Part 4 of my 7-part series (read part 3), about Randy Avers.  Randy is one half of the fabulous duo, Les Frères Méduses, who are writing and performing the original, live film score for us that will be performed on June 22nd to open our summer series.  Info here.

When the Alamo’s Tim League asked me about creating an original film score for one of his favorite silent films (“The Unknown,” 1927, Dir. Tod Browning), I knew that no other duo on the planet was more perfect for the task than Randy (who is based now in Norway) and his amazing French duo partner Benoît Albert.  Randy and I went to college together and I wanted to share a few stories.


So speaking of “set pieces” (see part 3 of this series: Competitions), one year Randy was in a competition with a particularly dreadful set piece.  This happened from time to time.

In their quest to level the playing field for all contestants, competition organizers will sometimes select set pieces that are so arcane, that practically no one has ever heard of them before (and typically wouldn’t have wanted to!), or they ask a composer to write a new piece altogether that will be sent to all contestants at the same time prior to the competition.  It’s a good practice, really, since it would be a drag to have a well-known set piece against which all will be judged, where there is a likelihood that some of the contestants will have the piece securely in their wheelhouse, while others will be learning it for the first time.

The danger, of course, is that you might get a lemon.  And the only thing worse than being forced to learn a piece, in a short period of time, about which you will be publicly judged… is having to learn a lousy one!

Well, Randy had to learn a lousy one.  And the rest of us had to listen to it week in and week out in studio class as he was preparing it for the competition.  I don’t remember which competition it was for, I’m sure he did exceptionally well, but I do remember a knock on my practice room door the weekend following the competition.  Randy invited me and several other individuals to a clandestine late-night meeting – the details of which were to be revealed upon arrival.

What he had prepared for the meeting was a séance-style ceremony and musical funeral pyre fueled by a handful of different gems from old music history texts, listening quizzes, and choice music theory chapters.  But all of those were merely to get the flames hot and high enough for the main attraction: the immolation of the dreaded competition set piece!

Read Part 5…