World Soundtrack Awards Closes on High Note

WSA composer of the year Alexadre Desplat (right) and Howard Shore

The annual Ghent International Film Festival offers something all too rare for Hollywood's A-list film composers: The opportunity to interact.

The event culminates in the World Soundtrack Awards, which gathers top composers from around the world for concerts, workshops, panel discussions and the chance to meet peers and the public. Ten previous WSA winners were on hand this year to present some of the most popular themes at the 10th Anniversary Gala, where Alexandre Desplat was named Composer of the Year, with his "Fantastic Mr. Fox" honored as best film score.

Desplat was effusive in his praise of the WSA and the work of longtime managing director Jacques Dubrulle and departing music projects director Marian Ponnet. "We're very lucky to have an orchestra as good as this one to play our music; it's really something to share and enjoy," he said.

Regular David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti, who played the "Twin Peaks" and "Cousins" themes with the Brussels Symphony Orchestra at the awards concert, added: "I love Ghent. I love working with the master -- conductor Dirk Brosse -- he makes my music sound much better than it really is."

Gustavo Santaolalla, who played his theme from "Motorcycle Diaries" on the ronroco and "Brokeback Mountain" on the guitar, endorsed those sentiments. He said that being named Discovery of the Year in 2004 for "21 Grams" had changed his career. "It's something I will treasure forever," he added.

Later, Dubrulle marveled at how the WSA, which began humbly, has attained a worldwide reputation for celebrating film music. "It was a crazy idea for a small city in a small country, but we had a good orchestra and a good conductor and composers were very happy," said Dubrulle, adding that he's already planning a tribute to late Hitchcock regular Bernard Herrmann for next year.

The mood at the festival is jovial and relaxed as composers meet to eat, drink and talk music. At lunch in one of the medieval city's top restaurants on the day of the awards concert, Elliot Goldenthal, who later presented themes from "Titus," talked about locking himself in his New York apartment for four days to create the seven-minute song for Julie Taymor's film "Tempest."

Close by, Gabriel Yared, who played music from "The Talented Mr. Ripley," was in deep discussion with conductor Brosse and a nearby table was composed of the major Hollywood music agents and publicists who flock to the festival.

Stephen Warbeck, who presented themes from "Shakespeare in Love," took time for a master-class at the festival and spoke eagerly about bringing a musical ensemble next time, and David Arnold showed up to accept a lifetime achievement award for his mentor and friend John Barry.

They seemed like they never wanted to leave.

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