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Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

Jon Vickers
IU Cinema

Last modified: Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jacobs undergrad wins competition to score IU Cinema premiere of 1922 'David Copperfield' film

May 17, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Jacobs School of Music and IU Cinema have teamed up for a collaboration known as "The David Copperfield Project," the result of which will be seen -- and heard -- in February of 2012.

Undergraduate Jacobs student Ari Fisher, a composition major with a minor in orchestral conducting, has been selected to score the entire, 70-minute silent film David Copperfield (the rare 1922 Nordisk version), based on the novel by Charles Dickens. The IU Cinema will gradually disburse the prize of $6,000 to Fisher for the project.

In its first year, the IU Cinema has supported student projects as much as it has focused on visits from renowned filmmakers and world premieres. The February presentation of the classic silent film Metropolis was accompanied by a 17-member Jacobs School of Music student orchestra, and a student-made feature film debuted at the cinema in April.

The Copperfield score will make its world premiere on Dickens' 200th birthday, Feb. 7, 2012; coinciding with a larger celebration of Dickens in film that includes many more opportunities to screen rare films. The score will be written for a salon-size orchestra of 17-19 instruments, and will be conducted and performed by Jacobs School of Music students at the premiere. The 35mm print for the screening will be provided courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Born in Evanston, Ill., Fisher said he's always dreamed of scoring films. He began improvising songs on the violin at age 7 and, at age 13, began to take his composing more seriously. "I believe that music is the key element to the magic behind the screen," said Fisher, who plans to graduate in 2014. "When I was 15, I experimented with YouTube clips of famous scenes from movies by muting the film and creating my own soundtrack to accompany the clip."

The first thing Fisher did to prepare his 6-minute clip for the Copperfield film competition was to make a "time-stamp sheet" that he used to record the exact duration of the action on screen so he could write music to support that atmosphere.

"I'll definitely watch the film at least 10 times through, recording each detail that I can so I can have it implanted in my head while I score for it," said Fisher. He plans to have the bulk of the project completed by the end of summer.

In September, he'll present his draft score to the selection jury, which includes IU Cinema Director Jon Vickers; Chair of the Department of Composition at the Jacobs School David Dzubay, who is also director of the New Music Ensemble; Assistant Professor of Music John Gibson; Professor of Music Don Freund; Associate Professor of English Joss Marsh; and David Francis, former Chief of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division at the Library of Congress and curator of the British Film Archive.

The commissioned score will be offered to other university presenters interested in exhibiting the film with live orchestral accompaniment, Vickers said. The IU Cinema is seeking funding for a secondary part of the project, which would include publishing the score through IU Press and producing a DVD with the recorded score.

"While this is the second major collaboration between the IU Cinema and the Jacobs School of Music, it is the first of a number of projects envisioning student composers writing for film for presentation at the IU Cinema," Dzubay said. "The composition department is thrilled about the possibilities for the future and grateful to Jon Vickers for his support of the creation and presentation of new work at the Cinema."

Fisher said he has had the good fortune to study with Freund, whom he now considers both a mentor and a friend, and has really enjoyed one-on-one composition classes with Freund and an instrumentation class with associate instructor Elliott Bark. In Bloomington, he loves the "gorgeous campus and being around friends who share the same passion for music. Living music 24-7 is a dream come true."