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Team Uses Synthesizer For Videos

August 22, 1986|RICK VANDERKNYFF

One was raised in Southern California, the other in Omaha, Neb. But both grew up on rock 'n' roll, listening to the Beatles and bashing out their best Fab Four imitations in local garage bands.

Now they work together on sound tracks for video productions, creating original scores ranging from the symphonic sweep of a full orchestra to a stripped-down, rap-inspired funk rhythm--all without leaving their studio at Yale Video in Anaheim.

California-bred Richard Flauding is the composer, Nebraska native John Fischer the sound engineer. "We're self-contained," Fischer says. "Between the two of us, we do it all."

The tool that gives the duo its flexibility is a synthesizer that allows the user to record digitally on floppy disc any sound, musical or non-musical, and play it back on a keyboard at any pitch. With this technique, called "sampling," changing sounds from a saxophone to a human scream, or from violins to breaking glass, is as simple as switching discs.

Flauding and Fischer, both 32, estimate that 90% of their work is on Yale projects, which are primarily corporate and industrial videos. They also do independent work, including a recent sound track for a four-part safety series for youngsters called "For Safety's Sake," starring TV actor Gary Coleman. And they don't work exclusively in video: The pair will soon begin arranging and producing an album for Will Teague, an ex-member of the New Christy Minstrels.

For an already-edited video production, Flauding will make up a cue sheet and compose the score on paper. "I find that when I write at the keyboard, I tend to write within my ability as a player," the composer says. "I'm not a monster keyboard player."

He then arranges the score on an Emulator II synthesizer, choosing the instrumentation he wants from a library of floppy discs. Digital sampling allows Flauding to experiment inexpensively with the instrumental sound of his compositions, something that is prohibitively costly with live musicians. "You can't hire six French horn players and then let them go because you don't like the sound," Flauding explained.

Sometimes, Flauding is asked to compose a score for a project before it is produced. "Video makers have been trained to build their projects around a piece of music," Flauding said. "For me, as a composer, I appreciate working with a finished product."

When the score is finished, Fischer mixes and records it on the audio track of the edited video. He is also responsible for editing and "sweetening" other parts of the track--eliminating unwanted noises and accenting desired sounds. With the help of sampling, he can also add entirely new effects.

As might be expected, digital sampling has become a sore point with many professional musicians, who claim they're being robbed of their jobs. Flauding and Fischer argue that most of their work is on relatively low-budget projects, whose producers would never consider a costly session with live musicians. For them, the main alternative to an electronic score is using existing music from an album.

In fact, the use of pre-recorded music is still a mainstay in the video industry, and many producers do their own sound engineering. "There are not a lot of production studios in Orange County that have full-on audio-for-video production," Fischer said.

When a willing producer and a sufficient budget have come together, Flauding has gotten the chance to compose for live musicians, including the London Symphony. "It's exciting, providing the producer likes it," the Anaheim resident said. "I'd like to do more of it."

Flauding began thinking seriously of a music career in high school. Under the tutelage of jazz guitarist Barnie Kessel he thought of becoming a session guitar player. But, inspired by another teacher, composer-arranger Bryant McKernon, he slowly became interested in writing music.

"Before I knew it, I kind of had the bug for composing classical music," Flauding recalled, but the financial rewards were slow in coming. "By the time I was 25 or 26, I realized I wasn't going to make a living writing (for) string quartets." So he gravitated to writing video scores and now would like to try his hand at scoring a feature film.

From his garage band beginnings, Fischer went on to become a professional musician and also developed a talent for the technical end of the music business. "It became kind of a double interest," Fischer said. He played in bands, wrote ad jingles, produced records and eventually fell into a video project, a promotional film on Boys Town, the Nebraska village for homeless boys.

He left the Midwest 1 1/2 years ago and settled in Cypress, becoming a sound engineer at Yale and beginning his work with Flauding. "I like the original music. I like working with composers," Fischer said of their working relationship.

"I recognize him as a musician, as well as an engineer," Flauding, in turn, said of Fischer. Some engineers, he said, are "rock 'n' rollers" with little technical skill, while others are primarily technicians with little feel for the music. "It's nice working with someone who's sympathetic to both."

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