SC Article in WSJ on 4/4/14...

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SC Article in WSJ on 4/4/14...

Postby mairinpgh on 08 Apr 2014 19:35

Nice article in last Fri's WSJ entitled "Stewart Copeland's Post-Police Beat". Since there is a paywall, here is the text:

"Stewart Copeland likes the sound of reinvention. "It's very gratifying that I can put music on the stage and have people be interested in it without my having to play 'Roxanne,' " says Mr. Copeland, the former drummer for the rock band the Police.

Since the Police disbanded in the late-1980s, save for a brief reunion tour. Mr. Copeland has remade himself as a composer—first for film, more recently for orchestra—writing symphonic works, percussion concertos and operas.

On April 19, the Virginia Arts Festival Orchestra premieres Mr. Copeland's "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ," a score to accompany Fred Niblo's 1925 silent film of the same name. Mr. Copeland, who edited the over-two-hour classic movie down to 85 minutes himself, will also perform on the drums.

The orchestral piece came out of Mr. Copeland's score for the stadium show "Ben Hur Live," an adaptation of the 1880 book "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ" that premiered at London's O2 arena. With its live chariot races, cast and crew of 400 and several dozen horses, it became financially unsustainable. "I hate to see a good tune go to waste," says Mr. Copeland, 61.

Mr. Copeland first saw the silent film when he was working on the arena show and his manager, Derek Power, bought a DVD of the 1959 Charlton Heston film with bonus features. "I can't remember what possessed me to watch [the 1925 version], but I thought, 'Damn, that's the way to go,' " says Mr. Copeland. "I'm not that religious...but even for this Hollywood crocodile libertine, it's really powerful emotionally."

He and Mr. Power approached Warner Bros. for the rights to edit the film. After the studio granted him permission to edit a digital copy, Mr. Copeland trimmed the movie and reworked his score to fit it.

"A lot of people would say that these films should never be touched, but I believe what Stewart is doing is making this film much more accessible to people who would never think about watching it," says Richard Kaufman, who will conduct "Ben-Hur" this month in Virginia and with the Chicago Symphony in October. Mr. Kaufman will use a click track—a metronomic beat he will hear through a headset—to align the orchestra with the film.

Robert Cross, executive director of the Virginia Arts Festival, describes Mr. Copeland's score as "drum and percussion focused," with a Middle Eastern influence. (Mr. Copeland spent much of his childhood in Lebanon.)

Mr. Copeland sums up his career trajectory: first rock star, then film composer and now concert-piece composer. "It really is that simple," says Mr. Copeland, reiterating several times that he is no longer a film composer. His first film score was "Rumble Fish" (1983), eventually followed by Oliver Stone's "Wall Street," "She's All That," and nearly 50 others.

The switch from drumming in a rock band to orchestra has taken some adjustment. "My career was playing loud stadium rock," says Mr. Copeland. "It's a different technique and almost a different instrument. You can't do little ruffs and drags and subtle things at that kind of volume."

Mr. Copeland, who lives in Los Angeles, says he composes every morning after dropping his children off at school. He writes on the computer with help from an attached piano keyboard and assorted castoff instruments. "I discovered eBay, so I have the world's largest collection of the world's cheapest instruments."

Influences include mostly 20th-century composers: Igor Stravinsky, Carl Orff, John Adams and Steve Reich. Mr. Copeland says he is "sort of immune to the classical guys" and has never been much of a jazz fan.

His favorite ensemble to write for? "Big orchestra," says Mr. Copeland, then reconsiders. "No—opera! Opera is the most fun a composer can have."
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