Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Backseat

I love my blog.

One day soon, I hope to approach it with the same fervor and gusto with which I threw into my very first post (Avatar sucked), my "Top 5" rankings (I placed Rand too high, by the way -- I stand by WALL-E though), and all those juicy niblets of my past. But for now, I have reallocated every ounce of fervent gusto-ness within my being to another project (announcement soon).

My blog, like the giant horse-dog you acquired before finding out you were pregnant with wildly enthusiastic redheaded twins, is taking the backseat.

(DISCLAIMER: This backseat is not my own, nor are the three very peculiar mammals sitting in it.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What is Cinema Cycle?

A short answer:
Cinema Cycle is the new musical moniker under which I will be releasing all music, from now until the world explodes. This includes lyrical records, but will focus primarily on instrumental film/video scoring.

A long-ish answer:
I've scored or been a part of scoring numerous film/tv/video spots over the last couple of years. Much of that work was with The Champion and His Burning Flame, but most was recorded and produced by me at my house. As the work started picking up, I found myself devoting countless hours in the studio doing many of the jobs myself. I quickly realized I was going to need some device or entity to release this music. There's already a blockbuster film composer named David Arnold and I didn't want to use a pseudonym. I decided to go with something more like a band name. This also fell in line with my desire to include a few of my uber talented friends on certain projects and have them really be part of a community rather than just "playing for Dave." Thus, Cinema Cycle was born. Think of it as a band if it's easier that way.

All of the Original Score records are actual scores of films or videos wherein I was able to retain the copyrights. In addition to being "records" they also serve as somewhat of a database for filmmakers to draw from. I own the rights and can hire them out to be used in various films/videos. The songs are released exclusively on bandcamp. It really is a musician's dream as it allows high quality mp3 downloads, while the listener can name their price (you can name $0!!!!). iTunes may be in the works, but until then, keep checking back with my bandcamp page for updates. You can also friend me on facebook here.

Discography to date:
Fresh Young Face (lyrical EP)
Original Score Part 1
Original Score Part 2
Original Score Part 3

Listen/download high quality mp3's (name your price) at:
Friend me on facebook:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Top 10 Original Film Scores

To be clear, we're not talking soundtracks. That list would, by and large, be made up of Wes Anderson, Cameron Crowe, Gus Van Sant and Sofia Coppola movies. We're talking scores here, original compositions. Another rule; I'm limiting two spaces per composer. Otherwise, the top 10 would look like this:

1. John Williams
2. John Williams
3. John Williams
4. John Williams
5. John Williams
6. John Williams
7. John Williams
8. John Williams
9. John Williams
10. John Williams

Make no mistake, this could very well be a "Top 10 John Williams Scores" blog entry. The man's body of work is astounding. Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones, E.T., Fiddler on the Roof, Jaws, Close Encounters, Dracula, Home Alone, Hook, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Harry Potter, and on and on and on..... unbelievable.... Ask the average person what their favorite movie theme is and 9.5 times out of 10, they will name a John Williams composition. He is Michael Jordan. He is Babe Ruth. He is THE standard. And he only has two movies on my list.

Also, no musicals. While technically containing original music, musicals are really a genre unto themselves. (Unfortunately, I would categorize one of my all time favorite movies, The Nightmare Before Christmas as a musical, so that will not be showing up on my list..... but does get Honorable Mention.) Scores from films such as The Graduate, A Hard Day's Night, and Purple Rain are also disqualified as many of the songs could be found on other records and, let's face it, were really songs first and scores second. A good film score should accompany and enhance a scene, but not dominate it.

Also, let's go ahead and acknowledge the obvious. There are plenty of scores I should darn well include on this list. Heck, only a crazy person wouldn't include Space Odyssey, right? Or how about Psycho? Or even The Pink Panther? The problem is... well, here's the rub... I don't care about those scores. I'm familiar with them, but at no point in my life did they move me in any way. So while they were groundbreaking, they don't haunt me. Maybe I should title this blog, "Top 10 Original Scores That Had a Profound and Emotional Impact on David W. Arnold." Which is a good segue into... these are my opinions. You are more than welcome to disagree. You're also more than welcome to be wrong. Starting now.

(Couldn't figure out how to make the videos smaller. I do apologize. Fortunately, the sound is full size.)

10. The Royal Tenenbaums (Mark Mothersbaugh)
This could just as easily have been Rushmore or The Life Aquatic, but I give the pathos edge to Royal Tenenbaums. The only one on this list that would also make the cut on the "Best Soundtracks."

9. The Motorcycle Diaries (Gustavo Santaolalla)
Academy Award winning composer Santaolalla has scored such films as Brokeback Mountain, Babel, 21 Grams and this...

8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Nick Cave and Warren Ellis)
Watch this and tell me you don't want to see this movie immediately. You'll be hard pressed to find this one on many top film score lists, but you won't find many scores that really nail the emotion of the characters the way Nick Cave and Warren Ellis do in this film.

7. Batman (Danny Elfman)

6. Star Wars (John Williams)
Maybe the most memorable theme song of all time.

5. Edward Scissorhands (Danny Elfman)
Danny Elfman at his best. And that's pretty effing great.

4. The Godfather (Nino Rota)
Short of the X Files theme, this is the greatest one line whistler of all time. Haunting and memorable, I am compelled to believe that Rota's melody was actually composed by the Godfather himself.

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jon Brion)
Couldn't find a video including Brion's actual score for this film, so I will say this: if you haven't seen this movie, go do it. If you haven't listened to this score, go do it. Jon Brion is my personal favorite film composer and this, I think, is him at his best.

2. Amelie (Yann Tiersen)
Hands down, the best romantic film score of all time.

1. E.T. (John Williams)
I hear this score and want to cry and laugh at the same time. I feel like a kid who wants to grow up, but is just smart enough to know better. Williams found the nailhead throughout his career, but none were hit as precisely as E.T.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Perfect Diamond

As I was scouring some of my unfinished blog postings, I stumbled across this one, which was apparently too painful for me to continue at the time. It was called "A Perfect Diamond," and, pen to paper, this is what I had:

"This posting will be about why I love baseball. Can't write about this right now. Because it sucks."

Now, I implore any true baseball fan to deny that this is true. Baseball is a game of inches. A game of history. A game of strategy. A game of heartbreak. The only game where the defense controls the ball. A game where success is determined not by how often one succeeds, but by how often one does not fail. If you can hit a ball 2.5 out of 10 times, you are successful. In the classroom, those percentages will earn you an F. On the field, those percentages will earn you 2.3 million dollars.

Few of my blogs have an agenda. They are usually chopped full of top 5 drivel and elitist film or book critiques. But this post has a mission. It's simple, really. I'm sick of my friends telling me how boring baseball is. I don't care if you like the game, you may find it dreadful and that's fine. I hate football, but respect the strategy and skill. Go ahead and hate baseball. Just... not in front of me.

A Game of Inches

The pitcher stands 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate. Figuring the average major league pitcher throws 90 miles per hour (but up to 105 mph, a record recently set by Reds reliever, Aroldis Chapman), that gives the hitter less than half a second to react. Which would be difficult enough assuming the pitch was straight. More often than not, it isn't. The batter must pick up on the release point of the pitcher's arm, the speed of the pitch, the rotation on the ball (curve, slider, sinker, offspeed, fastball, etc), decide whether it's in the strike zone, then decide whether to swing and how hard...... in less than half a second. It looks easy on TV, but I guarantee you, there's a reason you're watching and not doing. More of baseball's "inches" will be discussed under the section "A Game of Heartbreak."

A Game of History
There is an intangible quality to baseball. I assume this could be said of most sports (I'm fairly certain soccer is nothing but intangibles), but I would argue that it is especially true of baseball. Like jazz, it is unadulterated in its American roots. The numbers are just as true now as they were a hundred years ago and in a hundred years, hitting a curveball will be just as difficult. No amount of batting technology or progressive workouts (or new drugs) will make it easier.
For years baseball was a hobbyist's sport, but in 1869 the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional team. They played other amateur teams until 1871 when the National Association formed the first professional league, replaced in 1875 by the National League. It has been temporarily put on hold for wars, strikes, and drugs, but has never been stopped. Names like Ruth, Gehrig, Rose, Williams, Mays, Mantle, DiMaggio, Koufax, and yes, even Bonds are immortalized gods. The history of baseball could be a blog unto itself, but I highly recommend Ken Burns' Baseball, an authoritative documentary. Very thorough and highly entertaining.

A Game of Strategy
One of the problems with baseball is that if you've never played it, you probably don't really understand it. Unlike football and basketball, the strategy is inherent and virtually invisible. Unless you know the domino effect of each pitch. Here's an example:
-- I'm playing center field with a runner on first and one out. The batter is a power-hitting lefty who likes to pull the ball. The runner on first has good speed. I know the pitcher will throw primarily fastballs, because anything offspeed and the runner has a better chance of stealing second. As long as the pitcher has the advantage in ball/strike count (0-1, 0-2, 1-2), I'll field for the batter. He's a power hitting lefty, who knows he's getting fastballs, so I'll shift a little to right field and play deep. If the pitcher falls behind in the count (1-0, 2-0, 2-1, etc), I'm going to be a little more concerned with the runner on first, because as center fielder, it's also my job to back up the catcher's throw to second should the runner try to steal. This means I'll play a little more shallow and a little more centered.
Each pitch to each batter changes everything. Don't even get me started on the strategy of pitching (scouting every possible batting opponent, who likes sliders, who hates high and in fastballs, who hits better with runners-on, pitch counts, etc). Unfortunately, we don't see any of this on TV unless we're looking for it.

A Game of Heartbreak
Though it has recently been broken, we'll start with the Curse of the Bambino. Between 1903-1918, the Red Sox were the premier team in professional baseball, winning 5 World Series and dominating the league. Much of this success was attributed to the play of Red Sox star, Babe Ruth (aka, The Bambino). But in 1919, the Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees (had not won a World Series to this point) to finance his broadway musical No, No, Nanette. Over the years, Frazee sold many players and managers to the Yankees for various musical endeavors. Between 1919 and 2003, the Yankees won 26 World Series to the Red Sox zero. As we all know, in 2004, that curse was broken.

The Chicago Cubs have not been as fortunate. Their last World Series title coming in 1908, the Cubs hold the longest championship drought over any other North American professional sports team. The lore of a curse on the Cubs first started with the Curse of the Billy Goat (more here), but has more recently taken the name of Steve Bartman. On October 14, 2003, the Cubs were ahead 3-0 in the eighth inning of Game 6. They were up 3 games to 2 on the Marlins and only needed 5 outs to get to the World Series for the first time since 1945 (had not won since 1908). It looked like the curse was over. Until a lifelong Cubs fan named Steve Bartman interfered with a foul ball, causing the Cubs outfielder to miss a pop fly in foul territory. The Marlins went on to win that game and the next, then the World Series. Had the ball traveled six inches to the left or right, who knows what the outcome of the 2003 World Series could have been.

There's a fairly lame (however charming) film starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore called Fever Pitch. At one point, Jimmy Fallon plays a little league coach, whining to one of the 13 year old kids on the team about the importance of his Boston Red Sox. His girlfriend doesn't understand, you see. She wants him to miss a few games and go to Paris for the weekend. The nerve, I know. The kid (who turns out to be shockingly Dr. Phillian) says, "You love the Red Sox. But have they ever loved you back?"

Baseball is, almost always, an unrequited love. As a scorned lover spurns advances, so your team will raise then dash your hopes. So you may ask,"Why bother with baseball? The toil, the misery, the curses, the shame? By your own admission, it will leave you writhing and weeping in failure?" Because in the immortal words of my father, his father, and his father before him... "There's always next year."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Fresh Young Face

I remember clearly the deaths of three men. One was the richest man of the century, who, having clawed his way to wealth through the souls and bodies of men, spent many years trying to buy back the love he had forfeited and by that process performed great service to the world and, perhaps, had much more than balanced the evils of his rise. I was on a ship when he died. The news was posted on the bulletin board, and nearly everyone received the news with pleasure. Several said, "Thank God that son of a bitch is dead."

Then there was a man, smart as Satan, who, lacking some perception of human dignity and knowing all too well every aspect of human weakness and wickedness, used his special knowledge to warp men, to buy men, to bribe and threaten and seduce until he found himself in a position of great power. He clothed his motives in the names of virtue, and I have wondered whether he ever knew that no gift will ever buy back a man's love when you have removed his self-love. A bribed man can only hate his briber. When this man died the nation rang with praise and, just beneath, with gladness that he was dead.

There was a third man, who perhaps made many errors in performance but whose effective life was devoted to making men brave and dignified and good in a time when they were poor and frightened and when ugly forces were loose in the world to utilize their fears. This man was hated by the few. When he died, the people burst into tears in the streets and their minds wailed, "What can we do now? How can we go on without him?"

In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly re-spawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.

-- John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Alan Shore + Me

It would be pretty accurate to say that I'm not a big television watcher, or at least not in the traditional sense. I haven't watched any show in real time since the precious after-school time slot that my beloved Saved by the Bell occupied. I think, though am not entirely sure, that I am one of those people who could get rid of their television and never miss it. (But -please- don't mistake me for one of these people.)

But, since I married a guy who loves story-telling so much, tv has become a sort of pastime for us; we choose a series and watch it on DVD season by season. By investing in various programs in this manner, a few things have become clear: 1. commercial-less TV is the only way to go; and 2. if I can watch multiple episodes in one sitting, all the better. Also? My favorite characters will inevitably be the ones who speak the truth regardless of anticipated consequences. The few episodes of American Idol I ever saw always resulted in my great affection for Simon. The only reason I kept watching the bumbling and misguided antics of Scrubs was to see how Dr. Cox might reveal a little more of his fragmented but sincere humanness, no matter how slight. And now? I can't stop watching old episodes of Boston Legal, just because Alan Shore is so unbelievably and unexpectedly likable.

See, I just knew I wouldn't like any program that revolved around William Shatner. He is so not my type. But I stuck with the show and, despite some incredibly poor casting choices, have discovered that I've bought into this shiny, campy program. Specifically, I seriously regard James Spader as an enormously underrated actor of his time, and have committed myself to his unapologetic portrayal of Alan Shore. Shore is a master of the courtroom, an intensely brilliant and eccentric mind, a manipulator of both words and women. He is an emotionally crippled man who can represent any and every client with more conviction than he can muster up when confronted with issues of his own heart and relationships. He is an unconventional but highly successful attorney, a formidable opponent; yet, he has no great love in his life and calls a sterile hotel suite his home. Still - I just can't help but root for him. When he argues a court case, I believe every single word he says...that is, I believe that he believes it. His has great conviction! And a large vocabulary! And somehow that combination makes me feel like justice will always prevail...oh, the joys of scripted television!

Admittedly, I may be in a place where I simply want to believe that there are Alan Shores out there. I want to know that there are attorneys fighting for the common good and there is some semblance of a democratic process finely in tact....

Wig and I spent the better part of August dealing with the aftermath of a car accident he was involved in on a balmy Friday night in late July. The nuances of a situation like that can reveal a lot about a person's character and I'm sorry to say that I didn't personally extend much grace to anyone involved - too much paperwork and too much lapsed time....too many people not doing what they were supposed to do, what they said they'd do, and adversly affecting my day to day life. I can articulate all the ways I feel like the systems failed us, and even the solutions that I found so obvious. But those are mere distractions from my real frustration, which is that I just feel like things should be fair. Somehow the accident being imposed on us created an imbalance to a world we tirelessly and carefully try to calibrate.

Also this summer, our precious church explored the book of Exodus, with one week entirely dedicated to chapters 21 & 22 verse by verse. These chapters were rules and regulations - laws, in fact - for a people coming out of four hundred years of slavery. Black and white directives, with consequences, and absolute. Early August, Proposition 8 was overturned in California causing facebook, twitter, and even my own kitchen table to become a forum of public debate about the incredibly personal issues of morality, equality, and humanity. Even now, I am sitting on a jury for a civil case here in Nashville. Undoubtedly, there is gravity to participating as a citizen of a country that gives me freedoms I have never volunteered to fight for but very readily accept every single second of every single day.

I guess it's a coincidence that all of these events have happened concurrently, or it's possible I'm just sensitive to their common theme because I'm currently engrossed in a legal dramedy where the good guys, well, always win. Regardless, I believe there to be a greater force at work on my conscience and mind. I have a rudimentary belief that what you put in is what you get out. Reap and sow. Cause and effect. Action and consequence. These opposing dynamics are also present in the principles of good and evil, right and wrong. Usually things have a way of working out, because most of the time, good will prevail, right? (right?)

I think I still have some things to work out with Alan Shore. We still have several seasons to go and I suspect he will infuriate me and irritate me along the way. No matter, I hope I will carry a little bit of him with me...the Alan Shore who fights for the underdog, and represents marginalized citizens, and speaks the truth for truth's sake. In the meantime, I'll continue to let my heart wrestle so furiously with these notions of justice, government, fairness, equality, and consequences.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


It's not so much that things aren't happening. It's that I can only store "X" amount of information inside my brain. And for whatever reason, this blog got pushed aside. I apologize. To make it up to you, I've decided to post this picture:

You are welcome.