Leonardo sale today at the ACW store!

Posted on 15 April 2012 | No responses

In honor of Leonardo da Vinci’s 560th birthday Get 15 % off all Leonardo merchandise at the ACW store. GO TO ACW SOTRE USE CODE: DAVINCID at checkout

and check out the whole short on Vimeo – THE SHORT


From the dept. of prehistory – The Child Artist

Posted on 7 October 2011 | No responses

Finger flutings in the Rouffignac cave.

A interesting blog post by Barbara J. King, about children artists of Prehistory. You can find it here at the NPR blog 13.7.


From the dept. of interviews: Alex Mandel on music

Posted on 13 July 2011 | No responses

We sat down recently to talk to Aerial Contrivance’s resident musician Alex Mandel to find out his process with music and his thoughts on the various projects he has worked on in the past and the future.
ACW: When did you start playing music?
MANDEL: I first played piano when I was five, and started teaching myself guitar shortly after.
ACW: Who were your influences? Who still is?
MANDEL: The first influence was hearing my mother play the piano, specifically Chopin’s Nocturnes. To this day, that is some of my favorite music. It’s beautiful but also has a sadness to it.  At the same time, as a 7 year old, I listened to bands like Cheap Trick, Led Zepplin, and my parents’ Beatles albums. That music was, powerful, thrilling and a bit scary.  To this day, I’m interested in music that has an emotional power to it, that’s sublime, both beautiful and frightening.
ACW: Take us through your process for writing a song?
MANDEL: I’ve been writing songs since I was seven.  Generally, I get a kind of agitated feeling and I’ll pick up the guitar or sit at the piano. Then I go into a kind of a fog. If I’m lucky 15 minutes later I’ll have a song completed. The lyrics and music come out very quickly. Often what emerges isn’t that great, but sometimes I catch a good one and bring it to a band.
ACW: How do you collaborate with the other members of the band?
MANDEL: I’ll bring in a print out of the lyrics, and play the song for them.  Sometimes I’ll have a rough chart. They’ll join in, and we’ll play the song many times over several sessions.  We’ll experiment with different instrumentations — for example, drums or vibraphone, bowed or plucked bass. In the recording process, we hone the arrangements further.
ACW: You’ve also scored movies - Your Friend the Rat and Tracy – how have you found that process? What is your approach to film scoring?
MANDEL: Scoring films is quite different than writing your own songs, and being a singer-songwriter. A film composer is a filmmaker as much as a composer.  I’m supporting the Director’s vision.
When I bring in a partly finished song to a group, I really appreciate a supportive, collaborative response — a “yes and” response rather than a “no but” response. When you have an unfinished idea, it’s like an infant that should be handled gently, so it can grow into something great. So I bring that attitude to my role as film composer. The Director brings me an idea, even if it’s unfinished, and I stay positive. Once the trust is established, I’ve found I have freedom to experiment and try things the Director maybe hadn’t considered.
The films I’ve scored have touched on a lot of different genres. The trick is maintain a thematic unity, so it feels cohesive, and also to bring your own style to whatever you do, so it’s not merely “generic” or anonymous.
“Your Friend the Rat” was fun because Jim didn’t have, or want, any temp music, though we did listen to music from Jacques Tati’s films as inspiration.  So I had a lot of freedom to compose to a lot different genres — from Dixieland and Django “hot jazz”, to heavy metal and more dissonant composition — and they all seemed to work in the film.
“Tracy” was also really fun. I drew on countless Saturday mornings watching live-action children’s shows.  We started with the theme song from “Imagination Train Station”, which Dan Scanlon had written the lyrics to. That was the first time I wrote a song to someone else’s lyrics, and it become the opening animated sequence of the film.  There was a lot of temp music, but the main themes for the three main characters weren’t derived from any temp music.
ACW: Do you have a different approach in regards to animation then to live-action?
MANDEL: In my experience the two media are very similar.  I haven’t done too much of the traditional “Mickey Mousing” style of composing, where the music acts much like a sound effect. I did a little of that in “Your Friend the Rat”, but it was very limited. I think the main difference is less between media (animation vs. live action) as between genres (drama or comedy). So the challenge is basically the same.  Developing a great rapport with the Director and his or her vision. Understanding the story and characters. Knowing what to emphasize to amplify the emotion or humor at the right time.  So far, for the live action films, I tend to write a theme for each of the main characters, or in Trifles, a motif for the main theme — that women are connecting their experiences together — so that’s more abstract.
ACW: Are there any composers or film compositions you study?
MANDEL: I’ve studied the harmony of Chopin and Schubert in particular, and the orchestration of Ravel.  Everything I listen to I’m analyzing what I like about it, or what I don’t.  But the composers I’ve studied most are groups — rock bands, jazz combos, hip-hop artist, blues and folk music.  I break down tracks so I understand each part and how it fits together to create an impact. Also instrumentation, and the specific sounds and how they work together.
I watch a lot of films and TV and I pay attention to the music and how it supports or distracts from the story. When does it enter and exit. When does it amplify the emotions without you noticing it, and when does it become too noticeable.
Good film music is magical; it makes you feel, but you often don’t notice it’s there. At the same time it subtlely calls your attention to certain patterns or moments. Bad film music is obvious and you know exactly what it’s trying to do – so the illusion can be ruined.
ACW:  What is it you’ve discovered in them that appeals to your sensibilities?
MANDEL :  I love music that has an ambiguity about it. Like the Chopin I heard when I was an infant. It’s beautiful, it’s virtuosic, it’s sad, it’s powerful.  There is a power to live instruments; they’ve evolved over hundreds or thousands of years, and there’s a tremendous power to live musicians, each with his own style, performing together. That’s why I gravitate towards smaller combos or chamber music – each voice is critical, and they work together to create something with a collective personality. When music expresses something of the people who create it – their experiences, their point of view, their character — it is authentic and that fascinates me.
ACW: Can you talk about some of your new projects?
MANDEL: I am working on a new TV show on Public Television called Snap Judgment LIVE. I wrote and performed the title song.  I compose music to accompany different story tellers, and interstitial music, performed live in front of an audience. The first episode aired in October, and we filmed two more episodes in October live at the Brava Theater in San Francisco. The shows air both on NPR and PBS.
The Echo Falls is an acoustic trio in the folk-rock genre. I write the songs, sing and play guitar and piano.
ACW: What advice do you have for young people in regards to becoming a musician?

MANDEL: If you’re a musician you need to do music. Nothing I say will stop you.

If you are interested to hear some of Alex’s music check out The Echo Falls on My Space. and his blog –  Alex Mandel Music


from the dept. of balloons

Posted on 23 November 2010 | No responses


From the Dept. of Moving on: ACW Projects Update

Posted on 28 July 2010 | No responses

Here at the Contrivance we have a few projects moving forward. Let us now update:


DVD – will be available finally in the next few weeks. This is a complete making of DVD covering the entire 10 years of production. The stylish Package includes a notebook, pencil and flipbook.

Also the first Leonardo doodle book has gone to print. This is an activity book for kids ages 5 to 8 or so.

Check in soon to buy both from the store


Galileo is currently in a bit of a rewrite but is also moving along. Our hope is to premiere the film at Creator-Con next year in San Diego.

The Flying Machine Archives

In preproduction –  1 minute little films depicting man’s (and our) obsession with flight. This will be animated and live action. Look for the first set of three or so also next year here at the Contrivance and also at the Creator-Con.


from the dept. of Da Vinci Day: LEONARDO online until 26th

Posted on 12 April 2010 | No responses

Watch and VOTE Leonardo

Just in time for Da Vinci Day April 15th! Starting today until April 26th you can see and VOTE for Leonardo, yes the entire short, on line at Indieflix as part of the Palm Beach Film Festival. By far, not the best way to see it but if you let it load all the way and turn up the sound it should play pretty well. And be sure to VOTE for the old man and leave a review on the site. Pass it on! Hurry voting closes April 26th

Watch and VOTE Leonardo

and while your at it visit Leonardo’s IMDB page to vote and comment there too!


from the dept. of time ~ jacq_v.1_004

Posted on 3 March 2010 | No responses


From the dept. of drawing ~ Seeing the Future! A Guide to Visual Communication

Posted on 19 February 2010 | No responses

Our friends over at HowToons have made an awesome drawing guide in collaboration with the Lemelson-MIT Inventeams. Told completely in drawings by Nick Dragotta, follow Tuck and Celine as they take you through the history and concepts of drawing. Be inspried! Great for kids of all ages. Especially those who think they can not draw. down load the printable pdf here!


from the dept. of communication ~ jacq_v.1_003

Posted on 16 February 2010 | No responses


from the dept. of forewarning~ Separation of Church and State

Posted on 15 February 2010 | No responses

Original Image: “‘Declaration of Independence,” by John Trumbull/The Bridgeman Art Library

Here at the contrivance we like to promote the truth and can’t abide by the warping of the truth by others to fit their agenda. Especially when that agenda concerns our children and their education. This disturbing article appeared in this week’s New York Times Magazine and we forward it on to you here ~

How Christian Were the Founders?


Published: February 14, 2010 NYT Magazine

Conservative activists on the Texas Board of Education say that the authors of the Constitution intended the United States to be a Christian nation. And they want America’s history textbooks to say so. Go to article


older posts »

Recent Posts

Tag Cloud

Alex Mandel angst animation art average Beck Berkeley blogs cartoons CD children comics cool corporation cover art Death Cab for Cutie defiance DJ Masonic documentary drawing education Fela Kuti film flight fun government history jacqueline jane Jason Munn joe John Coltrane kids learning Leonardo leonardo da vinci life music Pixar san francisco san francisco symphony shorts silly weird Wilco


Libro di Bottega “the workbook” is proudly powered by WordPress and the SubtleFlux theme.

Copyright © Libro di Bottega “the workbook”