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

Scoring Woodstock & Returning to the Tribeca Film Festival

Whenever I would tell someone that Andrew Willis and I were working on a score for the new Woodstock documentary for American Experience, there would be quizzical looks and questions. “Wasn’t Woodstock all about music? Why would you need to write music for that?” Yes, of course, there are hours of music that came from the event, but that movie has already been made.

PBS  and  AMERICAN EXPERIENCE  announced the new two-hour documentary   Woodstock  , scheduled to premiere on PBS in 2019 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the historic three-day concert that defined a generation.  Read the full article here.

PBS and AMERICAN EXPERIENCE announced the new two-hour documentary Woodstock, scheduled to premiere on PBS in 2019 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the historic three-day concert that defined a generation. Read the full article here.

The original Woodstock movie came out in 1970 and was all about the music. This new film is different. It’s a retrospective documentary about how the whole thing came about. It’s about the organizers who had the original idea and the incredible difficulties they encountered in trying to make it happen.

It is also about the concert-goers; their lives, what brought them there, the troubles they endured in the mud and rain, and all the amazing experiences they had.

Naturally, there are songs from the actual performances in the film as well as music that was popular at the time. However, our score supports the stories that are told about the people who came together for the event of a lifetime.

We mostly used guitars, bass, mandolin and drums to create music that integrates with the music of the era: we aimed to play those instruments in a way that is modern and yet evokes the sounds of the ‘60s.

Barak Goodman, director (on the left) with composer John Kusiak. Photo by Laura Barrett.

Barak Goodman, director (on the left) with composer John Kusiak. Photo by Laura Barrett.

A few weeks ago I attended the Woodstock Tribeca Film Festival premiere screening in New York City with Kenny Kusiak (who also contributed to the score). It was one of the “Spotlight” films and was standing room only.

Barak Goodman, who has some of the best American Experience films under his belt, directed the movie.

“Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation” will be released in theaters by PBS Films on May 24 in New York, and June 7 in LA.

It will be aired on PBS in August.

Turn on, tune in, and listen!

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.

Murder-at-Harvard.gif

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.

Birth of a Movement: The Battle Against America's First Blockbuster

Very timely, given all that's going on in our country at the moment. Kusiak Music was honored to contribute music to this incredible film by Susan Gray and Bestor Cram. 

John Kusiak and director Susan Gray at the premiere.

John Kusiak and director Susan Gray at the premiere.

"Boston, 1915. African-American newspaper editor and activist William Monroe Trotter wages a battle against D.W. Griffith's groundbreaking blockbuster, The Birth of a Nation. An infamous re-inventing of history, friendly to the Ku Klux Klan, Griffith's motion picture unleashes a conflict that still rages today about race relations, censorship, and the power of Hollywood.”

TUNE IN for the broadcast premiere of  Birth of a Movement on PBS Independent Lens on Monday, February 6, 2017 at 10PM nationwide.