Classics flow into Brewer’s inspiration
> Symphony melds director’s views of ‘Music as Muse’
Special to The Commercial Appeal
No, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra will not be playing “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp.”
However, the audience at Saturday’s First Tennessee Grand Series concert will find there is a creative connection between the Oscar-winning film “Amadeus” and Craig Brewer’s “Hustle & Flow” that gave the world the Oscar-winning rap song “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp.”
The aim of the event, called “Music as Muse: An Artist’s Inspiration,” is to offer a provocative concert featuring classical works that influenced film director Brewer’s life and movies.
Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor is in the mix along with Bernstein’s Overture to “West Side Story,” Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, John Williams’ “Star Wars” theme, Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 and Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1.
“It’s a night of music and storytelling,” Brewer says. “And it’s going to be a little bit interactive. We want everyone snapping during the ‘West Side Story’ number so people are going to have to be prepared to perform from their seats. We’re going to divide the audience between the Jets and the Sharks.”
The symphony will be directed by guest conductor Carolyn Kuan who worked with Brewer on shaping the program. Brewer says the evening is intended to be an intriguing mix that will appeal to both the Masterworks and Pops series audiences. “Carolyn has been really good at measuring that for us and creating something that’s really entertaining and out of the box.”
For Brewer, the “West Side Story” soundtrack was a favorite of his parents and it’s stayed with him.
“We’ll also be playing the Shostakovich that I used in ‘The Poor & Hungry,’ ” Brewer says, “and telling the story of how we put the music together for that film.”
The 1990 film that was an indie hit and opened the door to Hollywood for Brewer, “is about what happens when you suddenly have a connection to somebody who helps create music,” he says.
But the most intriguing musical connection is that between “Amadeus” and “Hustle & Flow.”
When Brewer was pitching “Hustle & Flow” in Hollywood, he was asked how it could work for people who don’t like rap.
Brewer answered with the story of the time his father took him to see “Amadeus.”
“I just really wasn’t into classical,” he says. “But by the time I got to that final scene where Mozart is writing his own Requiem and Salieri is at the foot of his bed transcribing line by line what each instrument is doing, I saw classical music not only broken down into parts but I saw people passionately describing what the music should be like.”
When he heard it all come together it was like the birth of a song and he was at its creation.
Brewer explained to his Hollywood interrogators that “Hustle & Flow” would “show people breaking down rap — working on the beat, then working on the hook, and then the flow and you see them sweating over it, killing themselves to do it,” he says. “But it didn’t matter if you didn’t like rap music, you were never going to let that song leave your head.”
Brewer would be pleased if that sort of musical ownership occurs this weekend.
“I hope we’ll all be a little closer to each other in terms of our passion and our musical taste. And sometimes you need to throw a party to remind everybody about that.”
Filmmaker Craig Brewer joins hands with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra to put music to his motives, and how “Amadeus” inspired his “Hustle & Flow.”