Penn & Teller Composer Upgrades Studio to Digital Gear
Dec 9, 2003 12:00 PM, Editors
For Emmy Award-nominated composer Gary Stockdale, working on Penn & Teller's Bulls--t! TV show is an exercise in every musical genre, “from Mozart to ’60s porno music” that calls for a large number of cues, changes in mix configurations and a combination of new and vintage gear.
“Penn & Teller never go for the easy trick,” said Stockdale, who has been associated with the duo for more than 15 years. “For this show, most of the scoring is done in post-production. Since it’s documentary-format, they’ll shoot a bunch of footage and edit it down, and then I’ll write the type of music that best helps get the message across. As the composer, I’m simply adding an extra level of editorializing to the show.”
Since meeting the duo in 1989, Stockdale has written and performed original music for their NBC TV special, Don't Try This at Home, the Broadway show Penn & Teller Rot In Hell, the ABC prime-time special Home Invasions, their current exclusive engagement at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, and the television variety series, Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular, which earned Stockdale his first two Emmy nominations for his work as composer, music director and bandleader. Although his composition tools include a number of vintage keyboards and effects, he has transitioned to computer-based recording and scoring, with some recent acquisitions that include a Yamaha 02R96 digital mixing console and a hard disk recording system.
“Though the object of our show is to point out scams wherever they exist, there’s no B.S. with the 02R96,” Stockdale said. “It’s a great tool. Going to hard drive video and adding the 02R96 has really simplified things. The weak link in my digital audio chain was working with an analog mixer, as well as locking up a VTR with my sequencer by SMPTE. My engineer, Bob Kearney, would say, ‘Get hard drive video! Are you crazy?’ We both agreed that the old mixer wasn’t giving us enough ‘punch.’ Bob had been working around L.A. on digital boards, specifically 02Rs, where you could save mixes, so he was a big influence in my getting the 02R96. There’s something to be said for analog, but it all gets heard in digital eventually, especially with TV production. I really like the fact that with the 02R96, you can instantly save any setup that you’re working on and download or upload it; that’s especially helpful for someone like me when I’m doing a lot of different cues.
"We’re using our Apogee Rosetta AD/DA converters less now that we have the 02R96, and we’re also using the console’s onboard effects. We’re running everything off word clock from the Rosettas and everything seems to be working perfectly; there were no sync problems when the board was installed. The MOTU audio system/Digital Performer combo is my main hard disk recording system, and there are a number of different digital sources like SPDIF and AES going right into the 02R96—almost all the connections are Lightpipe, and it handles everything smoothly. The sonic quality has definitely increased. Everything seems bigger and crisper-sounding.”
Stockdale’s facility in Los Angeles includes a live room and an electronics room housing two Tascam Gigastudios that are plugged directly into the 02R96, plus various Mac G Series computers, Genelec 1029A near-field monitors and a 1091A subwoofer. “Besides all the different plug-ins I have,” he said, “I also use a lot of more ‘vintage’ gear. Since we’re using a Gigastudio and plug-ins, we’ve been able to sell off lot of chip-based synths, since everything is being duplicated so well on the computers these days. Most of my keyboard modules are now in the Mac, but I have an 88-key Fender Rhodes.
“Even though Penn & Teller are called ‘magicians,’ the truth is, they were drawn together by their mutual hatred of magic,” Stockdale concluded, “so there has always been an element of seriousness and some very strong artistic and intellectual concepts behind their work. As a result, I’ve never had to write music to fill time while people pull rabbits out of their hats. They always have ideas that are well thought-out and play against expectations, which is also good for music. The best scores are those that are a little bit surprising and take you into an area that you weren’t expecting. They’ve always kept me challenged, and as a result, I’ve written some of my best stuff for them.”
Acceptable Use Policy blog comments powered by Disqus