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Emily Grossman

Jim Oltersdorf

July 23, 2008 at 8:08 AM

I put off responding to Jim Oltersdorf regarding the Discovery Channel documentary. Things were busy and I was never home, and when I sat down in the evening, I just didn't ever remember to get around to it. At least those were the excuses I offered myself. The deeper truth may have been a little different.

I listened to a couple of guitar parts he'd sent me, and right away I knew that this assignment was perfect for me. I thought about the chord progression and instantly half a dozen ideas came to mind. After he sent me some preliminary work that other arrangers had created with it, I knew that I could do better. I knew I was just the right person for Alaskan grizzly bear documentary music. But, I was scared.

Have you ever stepped to the edge of the diving board, ready for the exciting rush that brought you up the ladder in the first place, but you just couldn't take that last bounce? That's what it felt like these past couple of weeks, every time I though about contacting Jim about the documentary music. Such potential, such possibility, and all that lay between me and my music was... me.

What if I freeze up? What if I can't get any of my ideas out? What if everything that I play sounds tentative and feeble? I just didn't think I could bear it if I botched my chance at something big because I was too chicken to show what I could do. The thought of failing made my knees wiggle and falter, right before that last bounce. It was easier to crawl back down the steps, passively letting the moment lapse. I thought about it.

After two weeks, I finally wrote back, apologizing for the delay and asking if he still needed me. He was prompt to sent up an appointment at my house and promised to bring his HD sound recording equipment to boot. But this was just a "get to know you" meeting. Nevertheless, I got the piano tuned for the occasion. I hoped he would ask me to play my violin too, so I tuned it up and set it out, just in case. I made sure to act confident and pretend I knew what I was doing when I answered the door today. I even picked up the dirty laundry and swept the floors before he arrived.

Everything else? Well it seemed to go quite smoothly. He really liked the sound of my piano. I gave him some different ideas over his guitar part, and he was very good at guiding me toward what he was looking for. I couldn't always find all the notes, but most of them worked. Lots of potential, I think.

Finally, he asked to hear me play my fiddle. I smiled--the way I imagine Mona Lisa might have felt--and tucked it under my chin. This was it.

We got through about eight bars when he stopped, teary eyed. Excitedly, he exclaimed, "That's it, oh, this is what I'm looking for!"

You never know about these things, how they turn out in the long run. I'm too afraid to think anything will come of this, but the prospects certainly looked good today.

We'll see.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on July 23, 2008 at 8:54 AM
The two weeks, he just thinks you were working hard (you might have been, even if you don't realize it). It's cool when you're in a can do no wrong groove.
From Neil Cameron
Posted on July 23, 2008 at 10:49 AM
Fan-bluddy-tastic Emily! Look forward to further installments of "Lady E, Film Composer"


From Terez Mertes
Posted on July 23, 2008 at 12:41 PM
>We got through about eight bars when he stopped, teary eyed. Excitedly, he exclaimed, "That's it, oh, this is what I'm looking for!"

Aww, that's so cool. Gives me goosebumps.

From Shailee Kennedy
Posted on July 23, 2008 at 3:04 PM
I thought the same thing---how cool! What a great experience---enjoy it!
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on July 23, 2008 at 5:28 PM
What did you play on your violin that impressed him so much? This is a great opportunity for you. Enjoy it.
From Donna Clegg
Posted on July 23, 2008 at 5:37 PM
How exciting! Emily = artist, musician, composer extraordinaire!
From Joe Pasillas
Posted on July 23, 2008 at 6:03 PM
Wow - I love hearing your story - there is nothing like linking music to film or video. Doing an underscore must be like being in "heaven". It's an interpretation of the visual and the violin is an amazing instrument to express feelings.

Lions Gate did a documentary on Werner Herzog's documentary Grizzly Man . It's hard to find, but I have a VHS of it. It chronicles recording studio sessions of doing the underscore for Grizzly Man with guitarist Richard Thompson and a cellist and drummer.

It is called (long name and gets confused with the actual doc : "In the Edges: The 'Grizzly Man' Session" by Lions Gate films. Hard to find though.

Congrats! and emo on!

From Bilbo Prattle
Posted on July 23, 2008 at 8:05 PM
I'm sure you saw the movie about the guy who got eaten by the bears. The German director put a lot of consideration into the music and it showed.

Perhaps this will be another great one!

From Joe Pasillas
Posted on July 23, 2008 at 8:25 PM
Bilbo; That would be Werner Herzog and the name of the documentary film is "Grizzly Man".

There is a documentary about that documentary named "In the Edges: The "Grizzly Man" Sessions".

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on July 23, 2008 at 11:49 PM
Congratulations! It's so nice things working out this way.
From Ray Randall
Posted on July 24, 2008 at 1:36 AM
Wat to go. Must have been a bear of a two weeks. Maybe you'll unseat John
Williams as the premiere film score
From Drew Lecher
Posted on July 24, 2008 at 3:39 AM
From Emily Grossman
Posted on July 24, 2008 at 6:41 AM
Oh, you guys are great! No, I have no intention of becoming the next John Williams. Quite frankly, I only played a couple of simple licks, whatever came to mind. I hope to be able to pin down something more concrete soon. He sent me a sample from our session, and I hated it at once! As they say, we're our own worst critics... It's good that way, though, because that way I can stay one step ahead of the game.
From Tom Steele
Posted on July 24, 2008 at 1:55 PM
Joe, I've heard there was a documentary about the making of Grizzly Man...

Just kidding, that exchange between you and Bilbo reminded me of an old Bob&Ray bit about Komodo Dragons.

From John Allison
Posted on July 24, 2008 at 2:42 PM
Warm and fuzzy! I'm happy for you!
From Joe Pasillas
Posted on July 24, 2008 at 2:38 PM
Cool! Hmmm, Did I tell you about the documentary made about the documentary by the German.... I think I forgot.

I actually like the documentary about the documentary better. It was pretty much all shot in the heat of the creative process in a studio.

Improvisation is key in underscores.

"Fit that cue in 32 seconds"! "Now time it perfectly."


From Jim W. Miller
Posted on July 24, 2008 at 8:14 PM
They can film this and call it an alternate ending for Into the Wild, where somebody comes to the rescue.
From David Allen
Posted on July 24, 2008 at 8:34 PM
Emily, congratulations on slaying your personal dragon. Your future is wide open!
From Ray Randall
Posted on July 25, 2008 at 2:46 PM
This could get grizzly down the road.
From Michael Steele
Posted on July 25, 2008 at 8:41 PM
It sounds like you have a good gig coming. Congratulations on the "get to know you" portion.

If Jim needs a marimba player, put in a good word for me.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 6:41 AM
Marimba... Hmm, I guess I could see it. How about glockenspiel?
From Michael Steele
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 7:43 PM
A glockenspiel would be easier to take on an airplane...

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