Recently, one of my clients asked me to score his new 90-minute PBS documentary about the recent uprisings in Egypt. We decided that musically it would be best to use real Egyptian musicians and musical styles. A great idea. Just one small problem – I’d never worked with Egyptian music or musicians before. Ever. Didn’t even know for sure what Egyptian instruments were. I was – befuddled.

Fast forward a few weeks – I’m in a recording studio with five incredible (and patient) Egyptian musicians – the Egyptian band “Saltanah”. For the first time, I was running a recording session with no written music for the players. Yikes. During the first hour or so, they showed me what their instruments were capable of. For the rest of the session, I described musical moods, hummed melodies, tapped out rhythms, and had them record to tempo click tracks set up for each music cue I’d laid out for the film. After they left, I added other instruments to complete each cue.

So did it work? Decide for yourself – you can hear a short montage of the music score by clicking here – and yep, the client was very pleased. Watch for “Egypt: Revolution Interrupted” coming to PBS this fall.