Film Scoring: Gary Meister of Naturalistic on Composing for “Concrete Steel and Paint”

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On Friday, May 20th NYC documentary fans can catch the screening of a powerful film, Concrete Steel and Paint. Made by Cindy Burstein and Tony Heriza, and released by New Day Films, Concrete will be shown that night at 7:30 PM, at Maysles Cinema, followed by a post screening Q&A (full details below).

Concrete Steel & Paint screens this Friday, 5/20 at Maysles Cinema.

The film’s creators describe Concrete – which Robert Koehler of the Huffington Post called “an extraordinary documentary” – this way: “When men in a Pennsylvania prison join with victims of crime to create a mural about healing, their views on punishment, remorse, and forgiveness collide. Attempts to find consensus repeatedly stall. But as the participants move deeper into the creative process, the mistrust begins to give way to moments of common purpose and human contact.

“The film raises important questions about crime, justice and reconciliation and illustrates the role that art can play in facilitating dialogue about difficult issues. In a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world, there are no easy answers, but Concrete, Steel and Paint points to the need for fresh ideas and new approaches to criminal justice and corrections.”

NYC composer Gary Meister of Naturalistic wrote and tracked Concrete’s gripping score at the aptly-named Naturalistic Studios downtown. A multi-purpose songwriter and producer, Meister (AMC, Bravo, CBS, HBO, Magnolia Pictures, Showtime) explained how this engrossing movie’s music came together.

How he got involved on the project:
In a way, this project came about because of the band Anvil. A couple of years ago I went to a screening of the doc Anvil! The Story of Anvil, and ran into an old college friend, filmmaker Cindy Burstein. She was working on her film and was struggling with the composer they had hired. I gave her my thoughts on how I thought they might proceed with him. After some time, it still wasn’t working out, so they changed composers and hired me.

Gary Meister's score is an informative ingredient in "Concrete".

The musical mindset:
For Concrete, Steel & Paint we really wanted the score to help audiences connect with these inmates and the families of victims, as well as the artists who worked with them to create the murals. I set out to create a score that would support the emotional moments you see on screen, and help with the overall pacing and story and character development.

Style and instrumentation:
The score I wrote wound up incorporating a few musical styles. Most tracks have a soul/blues feel, but some have elements of classical, hip-hop or afro-pop thrown in as well. I recorded myself playing acoustic and electric guitar, bass, electric piano, percussion, samples and more. Liberal use was made of the Sound Toys plug-ins (among others) for reverbs, delays, backward effects, bass tones, etc…

A balancing act:
As with many of the social/political docs I’ve scored, the music needed to reflect the film’s balance of the gravitas of the subject matter with it’s sense of hope. Often I was working with cues that conveyed a “bittersweetness” (as we started referring to it) and had to find ways to evoke either more or less bitterness or sweetness.

Hear two tracks from the film by visiting Naturalistic, then click on “Work”, then “Music”, then “Soul & Funkyness”, and listen to “Concrete Skies” (the opening theme) and “Tricked Out”, a Naturalistic library track that was featured in the soundtrack. Or check out the official trailer below.

Full Coordinates:
Concrete Steel and Paint
Friday, MAY 20th at 7:30PM
Maysles Cinema
343 Malcolm X Boulevard / Lenox Avenue (between 127th and 128th Streets)
Tickets: $10 Suggested Donation
For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit Maysles Cinema

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