Composer/Orchestrator Sean Goldman Elevates Music & Scores for Award-winning Movies and Disney Documentaries
“Sean Goldman always elevates my work with his music because he and I care about the same things — grabbing the audience with strong melodies and music people can relate to.” — filmmaker Gabriele Fabbro, director of award-winning movie, The Grand Bolero
You want to feel chills?
In the first place, watch and listen to The Grand Bolero an exciting 90-minute romantic thriller set during the Covid lockdown in Italy. It tells the tale of a gruff middle-aged pipe organ restorer struggling to control her obsessive attraction to her new and young mute assistant — “obsession at its most dangerous.”
Indeed, the movie has earned numerous awards, including: Best World Cinema Director at the 2022 Phoenix Film Festival; Best Picture at the 2021 Arpa International Film Festival; Best LGBTQ Feature at the 2022 Poppy Jasper International Film Festival; and the “Open Jury” award at the Linea D’Ombra Film Festival.
The emotionally powerful movie is scored by Sean Goldman, who got to input the synthetic demos he had constructed at his home studio into a real church organ, explaining: “We were lucky enough to be able to use the Grand Organ of St Anastasia in Villasanta. It has around 5000 pipes and is one of the biggest symphonic organs in Europe. It was emotional hearing my work come out of an instrument so beautiful and so powerful.”
Bolero, written by Maurice Ravel, is a sublime and rousing classical piece in itself, so to add contemporary flavors, as Goldman did, through that Grand Organ…well, in a word, the result is “hair-raising!”
Additionally, Goldman, whose composer inspirations range from legendary John Williams and Harry Gregson-Williams to Radiohead’s former guitarist/now turned Oscar nominated composer Jonny Greenwood, further explains, “My scoring in The Grand Bolero brings out the most in the drama happening on-screen. It gives the audience a sense of excitement in the bigger moments, and makes the emotional content even more palpable.”
By the way, Goldman has an ongoing creative collaboration with filmmaker Fabbro, recalling that the “first score I ever did with him was for the movie 8 which was nominated for Best Score at a slew of film festivals.”
As both a composer and orchestrator and also a multi-instrumentalist, Goldman offers a unique background in music, a valuable combination he brings to every project he works on from feature and short movies to documentaries. For example, he earned a Bachelor of Music (Specializing in Theory and Composition) from the University of Toronto, and suggests, “The Grand Bolero had me reach back to my Classical music education and skills in keyboard writing as a Classical pianist during my undergrad.” But then earning a Master’s in Scoring for Film, Television and Video Games from prestigious Berklee College of Music, further expanded his experience and vision.
Enthusiastically, he continues, “I was given opportunities to conduct my own recording sessions with a full orchestra, including at Air Studios in London, where Paul McCartney recorded ‘Yesterday.’ I collaborated with filmmakers, and built a varied portfolio that pushed me to make a lot of original music, and even original sounds recorded from scratch. After that, I was prepared to offer a wide variety of services when I entered the industry professionally, and I’m happy to say that my education was one thing that set me up to stand apart from the average composer.”
As a result, his experience in composing has informed his orchestration decisions because it’s been easier for him to understand the intentions of a composer. When Goldman was asked to orchestrate several pieces in Bear Witness, a Disney Nature documentary available on Disney+, he was thrilled to work with composer Ho-Ling Tang, who is often an additional music writer for the renowned film composer Harry Gregson-Williams. Goldman enthuses, “We worked with a full-sized orchestra and Ho-Ling flew to London to record at the legendary Abbey Roads Studios with some of the best orchestral musicians in the world. It is amazing to me that this music was recorded on some of the same equipment The Beatles used. For instance, John Lennon used to sing into a microphone that they were using during the Bear Witness session.”
Above all, working on the Bear Witness documentary added more understanding to Goldman’s growing repertory of skills: “Working on Disney’s scale taught me just how seriously each decision is made. There is always a line of green lights you need to get through in order for something to reach approval, and the music is not excluded from that. Disney is very careful to only allow the best through the door, so it is always a big relief when your work gets the stamp of approval.”
Looking back, Goldman says he grew up in a music-centric environment playing music with his parents at home in North Toronto and starting music lessons at age 5. He soaked it all up like a sponge and always knew he was going to create music. Today, he admits he loves writing music in all contexts: “I relish each opportunity that comes my way. On top of my film scoring, I continue to accept advertising work like working for Telus Health Heroes campaign and for companies like Unilever. In fact, I enjoy writing music for advertisements because the quick turnaround time, sometimes 24 hours or less, means you have many chances to try out new things. Additionally, I would be happy to apply my video game knowledge from my Master’s degree if I cross paths with any likeminded game developers.”
Upcoming, affable and in-demand Goldman says the soundtrack for The Grand Bolero will soon be released coinciding with the film’s continuing festival appearances and successes: “We want to give the audience a chance to listen to the glorious sounds of the Grand Organ at Villasanta.” And, as for other projects, he offers, “In this post-Covid creative explosion, I am thrilled about all the opportunities there are to collaborate with fantastic filmmakers and storytellers. The expansion of content platforms has opened up the market to more experimental possibilities and encourages larger companies like Netflix to take risks on newer productions.”
Stay tuned for more hair-raising fare by composer/orchestrator and multi-instrumentalist Sean Goldman.