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"It comes down to this idea of craft: that music is [trained] art and skill and emotions. When you have an 80 minute score, of which I've been facing 6-7 of them a year now, how do you do it, and get all the emotions out and get all the material to relate? It's not like, ‘Okay, I have to write another cue and get something done.'" Dooley feels a composer must stop and ask, "‘How do I take the material that I have, and stretch it to make it more cohesive?'

"[Minimalism] always has this very integrated thematic material that's played with. Obviously, if you listen to Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, [you'll find] there's a small amount of material, but used very, very well. Once you come up with a good idea, use it; hammer it home. If you look at a movie like Casablanca, it's got one theme in it, and that's because there's great skill. Suspect (1987) is amazing, too.

Indeed, Michael Kamen's Suspect is largely comprised of a percussive, eruptive suspense motif, and a fragmented melody that's left incomplete until the End Credits. Not dissimilar to Dooley's own efforts in minimalism, Kamen heavily employed tangential variation and recombination after some intriguing exercises in deconstruction.

Like Glass, whose minimalism figured in the documentary and visual narrative works of Errol Morris and Godfrey Reggio, Dooley is perfectly comfortable in drawing inspiration from the movement in non-fiction projects, like The Mars Underground.

"It's funny,' he says, a little bemused by the feature film's odd continental predicament. "No one has seen this movie, and I'll tell you, it's a great documentary. It's been released worldwide in every place, except, I believe, the United States... There's lots of European markets that have picked this thing up," he says, including Discovery Channel Italy.

Mars Underground combines high-definition animation - like the launching, landing and unraveling of the Martian land rovers, terraforming, and human colonization - with various interviews. As Dooley explains, "It also touches on all the political and scientific [aspects]: stories about how to get to Mars and the government's response to withdraw funding, NASA's plan, the disgruntled ex-NASA people who say NASA is too bloated to do it because of their infrastructure," and cheaper ways to accomplish the mission, via private sector funding.

"It is quite critical, but it's done from an equal playing field. There is a Mars Society, who gets together and talks about the plans and the research; it's kind of like going to a Trekkie convention, [but] there are so many people who have put great ideas forth on how to make this happen.

"The movie was done in this Errol Morris documentary style... Originally I was like, ‘Oh God, I just don't want to be Philip Glass light,' but it was a great opportunity to take that minimalism... and try to do this with some contemporary edges on other sides. There's this great big fast build, [whereas] minimalists have a tendency to be a bit slower... I was trying to take those ideas - of the Satie and John Adams – to another light."

James Dooley's involvement with Mars Underground came through a friend who had worked on the screenplay, and although the composer was searching for a needed break in his busy schedule - i.e., a real vacation after a taxing schedule - the film left a very potent impression.

"That day I was writing, and I'm still very proud of [that opening piece]," which pretty much follows Dooley's style in writing a memorable, propulsive minimalist theme with a contemporary feel. Because he owns the music outright, the composer was able to release a soundtrack album, via outlets like CD Baby and buysoundtrax.com, and was stunned when it sold more than 500 copies, "and for a movie that nobody has seen. It's a little bit fantastic. I'm still kind of in awe at the response."

Dooley also confesses the film fell within his broad interest in science. "I'm a huge science freak... In school I was going to be a doctor; I went pre-med at NYU in addition to my classical music studies. I realized that just because you love something doesn't mean you should do it for a living, but I still read a lot on physics; [those subjects] calm me down in some bizarre respect after a work day of toiling over notes and harmonies… It's very relaxing to me."

For Sony's PS2 video game SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs, Dooley used his analytical mind to apply organized, logical concepts to what remains one of his toughest projects: writing about 3 hours of score.

"It was pretty intimidating," he says. "When I first got the cue sheet, I said, ‘Oh, wow… Look at the cue sheet… It's a lot of music… Okay guys, I'll see you tomorrow.' I actually had to go home, and have a private panic attack, because I didn't want to freak out in my studio - so I freaked out at home. It was hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cues."

When he first approached the score, he thought, ‘This is not going to work if you beat someone to death with heroicism; it's too much,'" and he chose a model James Horner had successfully established in his own militaristic-themed scores.

"If you look at movies like Clear and Present Danger, or Glory, there's always a passive side to the military, because that humanizes the whole thing," he explains. Sony responded favorably to his design, in which a character's insertion into the game is initially scored with aggressive material, yet a player's demise (or extraction) by another teammate yields a passive cue, giving the massive score for multiple players and game levels an important balance.

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