Here is my edited, video-segment demo showcasing some of my orchestral scores for documentaries. Included are scenes from “Rebuild,” Eddie Rosenstein’s doc about the World Trade Center site, with VO by Tom Hanks, “The Matador,” Stephen Higgins & Nina Seavey’s acclaimed doc (for which my score received an Emmy nomination), “The Last Flight of Petr Ginz,” Sandra Dickson’s animated Holocaust documentary and other projects.
My production library contains more than 230 pieces in a variety of styles and genres. It includes music for symphony and chamber ensembles (all recorded with ‘live’ orchestras and musicians) as well as music for guitar based groups featuring Genesis and Mike & the Mechanics guitarist, Anto Drennan.
This edited sequence, hopefully, demonstrates the range and breadth of the collection:
These pieces were recorded in Prague with members of the Czech Philharmonic. The pieces are “Ship of Fools,” actually, the open of my new score for Robert Weine’s 1919 silent, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” The subsequent pieces; “Serenata,” “Sacrament” and “Parables of Love,” were created on for a private commission.
Sandra Dickson & Churchill Roberts’ feature documentary, “The Last Flight of Petr Ginz,” tells the story of Petr Ginz, a gifted, precocious boy who came of age in Prague during the Nazi Occupation. The text in the animated sequences of the film is taken from the diaries of Petr and his sister, Chava Pressburger. This sequence blends different elements – animation, “B” roll and interviews, to create a sense of life in the Terezin Concentration camp near Prague.
The score blends a piano-based chamber ensemble with string orchestra.
In the summer of 2011, I was contacted to create a score for a film about the efforts to rebuild the World Trade Center – the site of the 9-11 attacks. Since the film had to be created in record time, I was brought in even before its content and structure were decided. There was no script. Nothing had been shot. My score was the result of a series of brief instructions; each of which a brief sentence that would correspond to a cue for the film.
I competed the score without ever seeing a frame of the film – which was completed, with my score, and exhibited at the national commemoration of the 9-11 attacks which took place in Washington, DC on September 11, 2011.
The film featured VO by Tom Hanks. Here is is in its entirety:
Damon Sinclair and Josh Waletzky’s feature, “The Last Hunt” delves explores the anachronism of Irish fox hunting. The film is stunningly beautiful – featuring extended scenes filmed on horseback using a specially designed stedicam. This particular sequence is particularly stunning; giving the viewer an almost visceral sense of galloping freely across the Irish countryside. My score, for chamber orchestra, try to amplify this sense.
Sandra Dickson & Churchill Roberts’ documentary, “The Last Flight of Petr Ginz,” uses animation to tell the story of Petr Ginz; a remarkably gifted boy whose diary, artwork and writings gave not only a glimpse into the horrific Nazi occupation of Prague, but also into the surprising depth of this young man’s humanity. Tragically, Petr was murdered in Auschwitz at 16,shortly before the end of the war.
My score utilized three instrumental groups – a symphony, chamber orchestra and a 13 piece chamber ensemble featured here. The animated clip opens with narration taken from the diary of Chava Pressburger’s, Petr’s sister who was also held in the Terezin Concentration Camp. Music enters about 1 minute into the clip.
“Faluja” is from my score for Beth Murphy’s Iraq War documentary, “The List.” This piece is for orchestra, mezzo soprano soloist and electronics.
My score for Stephen Higgins & Nina Seavey’s “The Matador” received an Emmy nomination in 2011. Writing in the NY Times, critic Jeanette Catsoulis wrote: “Thrust forward by John Califra’s uncommonly stirring score, the story….unspools with more drama than most blockbusters.“ There were many other equally strong reviews of the score and audiences reacted to it very strongly as well.
Given the response to the score – and the rhythmic nature of the music – I decided to extract a ballet suite. Here it is:
The six tracks on this playlist include work in a variety of genres – orchestral, rock, world music and, a piece in the style of 1920s American pop – performed by Grammy winners, Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks. All of the music on this playlist is my original work.