CSULB professor scores at Sundance

Courtesy of Craig Richey

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Shane Newell, Assistant City Editor

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When one hears of the Sundance Film Festival, names like Robert Redford and Joseph Gordon-Levitt oftentimes come to mind.

But now, Cal State Long Beach professor Craig Richey’s name has been added to the prestigious list of Sundance attendees.

“It’s always exciting to be at Sundance,” Richey said.

Richey, a keyboard studies lecturer at CSULB, was added to the list after he composed the score to a new documentary, “The World According to Dick Cheney,” which details former Vice President Dick Cheney’s rise to political notability.

“It was a little surreal writing a theme for Dick Cheney,” Richey said. “I had friends who joked that it should sound like Darth Vader.”

“The World According to Dick Cheney” was Richey’s third collaborative effort with director R.J. Cutler. Richey also worked with Cutler on the “The September Issue,” a behind-the-scenes documentary about what goes into the making of Vogue’s Fall Fashion issue.

Before composing film scores though, Richey studied as a classically trained pianist.

“I grew up in a family of musicians,” Richey said. “As soon as I could reach the piano, I got … lessons.”

After training as a classical pianist at the North Carolina School of the Arts, St. Louis Conservatory of Music and Juilliard School, Richey said he decided to change his career path.

“I owned a recording studio [in New York City], and a director was looking for a composer,” Richey said. “[The director] decided I was the guy for the job, and he basically talked me into it.”

After attempting film scoring, Richey found his true musical passion.

“I had that ‘aha’ moment,” he said. “This was something I had long wanted to do, but it had never occurred to me to pursue it professionally.”

After composing film scores for several years, Richey began working with Cutler on the Cheney documentary in October 2012. He said he was faced with the challenge of composing more than 87 minutes of music.

According to Richey, a film scorer usually gives a director his or her music catalog months before they actually participate in the scoring process.

“Having worked with [Cutler] before, I always give copies of my soundtrack,” Richey said.

One-third of the work was already done when Richey began composing music exclusively for the documentary. Cutler had already taken music he liked from Richey’s catalog and incorporated it into the film.

Richey said he had two goals in mind while composing the score to “The World According to Dick Cheney.” He wanted to make the music both serious and mature while maintaining an overall narrative feel.

After finishing the process, Richey was invited to the premiere at the Sundance Festival in January.

Richey described the premiere as a “vicarious” experience after receiving some intense reactions from the audience.

“Everyone comes with a pre-formed opinion about Cheney,” Richey said. “There’s something isolated and sad about him.”

Richey, who’s also involved in hosting annual benefit concerts to help children with HIV, is currently working on a new sci-fi thriller called “Uncanny.”

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