'Still Shining Brightly'
Recognized as the talented, funky, multi-keyboardist who appeared nightly on the groundbreaking late night hit, "The Arsenio Hall Show," composer/pianist Starr Parodi returns to the spotlight with Common Places.
The album, which features a re-interpretation of the classic James Bond Theme, will debut November 14, contemporaneous with the release of "Casino Royale," the latest James Bond installment. Parodi draws inspiration from her 1928 Steinway grand piano that once adorned the legendary MGM sound stage in its most glorious era and was used on such classic films as "The Wizard of Oz."
Her new CD Common Places echoes with cinematic, neoclassical, Americana and gospel themes, all played as "stream of conciousness" improvisations.
Taking it from the top and it seems that your new CD is timed nicely re: the re-interpretation of the classic Bond theme. Was the release time of this CD purposeful or a happy accident? "A very happy accident... it wasn't until just recently that I even thought about the CASINO ROYALE connection. One of the other accidents that happened was that in the sequencing of Common Places (putting the order of songs together), The James Bond theme unintentionally ended up as track #7 with the IRSC code ending in 007, (something I just realized after I received a copy of the finished CD in it's printed case). Actually, I have always loved the Bond theme and felt connected to it since I have worked on so many of the recent Bond campaigns. The other versions that I have arranged for UA/MGM have all been very up tempo and action driven - in this new recording I really wanted to play the mystery & sensuality of Bond."
And with regard Bond, it's been noted that you actually played on many of the Bond film trailers. To what extent did your Bond work go and on what adventures? "It all started with a call from one of the executives at MGM/UA before the filming of GOLDENEYE began. He told my writing partner Jeff Fair & I that they were planning to update the James Bond film franchise and they wanted a new version of the theme to introduce Pierce Brosnan as Bond. We scored a demo that they really ended up loving and from that they cut the GOLDENEYE trailer picture to our music. This trailer really turned out more like a music video with only one line of dialogue and with the energy of the music driving the pace. Just this year, it was honored as one of the top 35 trailers of all time at the Key Art Awards. After GOLDENEYE, we have done other versions of the theme as well and our music has been featured in some way during the campaigns of all the Bond films since."
Being that you were the pianist on the 'Arsenio Hall Show' back in the day, do you have fun memories of those times ... or perhaps things weren't as smoothly running as we were meant to think?! "I do have a lot of fun memories of those times and we got along surprisingly well for a group of strong willed musicians playing together every day for nearly 6 years. Arsenio really liked to surprise us with spontaneous music requests and unannounced guest singers. It was actually one of the things I really liked, you always had to be completely aware of what was going on as anything could happen at any time. The show was always shot in real time without retakes so there was never a margin for error and if you made a mistake millions of people were witnesses!"
Your press states that you draw inspiration for your music from your 1928 Steinway grand piano. Very impressive, but is it a 'rebuilt'/'restored' version, a 'factory-fresh' version ... or perhaps even an original handed down through the family? "When I first found my piano it had a terrible case of vertigri (sticky keys) but it sounded AMAZING, the sustain seemed to plume forever, the tone really spoke to me and I was smitten immediately. I spoke to Chick Corea and he insisted I should use his piano technician, Brian Alexander, to rebuild the action. Brian was also the piano technician for Rubenstein's piano at the Ambassador Auditorium, he invited me to play that piano and I was immediately sure that he would be the right person to bring the action on my piano back to life. Ironically, my piano began it's recording life as the studio piano on the MGM soundstage beginning in the late 1920's. (It still has the MGM inventory tag on one of it's legs, and a lot of varnish over wads of gum under the piano - it might be interesting to get a DNA test on a few of the pieces?!?)"
Being that I'm a little obsessed with the beauty of the piano, did you know that in 1725 a clavichord maker named Gottfried Silberman made two piano's based on the published translations of an article read by the then court poet at Dresden, Johann Ulrich von Konig? Unfortunately, as you might have guessed, the piano was not received with great enthusiasm. Yet today it is revered beyond all heights. Being a skilled piano player such as yourself, to what do you attribute the change in feeling towards this beautiful instrument down though the ages? "First of all, the piano's action is quite a bit more complicated than that of the clavicord or harpsichord (it's predecessors). I find it pretty hard to believe that the action on these first two pianos was anywhere near the action of the modern instrument. The piano is such a dynamic instrument with so much depth and range. The harpsicord (a plectrum instrument) and the clavicord (a soft sounding hammered instrument) were very limited in their dynamics. There's probably many things that contributed to the change in thought about the piano and it's popularity, not least, the music that was specifically composed for it by such masters as Beethoven, Chopin, etc..."
With your new album entitled 'Common Places,' I'm wondering if it means something more personal to you? "In my mind, as I was playing, I visited different places, sometimes emotional, sometimes more physical. I'm also a believer in finding commonality between people and cultures rather than focusing on the divisive nature of fear that we are fed by the media on a regular basis."
It's also said that these new album tracks of yours are all played as "stream of consciousness" improvisations ... er, what?! "Well... when recording this CD I sat down and tried to clear my mind and just play, no musical road map and usually not even a concrete idea of a song in mind. I was inspired by the sound of the piano and whatever images then entered my mind as I began to play. In the case of Albinoni's Adagio it thought it would be cool to play around with ideas inspired by the melody (or what we think is the melody - nobody really knows since all but 6 measures of the score were lost in the fiery bombing of Dresden during WWII). In the case of Bond, I knew I wanted to play around with the theme but every time I sat at the piano to start, another inspiration hit me and I ended up playing something completely different (We Are Here, Let It Be, The Adagio, etc...) until I really felt the inspiration for that piece."
If you could rearrange/re-touch any film score from the '70s or '80s, which movie would it be from ... and why? "My favorite movies from that era (Cinema Paradiso, The Mission, Out of Africa) I would not dare to touch - I'm a big fan of Ennio Morricone and John Barry. Actually, now that I think of it, Star Trek would be a lot of fun to play around with...I love that theme!"
Do you have any new scoring work on the horizon that you can tell us about? "I am focusing a lot right now on "Common Places"... I recently had a film released called "Conversations With Other Women" Starring Helena Bonham Carter & Aaron Eckhart. I also have music in lots of recent & upcoming film campaigns - The Prestige, The Covenant, We Are Marshall, The Quiet, A Good Year, Everyone's Hero, Wickerman, and just scored a short film called "Where There's Smoke". Also, have some interesting projects in the "talk" stage."
Finally, I like Penguins ... do you? "I can't wait to see HAPPY FEET with my daughter. We both LOVE penguins!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Starr's new CD, and you think you know all there is to know about the host of the show she was on, just answer this easy question: Arsenio released an album on MCA, Large and In Charge, under the moniker of who? (FYI - This character was supposed to be Arsenio's overweight "little brother"!?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before December 1st with your answer and the subject title 'CONTEST: STARR PARODI SIGNED CDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back To Archives