Composer Greg Hale Jones passes away

I've just learned that Los Angeles-based composer Greg Hale Jones has died. This is very sad news — he was young, he was talented, and he was a kind soul.

I first met Greg in the course of a feature I was writing for Grammy Magazine (Link to gif scan), and had the good fortune of developing an aquaintance with his work and his warm, kind personality over time. He was a good man, which is something of a rarity here in Hollywood.

His body of work included a number of film soundtracks, and a series of wonderful pieces that digitally remixed/rethought/reinterpreted old historic folk song recordings from the Library of Congress. Probably the most widely-exposed of these was a haunting tune called "Boll Weevil" (Link to streaming MP3)

One of the things that was so amazing about his work was the way he used these old recordings — he wasn't just sampling them and slapping them on top of a techno beat, Moby-style. He was really turning them inside out, composing through them and around them and retooling both the original and the new elements in an incredibly sensitive way. It was great work, and a fine reminder of the fact that valuable new art often owes its creative DNA to prior work.

When I interviewed him, he talked about what he went through to obtain permission from the Library of Congress to use some 60-year-old Alan Lomax field recordings of black southern folk singers — this permission came with an odd condition. Since he was planning to use these source materials to create a new song for a feature film (The General's Daughter, starring John Travolta), some portion of the movie's proceeds must go back to the heirs of the original singer. Greg agreed. This resulted in a surreal scenario: after a long, challenging search to locate the descendants, a suited-up Paramount Pictures executive drives a winding road out to an overgrown southern plantation in disrepair, hands a check to an elderly woman, asks "So, what are you going to do with the money?" She replies, "I'm gonna finally go out and buy me one of them telephones, that's what I'm gonna do."

Some audio clips are here. His partner Laurie says she plans to keep Greg's studio in operation, and has no intent of allowing his creative legacy to fade. He was a gentle, insightful soul. He was also an unbelievably gifted artist. I'm deeply saddened to learn of his departure. Link