:30 to 8:00 PM and they would love to see you there. Stop by and say hello!

RSVP to the Facebook event here.


HBO's The Jinx

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst debuts exclusively on HBO beginning in February 2015. John is part of the music team working on the score for this six-part documentary series, co-composing the first two episodes.

Three Films About Peace

'Tis the season to see "Peace" on holiday cards -- and to reflect on the highlights of the past year.

One of the projects we were most honored to work on in 2014 was Three Short Films About Peace with director Errol Morris.

From Errol's introduction on the New York Times site:

DON’T WE ALL HAVE PICTURES in our heads about Nobel Peace Prize winners — who they might be, where they might come from? (This year’s Peace Prize winner will be announced on Friday.) For me, the subjects of these three films — the winners Leymah Gbowee and Lech Walesa, and the nominee Bob Geldof — challenged all such preconceptions. All three came from surprising, unexpected places.
Leymah Gbowee wanted to be a doctor. Instead, she ended up as an unwed mother, a refugee from blood-soaked Liberia, and doing the impossible. Like a modern-day Joan of Arc, she answered a vision, a call, and changed the world. Her efforts in the 2000s helped force the dictator Charles G. Taylor out of power and into the International Criminal Court at The Hague. (As her country has recently been ravaged by Ebola, she has warned that the epidemic threatens to unravel a decade of peace and has asked for an enhanced response.)
Lech Walesa, a shipyard worker and electrician in Soviet-bloc Poland, earned a reputation as an agitator and rabble-rouser in the 1970s for speaking out against Communist control of labor unions. Mr. Walesa was subjected to frequent firings and intense police scrutiny. But he was undeterred, continuing his fight for fairer labor laws — in particular, the right to strike — until it grew into something even he could not have expected: an independent political movement that became one of the nails in the coffin of the Soviet Union.
Bob Geldof grew up listening to the radio on the outskirts of Dublin, where his loneliness and resentment of prescribed drudgery manifested itself in an all-consuming desire to escape. It was an almost quintessential rock-star story — rebellion, transgression, fame, drugs, escapades, fading glory. That is, until he turned on the news one late-October evening in 1984 and saw a short story about a famine that moved him and changed his life. The next year, Mr. Geldof was in the Sahel region of Africa, overseeing distribution of the $140 million he and his fellow musicians ultimately helped to raise in one of the largest charity efforts ever organized.

Happy holidays, season's greetings, peace on Earth, and happy new year to all of you.

Attending Telluride Film Festival: An Interview with John

This year was the 41st Telluride Film Festival, John got to enjoy the amazing location and one of the best (if not the best) film festivals to attend the premiere of Errol Morris’ “Three Films About Peace.” (He composed music that was used in 2 of the 3 films.) 

Jason Springarn-Koff (New York Times), Errol Morris, Steven Hathaway and John Kusiak

Jason Springarn-Koff (New York Times), Errol Morris, Steven Hathaway and John Kusiak

Here’s an excerpt from the Variety review:

Each of these 15-minute films focuses on a champion of world peace, filmed in Morris’ proprietary, face-to-face, “Interrotron” style: Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, whose nonviolent protest movements led to the ouster of corrupt dictator Charles Taylor; former Polish president and Solidarity leader Leach Walesa; and rocker Bob Geldof, whose Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8 charity projects have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in support for Africa. 

Curiously, the films grew out of Morris’ assignment to make a series of World Cup commercials for Visa, but the only thing being sold in these beautifully crafted and very moving portraits is the hopeful notion that one person really can change the world. (Following their Telluride premieres, the films will be available for streaming on the New York Times’ Op-Docs video channel starting next month.)

Welcome back. Who did you run into? (Any other composers?)

Though I can’t say I “ran into” any of these people, there were a few celebrity sightings: Jon Stewart was eating at the same restaurant one afternoon and we saw the filmmakers Werner Herzog, Francis Coppola and Guy Maddin. 

Although I would have loved to, I didn’t run into any other composers, but was happy to spend time with Steven Hathaway and Kim Bica who were the editors on the projects. Steven, Kim and I went to as many films as possible.

What was the the most surprising film you saw and what was surprising?

“Birdman” with Michael Keaton was the most surprising film. The whole movie plays as one long tracking shot (pretty surprising!), although it’s most likely made up of a number of them seamlessly strung together. It was funny and yet full of deeper meaning.

Any other films to mention?

“Mommy” by Xavier Dolan was amazing. It’s his 5th film and he’s only 25! “Leviathan” is all in Russian and is kind of a Kafka-esque version of the story of Job in which the film’s main character is ultimately crushed by the forces of evil. Dark, very dark, but really good.

What was your favorite part of the whole weekend?

I’d have to say that being able to attend the premiere of the Errol Morris films was the high point. They were screened at the Werner Herzog Theater in Telluride on a massive screen with an amazing sound system. They looked and sounded fantastic.