James Webb Space Telescope: An Unfolding Future, an Interview with Guy Erez
Updated: Feb 3, 2022
The James Webb Space Telescope is the space launch of our generation, our Hubble Telescope, our window into the world outside of our own. Our first look, the sneak preview into the window of opportunity, risk and engineering power was a youtube video titled, “29 Days on the Edge” This 8 minute video catalogs the story of the development of the James Webb Telescope, some of its production hurdles, the teamwork of its engineers, and innovation potential. Guy Erez applies his live music skills to experiment with the tone and feel of a song, unconstrained by the limits of studio musicianship to create the score for this video. Guy is a touring and studio musician, playing bass for ‘Alan Parsons’ and completing scoring jobs for campaigns, movies and TV, additional instrumentation and other projects while off tour. A fun tidbit is that ‘Alan Parsons’ was the first concert I ever attended with my family and Guy’s in probably 2012. Combining samples with live instruments, a term he beautifully uses is, symphonic hybrid, Guy creates the wonderment moments, deep synthesizers carry the feeling of risk presented in the launch.
“It's hard to explain exactly how it is but there is a certain code of certain tonal things or harmony that make you feel something. So if you're really good with reading the story that they wanted to tell within this movie about the telescope then you can help with the music to try and get it to help kind of with the emotion of it. So talking about a symphonic hybrid approach symphonic is an old approach of using orchestral Orchestra. You know what the strings with the bones, with the horns, everything and the hybrid side of it is the ability to use synthesizers keyboards sound. They're not coming actually from an Orchestra.”
This project is informed by Guy’s previous work which serves as a basis, or creative reference for what he created for this piece.
In a discussion about beginning the process of creating this score, Guy describes precomposition through looking back at his previous work, as granting a sort of direction to compose. Placing a score behind the video initially creates two directions, a feel that a couple energies match, and something new should be synthesized out of these differences. Or it tells you what the score shouldn’t be, what it’s not. The exclusion of tones and textures helps to narrow the large scope of sounds that these mysteries could be encapsulated through. A clear example of this good decision making, is the change in the mood and brightness of the swells as the color pallet changes. When the telescope unfolds and the golden sheet is shown I think there's a certain brightness that is hope inspiring, which immediately follows this abrupt, almost scary battle sound reminiscent of the darkness of space. Guy describes this process as,
“Somehow making them work together for me, felt like the right approach for this because this is so out of space. This is so beyond just here as a violin play. And a lot of times I get impressed to express these kind of things with a synthesizer, with a keyboard sound because what is it exactly? You really don't know. And that's what's nice about it. The combination of the two things together, I think, really helped telling the story. And the story had a lot of unknown mystery, risk, a lot of hope in it, and all those things that you can use this language and actually try and find what's the music that will help to enhance that.”
To give you an auditory ‘visual’ If you have played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the synthesizer sounds that Guy utilizes are similar to the count down of the pregame lobby. Using guides as a means of structuring can increase the clarity of the work, we had a discussion that questions micro and macro balance in project completion.
Curious about the process of getting these placements, to borrow a producer's term, I asked Guy to elaborate on his process. He works in collaboration with David Leon, who, “[is] a music supervisor, and I like to work with him a lot because we have good communication. And David is very good with watching it from the outside as a supervisor and seeing if he's telling the story good enough or not. And by this, it's giving me the ability to dive really deep into that direction. I chose to go and come back out of the water, and then they sometimes have a partner.” This symbiotic relationship, I think, speaks to the importance of knowing strengths and weaknesses, and the importance of formulating good teams, which can be extremely valuable in taking ideas and talent into a visible space. The importance of spotlight, especially for young musicians, who I assume are the most avid readers of Fatty Strap, was stressed heavily after the cameras stopped rolling. No matter the degree of talent as a diamond under the rock, the expectation cannot be held that people will break that rock. Even if there are emeralds on the source. Who discovers and calls attention to what's underneath will want a portion of that value. Of course that experience of getting fucked over is not a way to treat a diamond. But through that display, more connections can be made, new opportunities can materialize which surmount the initial excavation. Tying this all back into the James Webb launch, only through visibility can projects progress and develop. Leaving egos at the door, these engineers across different countries use their expertise to unite over one common goal, creating a new perspective. music is perspective changing.
What's coming next? The telescope is advancing through space, mirrors to reflect and capture images through infrared lenses are being unfolded over these next weeks, positioning for alignment to take these images. High Quality images are expected to be produced around April 24th, so everyone can hold their breath until then. And as for Guy, he is looking to be going on tour later this month going into February as the bass player for Alan Parsons, that schedule can be found here. With under the radar projects he wouldn’t even tell me about off camera, Guy Erez is going to be having a very busy 2022.
With developments in space continuing to unfold, I am looking to write follow up articles both on the James Webb Space Telescope and continuing my conversations with Guy.