Local composer writes concert piece for Foothills Forever
The campaign to purchase the San Marcos Foothills West Mesa to prevent housing developments needs an additional $8.8 million in less than two weeks, to meet the $18.6 million goal by June 1.
Cody Westheimer felt the urgency of the need for funds, and he decided to tell the story of the San Marcos Foothills in his own way, with song and film.
On Wednesday morning, he released a two and a half minute video on YouTube that features his original piece “Foothills Forever” for string orchestra, with scenic shots of the landscape and his intimate creative process.
“I know we have a long way to go, but there’s such momentum behind it at this point that this is kind of my last desperate plea — to write an orchestral piece,” Mr. Westheimer told the News-Press. “It’s such a cherished space.”
The Santa Barbara composer has been working as a film and TV composer for more than two decades, amassing well more than 100 hours of music for feature films, documentary series and iconic sports themes, according to IMDB. Most notably, Mr. Westheimer wrote the Tour de France theme for NBC, which the company is still using to date. He’s written other scores for Major League Soccer, the National Dog Show and the America’s Cup.
His music has even played side by side with John Williams’ theme on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Mr. Westheimer has also written for many nature and wildlife documentaries and IMAX films, including ones shown on BBC, Smithsonian Channel, Tandem, PBS Nature and CBS.
Mr. Westheimer grew up in Goleta, and his first orchestral work made its debut during a Santa Barbara Symphony concert. The composer was only 17 years old when he wrote the piece, titled “An Island is Born,” which he said was alluding to Santa Barbara’s Channel Islands.
“I just enjoy telling stories,” he said. “I would say that’s kind of my knack, getting an efficient little story told in a few minutes.”
To tell the story of the San Marcos Foothills, though, the composer knew he needed to immerse himself in nature for inspiration — a process he calls “free range composing.” He headed out to the foothills with his “studio backpack,” a portable recording studio, and he ended up with an original piece in just a couple of days’ time.
“With the foothills, it felt so relevant to be able to be out there like a painter would be out with a canvas,” Mr. Westheimer said. “Composers are usually locked in a studio with a piano or whatever they use indoors, so this idea of being outside — I thought the San Marcos Foothills was the perfect opportunity to employ that.
“If a painter had a choice between going off of pictures of the landscape or the landscape itself, they would absolutely choose being in the landscape.”
The composer and filmmaker has created other short documentaries on wildlife preserves in California, including one on preventing Ellwood Mesa and the Douglas Family Preserve from development. He also created a film on the Sepulveda Wildlife Preserve in the Los Angeles area.
Plans to bring his studio backpack up to the Douglas Family Preserve and to the tip top of Gibraltar, being an avid cyclist, are of interest to Mr. Westheimer.
He said of his “Foothills Forever” piece, “I was really inspired by what I created. It was an interesting cascade coming up with the music, recording the music, going through the footage that I self-shot. I’m hoping that viewers will be inspired by it, either to create their own art in a place like the foothills or be inspired to join the fight to help save it, because we are down to our last weeks of saving this place. It’s really quite simple, (this film is) just to raise awareness of what needs to happen for the foothills to continue to thrive.”
The orchestra performing Mr. Westheimer’s “Foothills Forever” is the Budapest Scoring Orchestra, which he’s worked with for other films in the past. He referred to the residents behind the Foothills Forever movement as “heroic,” and that he is “so grateful someone took this cause on.”
“Santa Barbara is such an incredible place, but we can’t just fill up all the land and expect for it to still be as special a place,” the composer said. “I really hope this is one of those community forming moments … I remember the energy around Ellwood and Wilcox (Douglas Family Preserve). The community was buzzing about it, and we did it. There’s no houses there.
“That was 20 years ago, and I feel like San Marcos deserves that same buzz.”