The Man with the Golden Baton
We ask SKYFALL IN CONCERT's (Sydney) Conductor Nicholas Buc - Seven Bond related questions and receive an inspiring bonus question answer for budding musicians.
He has been described as the "Go to man for Live scores", bringing the Silver screen to Symphony with energetic passion and gusto. The Melbourne born Composer, Conductor and arranger will lead the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in bringing Thomas Newman's BAFTA winning Score for 2012's SKYFALL to life as it makes its Australian debut at the iconic Sydney Opera House this weekend.
Buc has lead Orchestra’s across the world, conducting live-in-Concert’s for some of the biggest films and biggest scores of all time. He has an impressive CV of having conducted all of the major Australian symphony orchestras as well as the Minnesota Orchestra, Houston, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Austin orchestras amongst others in the U.S. Aswell as throughout Asia, conducting the Tokyo, Hong Kong, Malaysian, Osaka and Taipei Philharmonic orchestras.
After conducting CASINO ROYALE IN CONCERT earlier this year for it’s Melbourne run, Nicholas and the Orchestra will once again bring 007 to life to what will be an enthusiastic and eager audience under the sails of the world renowned Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. We are sure they will be enthralled by what they see and more importantly hear across the two evening performances and Saturday Matinee.
We thank Nicholas for taking out the time to answer the following questions, giving us some insight into the man behind the Bond baton Downunder and his passion for the music of Bond.
1) Favourite James Bond film? And favourite actor to play 007?
This is always a tough question and I usually answer by listing my favourite film of each Bond actor, but today I’m going to say Casino Royale. Sean Connery however will always be the best Bond, no question there.
2) First memory of James Bond? How much of a fan of the series are you?
The Living Daylights was my first memory of Bond, and still remains one of my favourite films and scores. Since then I have devoured everything to do with Bond, especially the music, and can easily recall dates, actors, song artists, plots and all kinds of other bits of useless information about the series. What can I say, I’m a Bond nerd!
3) As a musician what is the best James Bond theme song and singing artist in your opinion?
Oh this one is easy…Goldfinger! And Shirley Bassey! I think that song and that voice form the quintessential Bond combination which is the benchmark by which all other Bond songs are measured. It’s the melody, the brass, the strings, the swagger and the attitude that leaves such a lasting impression. That song is everything Bond is.
4) Favourite Bond composer? Why are they your favourite?
John Barry - his music is what got me hooked on film scores. I just loved his combination of orchestral writing combined with this sexy, pop-inflected style. The fact that the Bond sound has been parodied so much (think Austin Powers, Johnny English, etc.) is testament to his lasting legacy on the franchise.
“I just loved his (John Barry’s) combination of orchestral writing combined with this sexy, pop-inflected style”-Nicholas Buc
5) Best piece to conduct from both CR in Concert and Skyfall in Concert?
The entire airport scene in Casino Royale is something like 13 minutes worth of relentless action and suspense that just builds and builds - it’s a tough play for the orchestra but so rewarding! In Skyfall, the opening chase through Istanbul is similarly thrilling, and so much fun to conduct. But I’m also a sucker for the romantic scenes, and the music for Vesper in CR (especially all that delicate piano stuff) is to die for.
6) Obviously both David Arnold and Thomas Newman have had two fantastic scores for their respective films in CR and Skyfall that you have brought to life on stage, how would you describe the difference between the two?
I think Arnold’s score for Casino Royale hangs on the more traditional ideas of what we know as typical Bond music - it’s more melodic, muscular and romantic and ultimately pays a bigger homage to the sound of John Barry. Skyfall on the other hand is more ambient, tense and features more electronics and unusual instrumentation. It still hits all the right beats in the action, the romance and the locales, but it feels more subtle and in some regards, more in line with what we hear in modern thrillers.
7) As a clear film buff and composer yourself, would you ever like to score a James Bond film yourself? What sort of sound would you like to see in the series?
Absolutely yes! I’m a bit of a purist and would really like to see the music keep a firm grasp of its roots. There’s a trend in contemporary film scoring, especially in action films, of using these relentless pounding ostinato-based patterns that can be tiring on the ear. But in Bond, you need to keep a sense of the character’s history, and for me that’s sophistication, it’s melody, it’s brass, it’s sure-footed cockiness and cool. It’s the sound of John Barry filtered through a modern lens and as long as the next generation of Bond composers keep that in mind, I’ll be happy!
Bonus question, what or who inspired you to become a musician (conductor/ composer) and what would you say to those that want to follow in your footsteps?
I’ve already listed John Barry as an inspiration, but I can’t leave out the other father of modern-day film music, John Williams. Both of them were a huge inspiration and I loved that they also conducted their music themselves. My advice to anyone aspiring to become a musician is to never forget why you fell in love with it in the first place. I have seen many colleagues get disenchanted with the industry because they’ve lost sight of their passion, either through having sub-par teachers, career setbacks, failed auditions, poor reviews or just found it too difficult to make money! Music is tough, but the ones who succeed wear their passion on their sleeve and it becomes their guiding light through thick and thin.
Sydney Symphony Orchestra will perform SKYFALL IN CONCERT in Sydney, Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd November at the Sydney Opera House, Images of Nicholas provided by Nicholas Buc