Vivek Maddala
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Vivek Maddala’s score for “Wild Oranges” spins a wonderfully melodious emotional tapestry through a film that in many places becomes something wholly different with the addition of this new score.

Maddala’s gift for melody is apparent throughout the film as he creates a combination of character and situation-driven themes; but he never rests on the clichés in style or substance that befall so many composers who tend to imitate, rather than create film scores. Indeed, this music is a creation—a new creation—from the very beginning. Maddala constructs an eclectic score that defies categorization, but always delivers.

The score combines melodies--some more traditional, some more modern in tonality--with a scoring style that provides both a sense of momentum through the longer scenes, and a sense of pause at selected points as the story unfolds, creating chapters at appropriate points in the film. Often at the end of a chapter, rather than finality, we are left with suspense and sense of foreboding of what might or might not happen next—all done with a contemporary flair. Maddala’s liberal use of 20th-century harmony throughout the score gives the film a remarkable feeling, highlighting the mixed emotions we see in the characters in the film.

Among the scenes where music plays a critical role is one where John takes Millie on his sailboat and for the first time Millie feels a sense of freedom and life that she had not experienced before during her rural upbringing--and the music beautifully (but not obviously) plays Millie’s excitement and childlike wonder as she finds the magic and freedom of the open sea. But as Millie discovers how big the open sea really is and becomes frightened of the sheer scope of the unknown, Maddala’s score plays the part of an unseen character, helping the audience make an effective transition as Millie’s feelings of wonder and awe are overtaken by her long-held fears and anxieties. As an overwhelmed Millie descends into a mental abyss of fear, Maddala’s modernistic score highlights her emotions just enough to unveil the true depth of her feelings without distracting the viewer or overplaying the scene.

Toward the end of the film, Maddala very effectively deals with a type of scene that too often is scored obviously and predictably: a fight scene. Watching the scene without music, it almost seems comical; but clearly the filmmaker had no intention of portraying humor as John and the insane man-boy Nicholas engage in a battle for the fearful Millie. As the film cuts between the men fighting and Millie trying to free herself from Nicholas’ bindings, the music never falls back to obviousness and predictability. Instead it plays the emotions of the characters—the frightened but brave Millie; John defending the one women he finally dares to love; and the blind, primitive rage of Nicholas. Rather than playing “the action” as so many composers would choose to, Maddala’s choice to play the twisting, roiling emotions of the characters using fresh harmony and even dissonance draws the viewer in at every turn, transforming the long fight sequence into a modernistic expose of the rage, fear, and love that drive the characters to act.

Maddala’s “Wild Oranges” takes a small orchestra (whose players are often acting more as soloists than ensemble players), mixes in a healthy amount of modern dissonance and memorable themes, and seasons the mix with a liberal dose of jazz stylings to create a truly unforgettable and uniquely contemporary score for this classic film.
- Film Music Magazine


Vivek Maddala's intricately quirky, light-hearted score for "The Patsy" brings a pleasure to this film that it richly deserves. His use of constantly contrasting musical styles and instruments provides the viewer with a wonderful dramatic musical partner to the picture, sometimes playing along with the picture, other times teasing the viewer with what might be to come, and at other times playing almost opposite the picture. While Maddala often plays the drama of the picture, it's never too heavy and many times brings a lighter feeling to the scenes, which plays perfectly into the comedic line of the film. And just when you think things might be getting really dramatic, along comes the southern harmonica to put a smile on your face as the father of the family in the film does his best country-speak while married to his stuffy wife and bearing up in a 3-piece suit for most of the film.

On a musical level, the score harmonically and melodically is a deep, passionate work that always manages to avoid being dark, and exudes a playful, fun feeling without using any of the many musical or instrumental clichés that seem to dominate comedic film scoring. Maddala's deft and frequent use of twentieth century harmonic techniques is cleverly surrounded with playful, fun motifs that almost poke fun at the film, and indirectly the viewer, but not quite. The result is a wonderfully rich, entertaining, enjoyable score that adds an entirely new dramatic narrative element to the film and enhances it in a musical and dramatic way that viewers and fans of film scores will surely enjoy.
- Film Music Magazine


PART I

Third Angle has a small but growing side business recording soundtracks for silent films through Turner Classic Movies. The new-music group's latest venture is King Vidor's 1924 suspense thriller "Wild Oranges," which it will perform during screenings of the film Friday and Saturday at Lincoln Hall.

"Wild Oranges" is a sophisticated 90-minute film set in a bay near the Georgia swamps, where John Woolfolk (Frank Mayo) lands in his yacht. After the death of his wife in a carriage accident, he sails around the world where, at one point, he goes ashore for water. There, he discovers an old man and his granddaughter, Nellie, being held prisoner by Iscah Nicholas, a half-crazed, half-childlike homicidal maniac. Woolfolk fights the old brute and takes Nellie to his yacht, where the struggle continues to the death.

Vivek Maddala, an award-winning film composer, wrote the "Wild Oranges" score. He's composed a halfdozen film scores, including a soundtrack for Greta Garbo's "The Mysterious Lady." Ron Blessinger, the ensemble's artistic director, calls the music for "Wild Oranges" a "lush Hollywood score," with elements of Elmer Bernstein and Bernard Hermann. "Wild Oranges" is the latest Turner Classic Movies project to feature music by young composers.

... Stay after the concert to hear the composer and Third Angle musicians talk about the film-scoring process...

PART II

Nellie Stope lives with her grandfather on a remote island off the Florida coast. But they're not alone. An escaped prisoner lurks in the swamps and periodically pops up to terrorize Nellie. He likes to make her stand on a tree stump in a swamp, surrounded by lip-smacking alligators.

Aesthetically, King Vidor's 1924 silent thriller "Wild Oranges" -- think a blending of "Cape Fear" and "Psycho" -- is an ice age away from today's techno-laden movies. That is precisely the point of Third Angle's concert over the weekend. Portland's we'll-try-anything-once, new-music ensemble deliberately chose an old-fashioned vehicle to illustrate how chamber music connects to different art forms.

Third Angle's night at the movies plugged chamber music into popular culture. What's more, the group did it with brand new music -- which frequently has been the bane of classical music audiences -- Vivek Maddala's lush, lyrical score.

"Wild Oranges" is a weird film. Creepy things happen in the swamps and forest. Nellie's grandfather, a Civil War veteran, peers anxiously out the window of his plantation house. He has what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder. But there's more: Rocking chairs rock by themselves. Shutters bang in the wind. A nasty-looking dog barks, his breath steaming in the early morning.

When a strapping, good-looking stranger arrives on the island, he falls for Nellie, and they plot her escape. But the Caliban-like escaped prisoner finds out about their plans and tries to stop them. An amazingly long fistfight ensues (at least for contemporary sensibilities), during which the two men tumble down a flight of stairs, through the underbrush and onto the dock. Flames engulf the house and the nasty dog breaks free and mauls the prisoner. Nellie and her man make their James-Bond like escape onto their boat and sail clear.

It's campy and melodramatic and funny to us, but the film's undertones are dark.

Which brings us to the music, scored for strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. Vivek Maddala plays his film score pretty straight, playing on Max Steiner and Bernard Hermann traditions with lyrical love themes, luxuriant harmonies that identify emotional states, some nicely placed allusions to jazz and piquant dissonances for conflict.

My only criticism is that he chose to play it so straight: A touch of humor or irony would have warmed us to the film even more.

Maddala himself conducted the Third Angle musicians, who gave crisp, articulate performances, showing their commitment to the score with bold, impassioned playing.

The concert at Lincoln Hall began with an even earlier silent film, a hilarious animated bug film, "Revenge," scored in a lively funk style by New York composer Randall Wolff.

The Turner Classic Movies channel will broadcast the premiere of "Wild Oranges" with Third Angle's recording of the soundtrack at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5.
- The Oregonian


Vivek Maddala’s score for “Wild Oranges” spins a wonderfully melodious emotional tapestry through a film that in many places becomes something wholly different with the addition of this new score.

Maddala’s gift for melody is apparent throughout the film as he creates a combination of character and situation-driven themes; but he never rests on the clichés in style or substance that befall so many composers who tend to imitate, rather than create film scores. Indeed, this music is a creation—a new creation—from the very beginning. Maddala constructs an eclectic score that defies categorization, but always delivers.

The score combines melodies--some more traditional, some more modern in tonality--with a scoring style that provides both a sense of momentum through the longer scenes, and a sense of pause at selected points as the story unfolds, creating chapters at appropriate points in the film. Often at the end of a chapter, rather than finality, we are left with suspense and sense of foreboding of what might or might not happen next—all done with a contemporary flair. Maddala’s liberal use of 20th-century harmony throughout the score gives the film a remarkable feeling, highlighting the mixed emotions we see in the characters in the film.

Among the scenes where music plays a critical role is one where John takes Millie on his sailboat and for the first time Millie feels a sense of freedom and life that she had not experienced before during her rural upbringing--and the music beautifully (but not obviously) plays Millie’s excitement and childlike wonder as she finds the magic and freedom of the open sea. But as Millie discovers how big the open sea really is and becomes frightened of the sheer scope of the unknown, Maddala’s score plays the part of an unseen character, helping the audience make an effective transition as Millie’s feelings of wonder and awe are overtaken by her long-held fears and anxieties. As an overwhelmed Millie descends into a mental abyss of fear, Maddala’s modernistic score highlights her emotions just enough to unveil the true depth of her feelings without distracting the viewer or overplaying the scene.

Toward the end of the film, Maddala very effectively deals with a type of scene that too often is scored obviously and predictably: a fight scene. Watching the scene without music, it almost seems comical; but clearly the filmmaker had no intention of portraying humor as John and the insane man-boy Nicholas engage in a battle for the fearful Millie. As the film cuts between the men fighting and Millie trying to free herself from Nicholas’ bindings, the music never falls back to obviousness and predictability. Instead it plays the emotions of the characters—the frightened but brave Millie; John defending the one women he finally dares to love; and the blind, primitive rage of Nicholas. Rather than playing “the action” as so many composers would choose to, Maddala’s choice to play the twisting, roiling emotions of the characters using fresh harmony and even dissonance draws the viewer in at every turn, transforming the long fight sequence into a modernistic expose of the rage, fear, and love that drive the characters to act.

Maddala’s “Wild Oranges” takes a small orchestra (whose players are often acting more as soloists than ensemble players), mixes in a healthy amount of modern dissonance and memorable themes, and seasons the mix with a liberal dose of jazz stylings to create a truly unforgettable and uniquely contemporary score for this classic film.
- Film Music Magazine


"An excellent music score... particularly the opening, which is wild and dense (the harmonica reminiscent of Toots Thieleman), and the propulsive theme with the pizzicato strings during the "Yacht Club" scene. It's all great stuff....." - Salon.com


"The musical score by Young Composer contest winner Vivek Maddala is eloquent, passionate, and precise offered in atmospheric Dolby Digital Stereo Surround." - DVD Verdict


"Once again Vivek Maddala has produced a wondrous score--one that hearkens back to the 20s but is thoroughly contemporary. This is a winning combination and helps make films like THE PATSY a treat for today's audiences. THE PATSY is sure to become a TCM favorite...." - National Film Preservation Foundation


"An excellent music score... particularly the opening, which is wild and dense (the harmonica reminiscent of Toots Thieleman), and the propulsive theme with the pizzicato strings during the "Yacht Club" scene. It's all great stuff....." - Salon.com


" This truly delightful film has now been re-issued with a brand new score by Vivek Maddala, a superb young composer who has already contributed music to the Greta Garbo film Mysterious Lady (1928) and the Lon Chaney film The Ace of Hearts (1921). I had the unique privilege of seeing the film on the big screen and hearing the score through a perfect sound system. It's a lively, airy score that sweeps the film up and carries it along. It even provides the occasional "sound effect" -- enhancing a running gag about a doorbell -- without getting too cutesy. The film premiered July 11 on Turner Classic Movies and will hopefully receive a DVD release sometime soon." - San Francisco Examiner


" This truly delightful film has now been re-issued with a brand new score by Vivek Maddala, a superb young composer who has already contributed music to the Greta Garbo film Mysterious Lady (1928) and the Lon Chaney film The Ace of Hearts (1921). I had the unique privilege of seeing the film on the big screen and hearing the score through a perfect sound system. It's a lively, airy score that sweeps the film up and carries it along. It even provides the occasional "sound effect" -- enhancing a running gag about a doorbell -- without getting too cutesy. The film premiered July 11 on Turner Classic Movies and will hopefully receive a DVD release sometime soon." - San Francisco Examiner


Discography

FILM SCORES, BALLET, THEATER MUSIC, AND RECORDED ALBUMS: COMPOSED BY VIVEK MADDALA

2008 Horizontal Leanings
2008 More Perfect Union
2007 They Turned Our Desert Into Fire *
2007 Whispers from Poland
2007 Walking Tall *
2007 Ice Spiders (co-composer)
2007 Nuclear Hurricane (co-composer)
2007 Flash Gordon (TV Series) (additional music)
2006 Grasshopper *
2006 Wild Oranges *
2006 Portland at Play
2006 Catch Up
2005 The Ring
2005 Mother
2005 Moon Chasing
2005 Omar and Fiona
2005 Gidoo's Cosmic Crisis
2004 The Patsy *
2003 Martha's Bakery
2002 Mysterious Lady
2002 Equation
2001 The Flag
2000 Ace of Hearts *

* indicates award winner

Photos

Bio

"Vivek's artistic vision is striking, cinematic, and beautiful..."
-Tom Karsch, Turner Entertainment

ABOUT THE COMPOSER

Vivek Maddala is an international award-winning composer and

multi-instrumental performer. His music blends melodic symphony

writing with syncopated jazz idioms and modern ethnic textures --

from European neo-Romanticism to South Asian raga; from modern rock

to French Impressionism. The result has been described as "an

emotive frenzy of guitar, percussion, brass, woodwinds, and strings."

In 2000, at the age of 26, Vivek won the first Grand Prize in the

national Young Film Composers Competition and he was invited to study

in the prestigious ASCAP Film Scoring program two years later. In

2005, Vivek's score for THE PATSY won the JPF award for "Best

Soundtrack Album of the Year." In October of 2006, Vivek served as

the guest conductor for the Third Angle New Music Ensemble,

performing his work as part of their 2006-2007 concert season. Last

year, Vivek's score for the James Franco film GRASSHOPPER was

nominated for a Film & TV Music Award. His scores for GRASSHOPPER

and WILD ORANGES received gold medals and an audience award in 2008

at the Park City Film Music Festival. Vivek was named a Sundance

Fellow in 2008 for film music composition by the Sundance Institute.

In addition to film scoring, Vivek has written music for national TV

spots and songs for pop/rock and jazz-fusion CD releases. Further,

Vivek's music has been covered in feature news stories by NPR, the

Associated Press, CNN, Crossfader, Variety, and Entertainment

Tonight.

Earlier this year, Vivek was commissioned by the internationally

renowned dance company BodyVox to compose the score for their modern

ballet, "Horizontal Leanings." The work explores diverse themes,

such as community survival and cultural identity, while contrasting

our fragmented world of friction and alienation with a cohesive world

of collective effort. The production fuses innovative choreography

with Vivek's postmodern music composition, and it premiered to packed

theaters in the Summer of 2008.

Vivek has always sought to write music in the service of achieving

social progress -- to comment on the world as it is, and hopefully to

affect it positively. His score for THEY TURNED OUR DESERT INTO FIRE

blends North African percussion with shadowy string textures and

haunting vocals to illuminate the film's story of the ongoing

genocide in Darfur and the associated humanitarian crisis of refugee

camps on the continent. His brooding, passionate score for ACE OF

HEARTS invokes the broken social and economic structures that promote

poverty and injustice here in the US (and elsewhere around the

globe). Accordingly, Vivek continues to seek out projects that lift

the human spirit -- to challenge the function of war and elucidate

the human condition.

When writing music for visual media, Vivek speaks with his own

personal style, his own musical voice. His scores supplement and

strengthen the narrative and emotional components, characterizing and

framing the picture -- above all, serving the dramatic vision of the

director. Elegant musical motifs and careful orchestration combine

to give Vivek's music a distinctive flavor that moves gracefully

between tradition and innovation; with equal parts euphoria and

introspection; frantic while elegant; drunken yet precise; and

utterly human.

HONORS AND AWARDS

• Grand Prize / Young Film Composers Competition (2000)
• ASCAP Film Scoring Fellowship (2002)
• International JPF award for Best Soundtrack Album of the Year

(2005) – The Patsy
• Reviewer's Pick for 2006, Pro Audio Review
• Electronic Musician 2007 Editor's Choice Award
• Future Music ACE Award (2007)
• Film & TV Music Award nomination (2007), Grasshopper
• MusicTech Choice Award (2007)
• Gold Medal for Artistic Excellence, Park City Film Music Festival,

Wild Oranges (2008)
• Gold Medal for Artistic Excellence, Audience Favorite, Park City

Film Music Festival, Grasshopper (2008)
• Sundance Composer Fellow (2008)

NOTABLE SCORES COMPOSED BY VIVEK MADDALA

• Horizontal Leanings
• They Turned Our Desert Into Fire *
• Whispers from Poland
• Walking Tall *
• Ice Spiders (co-composer)
• Nuclear Hurricane (co-composer)
• Flash Gordon (TV Series, additional music)
• Grasshopper *
• Wild Oranges *
• Portland at Play
• Catch Up
• The Ring
• Mother
• Moon Chasing
• Omar and Fiona
• Gidoo's Cosmic Crisis
• The Patsy *
• Martha's Bakery
• Mysterious Lady
• Equation
• The Flag
• Ace of Hearts *

* indicates award winner