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Notes From the 2018 Cinema Eye Honors


Last week John and Kenny from Kusiak Music met up in NYC to attend some of the Cinema Eye Honors Awards events. If you aren't familiar with Cinema Eye Honors, it fills a non-fiction gap in the other annual film awards of the season.

For example, the Oscars only have "Best Documentary Feature" and "Best Documentary Short Subject." However, Cinema Eye awards documentary achievements in directing, cinematography, score, et cetera.

Since John won Best Score for Tabloid in 2012, he is now a voting member.


John was also invited to be in the CEH "kitchen cabinet," which will meet periodically to discuss improvements of the program going forward, and he attended a luncheon hosted by Netflix where some initial awards were given.

He and Kenny went to the Awards Night Ceremony together where most awards were given out. 



  • Meeting the composer for the hypnotic Dawson City: Frozen Time, Alex Somers
  • Meeting the talented animators (Matt and Shawna Schultz) who worked on Chasing Coral
  • Meeting Soeren Steen Jesperson, producer of the award winning Last Men in Aleppo
  • Meeting Alan Jacobsen, the cinematographer for Strong Island, winner of many awards
  • Seeing When We Were Kings in 35mm (recipient of the 2017 Legacy Award)
  • Reconnecting with friends (see picture above) and making new ones

Throwback Thursday: Murder At Harvard

In honor of Halloween, we thought we'd kick off a series of #tbt blog posts with Murder At Harvard.

This Kusiak Music-scored PBS documentary aired in 2003. Our longtime collaborator Eric Stange -- who made the film with Melissa Banta and historian Simon Schama -- wrote an article about the making of the documentary.

The scene of the crime: Harvard Medical Building in the 1800s

The scene of the crime: Harvard Medical Building in the 1800s

From Harvard Gazette:

With many unanswered questions and enduring mysteries, the 1849 murder of George Parkman is rich fodder for the imagination.

Parkman, a Boston Brahmin trained as a doctor but practicing as a landlord and moneylender, disappeared on Nov. 23, 1849. His body (or parts of it) was discovered a week later in the basement of the laboratory of John Webster, a chemist at Harvard Medical College who was indebted to Parkman.

At a trial that drew tens of thousands of spectators, Webster was convicted, largely on circumstantial evidence, and sentenced to hang in March of 1850.

Ephraim Littlefield, the janitor at the Medical College who discovered Parkman’s body by tunneling into Webster’s locked vault, presented the prosecution’s most compelling evidence. Yet some believed that Littlefield himself was guilty of killing Parkman and framing Webster, whom he resented, for the crime.


Behind the scenes

I was fortunate to be able to hire some local musicians to perform on the score; flute, oboe, bassoon, violin and cello. The addition of these "real" instruments added depth and emotion to the basic tracks that I sequenced with sampled instruments in Digital Performer.

Since it was filmed here in the Boston area, I was able to attend a few shoots and got a behind the scenes preview of what the movie was about and the look of it. That, along with many discussions with the filmmaker, Eric Stange, helped me formulate a musical style that I thought would work for the film. Peter Rhodes, the editor, also used my music from my library to "temp" certain scenes which was helpful in getting a sense of what they were looking for and what was working.

Watch the full show:

Murder At Harvard from Eric Stange on Vimeo.

A historical who-dunnit set in 1849 Boston, directed and co-written by Eric Stange.

Rosamond Purcell: An Art That Nature Makes (score by John Kusiak)

"Finding unexpected beauty in the discarded and decayed, photographer Rosamond Purcell has developed an oeuvre of work that has garnered international acclaim, graced the pages of National Geographic and over 20 published books, and has enlisted admirers such as Jonathan Safran Foer, Errol Morris and Stephen Jay Gould. AN ART THAT NATURE MAKES details Purcell’s fascination with the natural world – from a mastodon tooth to a hydrocephalic skull – offering insight into her unique way of recontextualizing objects both ordinary and strange into sometimes disturbing but always breathtaking imagery."