2010: NCC "Art of the American Soldier"
on August 7, 2017
  • original music

It's probably no coincidence that so much of my favorite work over the past thirty years was produced in collaboration with my favorite producers. That's certainly the case with some music I composed for The National Constitution Center in 2010 under the direction of the brilliant Glenn Gury.

Glenn and I have collaborated on many projects over the years, and I can't think of one that was a struggle. As a musician himself, Glenn understands music, provides clear direction, and knows what he likes when he hears it. He obviously loves creating music and appreciates the effort that goes into producing a custom track, so I was intrigued when he told me that this particular project for The Constitution Center would be unlike anything we had done before.

Glenn explained that the U.S. military had a program that allowed soldier-artists to paint scenes from conflicts going back to World War I. Over 15,000 paintings were stored in Washington D.C., and a new exhibit titled The Art of the American Soldier would present this collection to the public for the first time. In addition to developing broadcast, web, and print advertising, Holton Sentivan + Gury had been asked to create a documentary and other audiovisual assets for use in the exhibit.

The work began with a teaser video for the Constitution Center's website. Glenn sent over a rough cut and asked me to check out Hans Zimmer's theme for the HBO series Band of Brothers. He and Art Director Drew Sentivan wanted to convey a sense of mystery and anticipation in the opening of the video, and this was where they felt that something like the Zimmer piece would be effective. They then wanted the score to become gradually warmer while maintaining a dignified, military sensibility. I composed a demo that night using digital samples, and the next day Glenn and Drew came by the studio to listen. They agreed that I was on the right track, though Glenn suggested simplifying the orchestration in a few key spots to make the score even more effective. Later that day I sent a revised demo, which was immediately approved. The next step was to incorporate some live players, so I brought in Greg Teperman to double the sampled violins and violas, Rich Kurtz to double the basses, and Tony Pirollo to double the 'cellos and handle some solo lines. Ron Kerber did a great job replacing the sampled flutes and clarinets, but the most important contribution was made by longtime Walnut Street Theater musician Dennis Wasko, who delivered a stirringly heartfelt trumpet performance.

In addition to being adapted for the broadcast advertising, the music from the web promo was expanded to underscore a documentary that ran continuously in a screening room adjacent to the main exhibit area, and was also featured in much of the interactive content that was accessible via iPads located throughout the gallery. Glenn invited me to attend a special opening ceremony that included politicians, military personnel, and many of the artists. It was profoundly moving to walk through the exhibit and hear my music accompanying this remarkable artwork. The experience remains among my proudest moments as a composer, and I'm forever grateful to Glenn for giving me the opportunity to contribute to such a unique and historically significant project.

Chuck Butler is celebrating his 30th anniversary as Baker Sound's in-house composer. For more information about Baker's music division, visit our dedicated MONSTER TRACKS website.