Vermont Symphony Orchestra

The VSO Blog

Siskel and Ebert, meet Gusakov and Friedland

With 85 years’ combined VSO experience, David Gusakov (violin) and Peggy Friedland (piccolo) traded their music stands for laptops this month, serving as judges for the VSO/Middlebury New Filmmakers’ Festival (MNFF) award for excellence in music composed for film. Gusakov and Friedland were two of VSO’s six judges to review a group of animated and documentary films, submitted to next year’s Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival, vying for the opportunity to have its showing accompanied by the VSO in 2023.

“I’ve always loved movies and am fascinated with how the scores have evolved over time,” says Gusakov, “from the days of very classical-sounding, heavy symphonic tracks through all kinds of popular music to John Williams and synthesized sounds of all kinds.”

When reviewing a film, Gusakov looks for the degree to which the soundtrack changes with the action, how it accurately captures and enhances the unstated emotional tone of the action, and how engaging it is.

Friedland, who joined the VSO as a member after winning the 1986 piccolo audition, says, “My role was to determine which film best utilized music in the context of the work, keeping in mind that the winning score will be performed by the VSO in live screenings throughout the state. The imagery must engage me, whether abstract or telling an actual story. Most importantly, will it also be adaptable for orchestral instruments?”

When asked if she has a film-and-soundtrack favorite, Friedland says, “What comes to mind immediately is Leonard Bernstein’s exalted score for On the Waterfront. His use of leitmotifs to represent the characters of Tommy- the majestic French horn theme in the opening credits – and Edie’s gorgeous, soaring, flute theme, (❤️), are pure genius.”

VSO’s chamber orchestra will accompany seven short films on August 26 as part of MNFF, including the animated film Mate by Rusty Eveland, winner of last year’s competition. The concert will conclude with the announcement of the winning film, which will be accompanied live by the VSO, for MNFF9 in 2023.