Kluesner didn't know the extent of his skills until the
"Never Weaken" stars
The title refers to Lloyd's refusal to give up when facing resistance. It may be corny to apply it to Kluesner's composing career -- but let's do it anyway.
Though he has a bachelor's and master's degree in music performance from
Whitehead has used Kluesner's music on multiple occasions, starting with an "America the Beautiful" arrangement seven years ago. The film score idea had been simmering in his brain for a while, so he commissioned the half-hour piece.
"I wanted to turn him loose to be as crazy as he wanted to be," says Whitehead. "What I love about this score is that sometimes the music is in the background, and sometimes it's a full partner to the visuals. Even if it stood alone, I think the audience would like it."
Kluesner didn't take the easy path: no 1920s jazz or ragtime, no cribbing from the classics. His score is jaunty, gently ironic, weightily sentimental (as a joke) when Lloyd contemplates suicide, because we know it won't happen. When Lloyd hears a distant harp, and the camera cuts to a woman playing from sheet music, Kluesner incorporates the music on her page into the score.
"I wanted to give players who don't get a lot of action something to do, like the second trumpet or third trombone," says the composer. "There's a lot for clarinet and other woodwinds. And there's a full-blown fugue, too. How often does a modern composer get to write one of those?"
In the 1970s, music was his life. He played the saxophone, from jazz bands to Chinese funerals in
He played in
"I never thought of myself as a composer at first, because I was no good at the piano," he recalls. But computer software liberated musicians from the need to master a keyboard, and he wrote short works for the
After the move to Charlotte, he back-burnered composition again and worked as a sound designer for
"I feel blessed Geoff gave me carte blanche, and the orchestra is willing to play this long piece with just five rehearsals," says Kluesner, who worked on "Weaken" over three months.
"You know what they say: If you see a movie and forget the music, the score's a success. This film made me laugh out loud -- which rarely happens -- and I'm lucky to be a part of it."
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