On Sunday, Ottawa audiences can hear music by one of the best-heard – but least-known – jazz composers in Canada.
Over a prolific 75-year career, Eldon Rathburn wrote more than 250 film scores, including for many well-known National Film Board (NFB) animated and short films, plus many concert works. He wrote for the first generation of IMAX films, scored one of Buster Keaton's last films, and provided the music for the Labyrinth pavilion at Expo ’67. One of the films he scored was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Short Film Palme d'Or at Cannes. His music brightened up the most mundane subjects: for example, a film on how to keep fish from spoiling!
Now several of his film scores have been expanded into a jazz album from Justin Time Records, The Romance of Improvisation in Canada. It features five of Canada's finest jazz musicians: pianist Marianne Trudel, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, saxophonist Petr Cancura, bassist Adrian Vedady, and drummer Jim Doxas.
The music is classic, appealing mid-century jazz – from lively bebop and Latin to an evocative ballad. Listeners can hear it played live at the NAC Fourth Stage on Sunday at 8 p.m. as part of the Ottawa Jazz Festival.
It's also a project with many Ottawa connections. Rathburn lived in Ottawa for much of his life, and composed much of the music on which the album is based while working at the NFB's Unit B offices in Ottawa. The music was rediscovered when Dr. James Wright, a music professor at Carleton University, decided to write an in-depth biography of Rathburn, They Shot, He Scored, which was released in May.
Wright brought in Ottawa academic and jazz drummer Allyson Rogers (now completing her PhD at McGill University on the musical aesthetics and social milieu of the National Film Board) to research Rathburn's NFB career. She discovered Rathburn’s jazz-inspired animated film scores of the 1950s, for films such as The Romance of Transportation in Canada (1952), Structure of Unions (1955), Fish Spoilage Control (1956), and Norman McLaren’s Short and Suite (1959).
Rogers discussed the music with fellow Ottawa jazz saxophonist Adrian Matte, and they realized that the scores could be unspooled and expanded and rearranged into longer jazz pieces. They created 12 pieces, each based and expanded upon jazz themes Rathburn wrote for film scores. Matte also ended up developing his Masters thesis on Rathburn's jazz music.
The album was recorded in February 2018 at the NFB’s historic Chester Beachell Studio in north Montreal – the same studio where Rathburn had frequently worked during his NFB career, and released last year.
OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor spoke to Rogers and Matte last fall, shortly after the launch of the book and the CD at Carleton University.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: How were you first introduced to Eldon Rathburn and his music?
Allyson Rogers: I got into this project because I was doing some work with James Wright on his Rathburn monograph. In doing that research I was at the NFB watching these films, digging up scores from the archives, and basically getting together everything I could find on Eldon Rathburn and reading through all of his papers, and anything there was. I didn't know Rathburn before that.
Matte: Allyson and I were driving to a gig, and she had been telling me about Eldon Rathburn and the music. She pointed out that some of the material that she had uncovered were from films where Rathburn had written a jazz-style score. And so it really resonated with both of us at that time that here was a Canadian composer, a Canadian source for jazz – of course, we play mostly U.S. music, standards and stuff. So she said, “yes, we should do something about this!” That's how we started (he laughs).
OttawaJazzScene.ca: So you thought of this more as a project for yourselves at the beginning?
Rogers: We did. Like Adrian was saying, we were always looking for great repertoire, for new repertoire to play. We have subsequently played a bit of it, some of it, but some of it is pretty freakin' hard to play! (she laughs) Especially if you listen to that first track, and you listen to how fast that is, and how technically difficult it is.
So when we saw some of it, the level of difficulty and what it would take to really make it sound good and do it justice, we said, “We need to get some really talented people to play this.” Not just because it would take us a lot of work, but more to do justice, let's say, to Rathburn and to really have it sounding good.
Three years in the National Film Board archives
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What did you discover when you were going through the NFB archives? How long did it take you, just to find the Rathburn material?
Rogers: I spent a good three years researching and going through it. I started at Library and Archives Canada because that's where the Rathburn fonds are. [see Eldon Rathburn at LAC] They put together about three boxes of folders of material that included all of his personal correspondence with people, programmes, just miscellaneous things. There was a whole folder of notebooks that were his listening journals, and so he would write whatever he thought about whatever composer or whatever piece.
I went through all of them and I picked out things that he had written, particularly about composers that might be of interest to us. So I have 30 pages of notes of his thoughts on different composers, for example.
When I got to the NFB, I basically said to the archivist, “Well, first get me all the scores and parts you have for Rathburn.” So they dug up a big box for me. And then, “What else do you have? Production files, anything else related to Rathburn?” And they just kept digging up stuff for me and I just kept looking through all of it.
I spent three years doing that work.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Did that inspire you to do your PhD research on music at the NFB, or had you already thought of that?
Rogers: No, it came out of this research.
It's like a lot of things – once you start on something, and you realize how deep it goes, and then you get interested in [how] that was just a part of it, and I realized doing that research, Omigosh, there's nothing written about Rathburn, there's very little written about people like [NFB composer] Lou Applebaum – in scholarly work, let's say. Robert Fleming is another one, and Maurice Blackburn...
All of these really great Canadian composers that spent a lot of time at the NFB, and we just don't know much about what they did there necessarily. And so it's just opened up a whole can of worms, and I'm dealing with that can of worms I opened now, in the PhD.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: I'm thinking this might be multiple PhD theses perhaps...
Rogers: Yes, in the best cases that's what happens – you choose a topic and then you get into it and you realize that you have to narrow it down because there's so much more to do with it. And so I'm in the process right now of narrowing down what makes sense to do in this 250-300 page paper that I need to write. It's really going to be a look at a bit of an alternative history of the NFB, the heyday from about 1940 to 1970 when there were full-time creative staff. I'm going to bite off that chunk and then go from there.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Adrian, is your Masters' thesis related to this at all, or is on something different?
Matte: It's related specifically to this project. Once Allyson had discovered the musical material, obviously I was more drawn in specifically to the jazz. That's what caught my ear, and of course after watching the films, it was obvious that it was really, really good material.
This isn't the case of a classical composer who is trying to sound jazzy, to put it plainly. It's the real deal! He's using bebop language, the chord progressions sound right, all the use of altered dominants and all that stuff. Somehow somewhere he absorbed jazz as it was in the 40s and 50s.
So that's what captured my interest. What I'm doing at the Masters level is really looking at his jazz writing. So it's limited to his output that's specifically in a jazz style. Within the jazz style, he goes from honky-tonk early-20th-century piano styles into the modern jazz, so my focus is the small-group, modern jazz angle. Whereas Allyson is looking at the far bigger picture of the operating of the entire Unit and the NFB in general, mine is much more focused. I'm bringing my background as a jazz performer into analyzing the work and finding my way through that way.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What spoke to you about his music? What captured your attention about his music?
Matte: First of all, the films are really good. They're very engrossing, very, very entertaining. They're funny also, and of course because this music is written for film, there's a very, very tight relationship between the action that happens on the screen and the music that we hear.
So it's written out as cues that follow the action, and there will be a bit of silence, and then another cue. But by watching the films and listening to the music, I started … just on the surface level these songs and these little bits would come through, and again I'm hearing standard-practice bebop lines, but I'm also hearing his original composing style, where he's writing melodies. I also started noticing that thematically there were these ideas that he would explore at one part of the film that would later come back and they were dressed up a little bit differently or somehow evolved.
So over the course of a 10-minute film, these ideas would keep coming back, and they'd be changed, they'd have been reworked. From the beginning to the end of the music in the film, there's this unity, there are these elements that make that music a whole piece of music. It isn't a case of him writing a song to go with this scene and writing another song for this scene. And that aspect is something that I associate much more with classical composing. That's a typical way of organizing your work, and I saw that in The Romance of Transportation and I heard it in Fish Spoilage Control.
What intrigued me was that there was a combination of very jazz music but with this element inside it that made it into a larger piece of music, even though the music starts and stops and there are different sections. Clearly this was somebody who had an overriding concept to go with the film. And that's really what intrigued me.
Rogers: That's a good point to remember, that mix of classical and jazz that he brings.
I think he has a real melodic gift, too, in some ways, It's the melodies that I remember. I remember the catchy – well they're licks but they're melodies like the ballad we pulled off, that was from Romance of Transportation. It's just such a beautiful melody! I heard it in the film, but then when we really worked with it and we pulled it out, it was like Wow! It just got better and better the more we listened to it. And I think that's become one of our favourite tracks.
It probably won't be played as much on the radio because it's so long, but his gift for melody is really shining there.
And the licks are interesting – the musicians were telling us that, too. So it was fun to watch the musicians work with those melodies and those lines, because they were challenging and they're interesting, and they loved … There's more there than sometimes it seems on the surface, and everyone's dug into it further.
So there's a richness in his music that pulls you in initially and then keeps telling you more about it, and keeps showing interesting ideas and interesting sides of Eldon the more you dig into it further. There's just a lot there.
Unspooling the film scores into multiple jazz tunes
OttawaJazzScene.ca: At Carleton University, you talked about how dense the music was, how much you had to unspool it. Could you tell me more about this process of unspooling to create the actual tracks on the album?
Matte: In the case of these films, the archivists at the NFB in Montreal were able to digitize the original parts that were handed out to the musicians during the sessions. There's no overall conductor's score for these, so Allyson got those to me and basically I created the master score inputting everything into Finale (music notation software). It was a long, long process. From that, we had material then in a form that we could work with, and then the process of us – and it was a true collaboration – of sitting down and having to make decisions on how to organize this material.
The films are really good. They're very engrossing, very, very entertaining. They're funny also, and of course because this music is written for film, there's a very, very tight relationship between the action that happens on the screen and the music that we hear.
– Adrian Matte
Because this was originally for us to play in a small group context … we were like, “can we do this for a single horn? No, because there's too much going on. It needs to be two horns.” So we settled on basically a modern jazz quintet: two horns and a rhythm section.
That, right in and of itself, means a lot of work because we've got scores for nine instruments and we have to make all these decisions.
And then there's a lot of editing in some cases, writing new material to connect little sections, and fill in gaps where things work very, very well on the screen but aren't going to come off so well for a band to play. Part of what came out of that was our understanding that this was going to be some challenging music. And also the amount of time that it was taking us to actually work through this as a process also led to our conclusion that it would be a little bit much to do all this background, all the arranging and producing, and also play.
Once we had identified the pieces, the melodies, the sections of the music that would make sense, we started stitching them together, and then basically just workshopping them side by side. We would meet up on a regular basis, sit down next to each other, and start moving things around, playing stuff on the piano and seeing, “OK, does this work if we follow this?”
In some cases, it meant a radical reordering of a lot of the melodies, and in all cases almost, a radical rewriting of the form. These had to be put in so that there would be a head, there would be solos, and a head out. But of course in doing that, that means we're trimming a lot of stuff that's equally good, so in most of the cases we tried to keep things like intros and these short little shout choruses and these kinds of elements that are part of what brings the music to life on the film.
It was really one tune at a time, sitting down, paring it down to five instruments, and then running through it, running through it, listening, playing, to make sure what we were doing stood on its own, because essentially these were derivative works.
What shines through that process, really, is the quality of the original material. If we were working with a composer who was not as strong and not as organized in that fashion over the length of the film, I don't think the music would be as successful.
Although we did do a lot of working, it still again is a representation of the depth and the quality of Rathburn's original work.
Staying true to Rathburn's voice
OttawaJazzScene.ca: So it's still true to his voice and the way he imagined the music?
Matte: Yes. That was an important consideration for us when we first started doing it. For our own purposes, I suppose we could have done whatever we wanted and just played it on our gigs. But as we went on, and as people started to take more interest, we realized the seriousness of it.
At one point we sat down and had a discussion basically on the ethics around doing this. How do we maintain the high level of quality? We don't want to take anything away from Rathburn's work.
So, musically, I think it stands up, but also it meant that at one point in the process through Allyson and her work in the research, we reached out to the family members. We needed to actively solicit their approval. They were very, very supportive. His living relatives were all very, very excited about it, and gave us their blessing.
And because it's not just a musical process – Allyson has done a lot of research, as has Dr. Wright, on Eldon himself – we kept a lot of that information in mind. So there are some things on the CD, specifically the ending to the first song, that slowing down on that figure is like a train slowing down coming to a station – and that we did deliberately because Eldon is known to be one of these train nuts, a steam engine nut!
At every point, a lot of our decisions were based on well, we have to make this musical decision but we think Eldon would approve because he would understand what we're doing here. That was the bar that we set for ourselves, to feel like we were honouring his work throughout and not just reworking it in a slapdash fashion.
Rogers: We're doing a little bit of the same thing that happened to Eldon's music that he wrote for film, too, in some ways. That's how it worked at the NFB: usually the process was that a director would get a film to a certain point and then they would hire Eldon to come in and look at the film and make some sketches on the piano, maybe make some suggestions about instrumentation and orchestration.
So Eldon would come up with a bunch of music and then they might record it and then they would go to the editing process andsome of it might disappear under dialogue. He might be asked “OK, we're going to cut this scene a bit shorter. So can you just redo, you know, take three bars off this?” And Eldon would have to quickly rewrite it.
So he was tailor-making his music to the film. And then even beyond that, he never necessarily had the final say in how it came out at the end. He was quite used to this process. He didn't seem to begrudge it. He seemed to think that that was his job – and he had a great job! He was paid to compose every day of his life. So he was very grateful to be part of that process, and he didn't seem to resent that his music was being cut to a film or cut in a particular way.
So we're doing a bit of the same thing, but in a very different way, and almost expanding it, rather than cutting it or tailoring it. In some ways we're maybe giving it more room to breathe. I think he would be just fine with that process.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Why did you pick these three films – Fish Spoilage Control, The Romance of Transportation, and Police – as musical source material for your album?
Rogers: The Romance of Transportation and Fish Spoilage Control are the two most obvious top-to-bottom all-jazz, or jazz-inspired idiomatic films that he scored. There's other stuff, for sure: there's another one Short and Suite that we're working on right now which is pretty much all jazz as well, and almost pastiches of composers like Thelonious Monk and ...
So, anyways, there's more stuff!
But those two are very obvious. They're contrasting only in the sense that Romance was earlier, it was nominated for an Academy Award. It got some airtime. People knew about it. Fish Spoilage was a sponsored film, by Fisheries Canada. No one really saw it – well, we really don't know. It certainly didn't have the same kind of public presentation that Romance of Transportation did. So we're reminding people about Romance of Transportation, because it was more public, and then digging up one that people might not know of. The response to Fish Spoilage has been pretty positive, so everyone's happy to rediscover that film.
Police is the odd one out. Police is a “Candid Eye” film. They were basically out filming the Toronto Police Department, following around police officers, a very direct observational cinema film.
I came across it inside the NFB. Everything that's available on the NFB site online to stream, that's a fraction of what has been digitized. Some of it you can only watch inside the NFB. So when I was there doing research, I could search their internal catalogue and I was just going through all of Eldon's films.
I came across Police and I heard that [theme]; the theme is the opening title and the ending title credits. And I heard that opening title, and it just got stuck in my ear! It still gets stuck in my ear. The end credits are a mambo; the opening credits are just a straight-ahead swing.
But that melody just jumped out at me, and I played it for Adrian, and I said, “OK we've got to add this one, because it's super-cool!”
We transcribed that one. There was no score for anything [on that film]. We transcribed from this warbly film. It was quite a challenge. Interesting chord structure, so again very interesting things going on there harmonically and melodically. So that one was an earworm right away!
I think that film had basically been forgotten, too.
Matte: When we first started doing this project, The Romance of Transportation was available for the public to see through their [NFB] website, but subsequent to our involvement on Fish Spoilage Control and Police, the NFB bumped those titles up the digitization queue. They're now available on the NFB site. Both of them are really really gorgeous copies, really high quality, but they're films that have not been seen by the public for a long time. But now they're out there! Check them out if you can.
A "dream list" of musicians for the album
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What was the process you went through?
Matte: We envisioned this as a self-funded produced CD, when we decided that it was worthy to be put out there. Obviously we don't think that the world needs another CD of jazz standards, not with us on it for sure. But this was something that was important. It hits all the right buttons. It was a Canadian composer. It's not anything that's commonly played.
Once we had the arrangements, we decided that we weren't going to play on it. The first session that we did was in 2016. It was the 100th anniversary of Eldon Rathburn's birth, and so it was significant. And there was some of his classical music being recorded at that same session.
For the jazz stuff we had Petr Cancura, Alex Moxon, Mike Essoudry, Ed Lister was on trumpet, John Geggie came in and we had Alex Bilodeau on bass also and Steve Boudreau on piano. So that was what we were going to do.
We got among the finest of Ottawa musicians, and we were funding it ourselves, so we just figured we're going to go in, do three tracks, come back in in six months, do another three tracks, and keep digging the money out. And then we'll have a CD and we'll put it out.
Great! An Ottawa project, a composer that has an Eldon Rathburn Day here in the City of Ottawa, right?
Subsequent to those recordings, we had a second batch and again the feedback from the musicians was really positive. This was something that quickly turned into not just another job. They were really, really intrigued by the music. They really put their best into it.
Then we received and were very grateful for support from the City of Ottawa and from the Province of Ontario. With that came an important change in the budget, with a lot more resources, and so we spoke to Petr again. Now we were looking at “Well, who's the best in Canada?” We had a dream list of musicians that we thought, wouldn't it be awesome to bring this person in?
And so Petr hand-picked those musicians for us. We relied on him for two things. He asked these musicians based on how he figured they would work with the material, but also of course no less negligible is how these people would work together in the studio. So, although all of them, they know each other obviously and they've played together, this particular quintet as it stands on the record is the first time the five of them had come into a room and actually recorded.
Creating a buzz at the National Film Board
Rogers: I think we should just add one more thing to that, and that's that the game also changed not just because we got some funding, but also because the NFB got on board. And that did shift the location. That was part of the change in personnel, too, a little bit because of the NFB, we ended up recording at their studio. And that was the historic Studio where Eldon had worked for 30 years. So once the NFB also got on board and supported this project, we basically shifted it to Montreal, too. So we did get three Montreal-based musicians.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: You mentioned that the recording took place in the Chester Beachell Foley Studio 2. What was it like recording in that really historic studio?
Rogers: Amazing. There's just not very many rooms like that in Canada, to be honest, left – because of all kinds of changes that have happened to the recording model, and studios closing, and the little money that's left in selling recordings. That studio was opened in 1956 when the NFB moved to Montreal for all kinds of political reasons, and it's a wonderful space. It's got a great piano, it's got a big volume, it's all acoustically-treated properly. Geoff Mitchell, the engineer, knows that room inside out because he's been the head engineer at the NFB for over 20 years now. So he knows how to work with that room, he knows they have great equipment, they have a whole closet of vintage equipment, too, they've got all kinds of resources there, and Geoff knows it all and knows it inside out.
And it's a combination of a great space, a historic space, and an engineer who knows how to run it. Geoff Mitchell is also a jazz pianist. Geoff did his training on piano at McGill and also did the McGill sound recording program, too. So he understood this project very well, and as you can hear, got great sounds, great production on that.
The other thing that was fun about recording at the NFB was we had a bunch of people dropping in [she laughs] and poking their heads in because they had heard some musings about this music recording of Eldon Rathburn's music is happening in the studio! Louis Hone, who was the head engineer before Geoff, also stopped by, and then people were popping in just to hear little snippets.
So it was creating a bit of a buzz around the NFB too, which I think really helped in a lot of ways.
Enough space for the musicians to put their own individual stamp on the music
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Was the vibe in that studio much like what you would find in a recording studio back in the 50s or 60s when Eldon was there?
Rogers: well, there's a key difference. We've heard this from people like Louis Hone and Geoff and the musicians – what was different was that they had time. The musicians had three full days in the studio to workshop and record these pieces, and they said to us after the first day, “Omigosh, this is such a luxury. We never get to play like this in the studio. It's usually come in, know the material, read through once, record, second read-through, and then done.”
That's how Louis Hone and Geoff tell us it worked doing film music recording. Because the musicians are very high calibre they should know the music. They come in, you read it down once, you record it the second time, you're out the door. It's very time-sensitive.
Everyone was very happy and appreciative that they could spend time with the material, we could try out a few things, we could break for a nice lunch for an hour, come back to the studio, and work on things we had talked about after lunch. So I think we were able to create almost the opposite vibe in the same studio of what these scoring session musicians would have experienced most of the time.
We had this ongoing joke during the three days: whenever there was something that sounded kinda weird, it got to the point where it was just like “Well, that's Rathburn!”
– Adrian Matte
Matte: As any of you who are working musicians know, the circumstances under which you work really make a big difference, and it's almost a surprise and a relief when you're well-treated on a gig, if you're fed well or given some space or not just shunted into your corner and just expected to do your job.
In our role as producers, we also took it upon ourselves [to do] a little bit of artist management. We have nothing but the highest amount of respect for the musicians who came in. Our job:we had done the music, we had sent it out, and we understood that part of the process was that we wanted these musicians to put their own individual stamp on the music. So we gave them carte blanche. When they would inquire about certain things musically, sometimes we deferred to what they felt would work and it was really wonderful to watch them. It was a privilege to watch them work some of these things out, how fast they would make little changes and run through things and quickly decide “yes, this is better” or “no, this doesn't work.” In a lot of cases, it really improved things.
We saw our role also as advocating: here's our chance now to hire some musicians and we'll treat them very, very well, treat them like artists, creative workers as opposed to assembly line score readers, and give them the chance to put their best into it. We feel that's a big part of why the CD sounds so good. They were happy, they had a lot of fun – I remember Adrian Vedady saying at one point after Day One, “most recording situations I'm in, I come in, I do my work, and I know what's going to happen the next day. On this job, I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow!”
This is clearly jazz music, but Eldon Rathburn has his own take on it, that we feel is informed by his classical composing. And so some of the things that are written in the music are not exactly what jazz musicians normally see. We had to negotiate those kind of things with the musicians a lot, and so this process would happen of questioning of very specific things about the way chords worked or the melody worked. Often, “Is this really supposed to be a natural here?”, down to that level of detail. There was this process of them discovering this music and then understanding how it worked and then the enthusiasm would take over! Then they would get into playing the stuff.
We had this ongoing joke during the three days: whenever there was something that sounded kinda weird, it got to the point where it was just like “Well, that's Rathburn!” In other words, it was just a matter of them working through it a few times, and then it would click, they would understand how it was supposed to go, they'd adapt, and then they would lay the tracks down.
So it was really really fun! It was as much of an adventure recording it and doing that process as it had been for us to actually do the arrangements in the first place.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Do you think Rathburn would be happy with the result?
Rogers: I think so. What is similar to what he would be used to – beyond what I was just saying about reworking the music – Eldon had the luxury of working with the best musicians, too. And so I think he would really appreciate the musicianship that these five brought to his work. That is similar, actually in a way, to some of these old NFB scores where they got the best they could find to record.
I think he would be very happy with it, actually. I've heard as much from his family, too.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: You mentioned you were also working with Eldon's score for Short and Suite. Are you planning any follow-ups to this recording?
Rogers: It was funny because the musicians are almost on this before we are – in the sense of asking for more. They were asking for more at the end of that studio session. They said two things: 1) “We get to play this live, right?” Yes, there will be concerts. 2) "You have more material, right?" We said yes, there's more material. There's certainly cuts from Fish Spoilage and Romance that we didn't work with.
I feel like the musicians are already on to the next step, and we're the ones that are trying to catch up. [she laughs]
Both films have roughly a dozen cues, and each cue tended to turn into a track [on the album], except for one [where] we mashed two cues together that made sense. So that just gives you an idea: out of about 25 or 26 film cues, let's say, from these two films, we have 12 tracks of material on the CD.
That gives you a sense of the density of material and thematic thinking that is in these two films. It just goes by so fast! 15 seconds of something, and Omigosh, that's going to be another tune. Or 20 seconds.
– Allyson Rogers
OttawaJazzScene.ca: But that's amazing, given each film is only about 10 minutes long!
Rogers: That gives you a sense of the density of material and thematic thinking that is in these two films. It just goes by so fast! 15 seconds of something, and Omigosh, that's going to be another tune. Or 20 seconds.
We're working with these small, little bits, and then rearranging them, like we've described, into something that's more like a song format.
So there is more material from these two films that we might sift through again and say, yes, that deserves to be on the next volume.
Throughout, the response to the music has been very very positive. The change from Ottawa to Montreal, the involvement of the NFB, it getting picked up by a label, the comments from the musicians. At every turn, people react very, very positively, so we're hoping that that will continue.
Matte: We are one link in the chain. It's been a success first of all because of the original high quality of the music, but also as Allyson said, at every stage of the game, people heard it and they believed in it and they actively worked to make this a success.
And especially the NFB have been absolutely tremendous. There was a feeling that somehow the entire building had just decided that they were going to do everything they could to make this a success. Even when it came down to dealing with moral rights and the publishing, which the NFB owns, and the business side of things, even the lawyers at the NFB were super-positive, and the whole building was really geared towards doing creative work and supporting creative work.
That's not always everybody's experience when you're dealing with a very, very large bureaucracy and in negotiations with lawyers. But at every turn there was just this concerted effort and these resources being put in.
All we had to do was say, Watch these films! Watch the films! And then everybody was like, “Ah. OK. Yes, let's do this. Let's make this happen.”
The films and the music is just so wonderful and this is a Canadian composer.
I know that some of the musicians on the Ottawa scene, [like] John Geggie – they remember doing sessions for Eldon Rathburn when he was here in Ottawa. So amongst the players in the community he's a known entity. It's really neat that it has such profound roots here in Ottawa. We're really happy too – for the role that we have in this.
- Eldon Rathburn: They Shoot... He Scores (National Film Board)
- Unsung Hero: Projects Honour NFB Composer Eldon Rathburn (Carleton University)
- The Romance of Improvisation In Canada - The Genius of Eldon Rathburn (Justin Time Records)