a feature-length documentary film
  about Simon Rodia and the Watts
    Towers of South Central Los Angeles

by Edward Landler and Brad Byer

Music from the Documentary Film
“I BUILD THE TOWER”

“You be half good and half no good, well, that's no good. ” 
  --  Sam Rodia

Based on operatic themes of Giuseppe Verdi, the film’s soundtrack represents the music Sam Rodia sang while working atop his Towers.  From classical to contemporary musical styles – spanning the time and distance covered by Rodia’s life from 19th-century Italy to modern America - the score was arranged, composed, performed and recorded exclusively for “I Build the Tower”.

The Verdi themes arranged by Robert Israel remain in classical form while Nate Morgan uses Verdi’s music as inspiration for original pieces in the jazz, blues and salsa styles identified with the community of Watts.

The orchestral music was recorded in the Czech Republic, performed by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Robert Israel.  The music of the Robert Israel Ensemble and the Nate Morgan Ensemble was performed and recorded at Warren Dewey Sound in Santa Monica, California.

Sam Rodia Watts Towers Watts Los Angeles 1950s History

Watts, 1953

“The musical score is sensational—a rich blending of Verdi opera, jazz, and rap music.”
 – James Scholtz,
   Booklist

The hip-hop song, “Yo, Sam”, was conceived by filmmakers Brad Byer and Edward Landler who arranged the lyrics from Sam Rodia’s own recorded words.  Michael Abels composed and arranged the music with final arrangement by Bjorn Schaller with Rodia’s voice as lead vocal and back up vocals by Dwight Trible and Logan Johnson, Jr.

    1)  Overture (La Forza del Destino) – orchestral arrangement
    2)  “Miserere” (Il Trovatore) – orchestral arrangement
    3)  “Addio del passato” (La Traviata) – classical ensemble
    4)  “Addio del passato” – jazz ensemble
    5)  “Addio del passato” – jazz ensemble – salsa
    6)  “Moving West” – blues guitar and piano
    7)  “Caro nome” (Rigoletto) – orchestral arrangement
    8)  “Caro nome” – jazz ensemble
    9)  Prelude (La Traviata) – orchestral arrangement
    10)  “Di provenza il mar” (La Traviata) – classical ensemble
    11)  “Di provenza il mar” – jazz piano and bass
    12)  “La donna e mobile” (Rigoletto) – jazz ensemble
    13)  “Di quella pira” (Il Trovatore) – orchestral arrangement
    14)  “O patria mia” (Aida) – classical ensemble
    15)  “O patria mia” – blues guitar, piano and vocal (Dwight Trible)
    16)  “Yo, Sam” (The Rodia Rap) – hip hop arrangement

Robert Israel, internationally recognized as one of today’s pre-eminent silent film composers and accompanists, has composed, arranged and conducted scores for keyboard, ensemble and orchestra for numerous silent films released on video, including the restoration of Erich von Stroheim’s “Greed”.

Jazz pianist Nate Morgan, a long time member of Horace Tapscott’s Pan African People’s Arkestra, has become a dominant figure in the Los Angeles jazz scene as composer, arranger and leader of his own ensemble.  His most recent CD is “Journey into Nigritia”.

Composer/arranger Michael Abels, cited for his ability to adapt elements from popular music into the symphonic idiom, has gained widespread recognition for his orchestral pieces “Global Warming” and “Tribute”.  His work has been performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, and many others. 

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Copyright © 2006-2016 by Edward Landler and Brad Byer, all rights reserved