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Episode 67

Teaching Life Lessons & Film Score Composing featuring Ruth Mendelson

Episode  67
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Composer/Instrumentalist/Producer/Arranger/Editor/Professor Ruth Mendelson has written award-winning scores for film and television. She teaches at the Berklee College of music and she has written a fantastical, multi-dimensional, treasure hunt fairy tale for children of all ages called The Water Tree Way that will positively alter your trajectory through the world, pointing you towards joy, success and love. Ruth joins us with the wisdom behind her wisdom and Fritz and Weezy are recommending Dopesick on Hulu and The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein.

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Fritz Coleman (00:00:04):

Welcome to Media Path. I'm Fritz Coleman

Louise Palanker (00:00:06):

And I am Louise Palanker

Fritz Coleman (00:00:08):

You know, as we walk along the media path, we will occasionally stop and call your attention to something interesting that lurks in the shrubbery just outside your view, that you wouldn't have caught without our trained eye. And then you will thank us profusely. Thank you. Later. We also love our guests. Today we're joined by Ruth Mendelson. Ruth is accomplished in so many ways. She is a composer and a producer, and an arranger, and an author, and what I think is her most endearing quality, she is a philanthropist and a humanitarian, and somebody who strives to make the planet better and does it in a bunch of ways. Ruth will be with us in just a second, but wheezy, what do you have for us this week?

Louise Palanker (00:00:50):

Oh, we are gonna read some reviews for,

Fritz Coleman (00:00:52):

Oh my God. And that's my response. You know, we haven't done that. And, uh, I'm guess here's a review from, uh, uh, rat from Reno, a Ra Raach from Reno. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Uh, did you get a pronunciation from her? Are you sure it's Ra

Louise Palanker (00:01:06):

We know because we've heard it from our producer, Dina.

Fritz Coleman (00:01:10):

Oh, okay. Share it for Rachel. Sure. Okay. She, oh, fantastic. All right. Well, listen, she loves this podcast, very engaging and interesting. Definitely would recommend it to anybody looking for a great podcast. Bless your heart, rich. We appreciate it. And also, Bravo from Leica 64, obviously photographer, well presented. I enjoy the playful and friendly banner between these two Southern California legendary personalities. Highly recommended. God bless you, and everything you stand for, we appreciate

Louise Palanker (00:01:40):

It. Thank you for your, for your fine taste in podcasting. So, the first book that I wanted to talk about, Fritz is kind of like a perennial favorite for me. It's like one of those books that you find yourself thinking about and talking about with other people who have read the book. The book is called The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein. This is a miraculous book written by the author in 2008, who at the age of 93 was able to clearly recall the events of his childhood from before World War I.

Fritz Coleman (00:02:10):


Louise Palanker (00:02:10):

Harry Bernstein delightfully and vividly brings to life an all but forgotten time and place in working class Smokey Milltown, early 20th century, Northern England. When Jews in Gentiles seldom mixed his childhood street was the boundary where the two worlds collided Jews on one side, Gentiles on the other. It was a divide that would be bridged by love on the eve of World War I. Young Harry watches as his sister Lilly Falls for Arthur, the Christian boy across worlds and cultures and history and tradition. And across the street when Harry unwittingly discovers their secret affair, he must choose between the rules he's been taught all of his young life, his loyalty to his selfless mother, and what he knows to be true in his own heart. This is a book you will not forget, the Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein.

Fritz Coleman (00:03:00):

Wow. Sounds wonderful. And I wonder how World War I changed the neighborhood dynamics there because Germany was bounced.

Louise Palanker (00:03:08):

This is England and after World War I, there's just a lot of new boundaries that were kind of

Fritz Coleman (00:03:16):


Louise Palanker (00:03:16):

Created between countries, but I think England pretty much stayed the same and just sort of, kind of lurched

Fritz Coleman (00:03:22):

Toward I just modern terms, you know, Jews. And then there was the rise, you know, in the early thirties. It was the rise of, um, authoritarianism in Germany and all that. But yeah, that's, that's, that's, that's too late for him

Louise Palanker (00:03:33):

Because with, with World War I, we didn't really kind of fix enough of what had led to World War I. There's still no, we all kinds of fishers yet. Yeah. We created more.

Fritz Coleman (00:03:43):

All right. Well, that sounds like a, a wonderful, um, offer. N Now I'm gonna talk about a series called Dope Sick. This is on Hulu. It's a multi-part series. Three episodes have dropped already. They'll introduce another one tomorrow night and every Wednesday thereafter. It's based on the book, dope Sick by Beth Macy. This is a gut-wrenching overview of the opioid crisis in America. Michael Keaton placed Dr. Sam Finnick, who was a family doctor in a Virginia mining town. It's the arc of his experience prescribing Oxycontin to his patients, and then ending up having to testify in front of a grand jury about how many of those patients have died from overdoses. The stories come from a couple of different points of view. One, the doctors and patients prescribing and using the drug. A second view is law enforcement trying to hold Perdue Pharma accountable. Incidentally, this is all transpiring right now.


Yeah. The Sackler family is pretending they're, uh, bankrupt so they don't have to pay these fines. Three, the Purdue Sales Force that marketed the drug using false claims, there is a Shakespearean family dynamic that drives the story, too. Richard Sackler, who is the one time president of Purdue Pharma, has always been looked down on by the rest of the Sackler family. So he embarks on retribution, especially against his uncle Arthur Sackler, who came up with a successful marketing system for Valium. Richard Sackler wanted to beat Uncle Arthur's success by making their painkiller Oxycontin even more successful. The company came up with a coating for the pill, which made it a time release drug, which in turn made it seem less addictive in the short term. The company claimed that less than 1% of the patients become addicted, which proved to be wildly false. Michael Keaton is a powerful, uh, presence in this movie.


As I was talking to you before, Weezy about, this is his second socially aware work. Lately, he did work, which is the true story of the attorney responsible for distributing the nine 11 victim funds, or a great piece of work as well. Also in Dossy is Michael Stuhlbarg. As Richard Sackler, the dark and obsessed head of the family business, he is wonderful. What this story does is put a disturbing human face on all of the aspects of this scourge called the Opioid Crisis. If you have had any of these, uh, problems in your family, I am, I'm highly recommending this is a beautiful piece of work.

Louise Palanker (00:06:15):

I think anybody should watch it. You know, whether you've struggled with addiction or not. I, I think it's important to watch pieces like this so that we don't just so easily turn up, you know, turn away from people that are struggling with addiction and saying, well, that wouldn't happen to me because I, you know, I have more willpower. You know, like, cuz if you made those pills chocolate coated, I would find them very addictive. You know, I, you'd have me right there. Yeah. So everyone has their <laugh>, you know. Well,

Fritz Coleman (00:06:39):

The, the interesting thing about this is nothing is nuanced. You immediately understand how guilty this family was and how guilty Purdue Pharma was in, in manufacturing and marketing this drug that they lied about in their marketing program. They gave a financial incentive to the salespeople to go out and sell this false claim about, uh, Oxycontin. And yeah, I I, I've been following the news story because right now they're in the midst of claiming, uh, bankruptcy so that they don't have to pay these enormous fines levied by the, uh, FTC or whatever. And it, it, it will make you be even matter. But it's, it's, it's an amazing piece of work.

Louise Palanker (00:07:23):

It sounds like you're telling the story of, uh, personal family grievances inflicted upon the world, like Yeah. Which is, you know,

Fritz Coleman (00:07:32):

Yes. That's, that's the, what I mentioned is the Shakespearean class. Yeah. Which was this guy who's trying to, trying to gain respect of these, uh, snobbish family

Louise Palanker (00:07:41):

Members. Like you think you can addict people. Yeah. I can addict more people. Right, right. Uh, very disturbing. But I think we should, you know, here

Fritz Coleman (00:07:49):

She comes,

Louise Palanker (00:07:50):

Shine a light and bring in our guest.

Fritz Coleman (00:07:52):

Our guest today is Ruth Mendelson. This woman is accomplished in so many areas. He's a composer and a producer of film and television soundtracks. She's created award-winning scores for H B O and Disney Channel and Discovery Channel. She is the first woman ever to teach in the film scoring department at the most prestigious music school in America, the Berkeley School of Music in Boston. She's written a wonderful children's book. It's not really a children's book, honestly. It's a book of wisdom for all humans of all ages. It's called The Water Tree Way with a Forward written by Jane Goodall, of course, who is the world's preeminent primatologist. She's sort of the, um, she's the Mother Teresa of nature. I just love her to death. So please welcome Ruth Mendelson. Hi, Ruth.

Ruth Mendelson (00:08:37):

Hey. Greetings and salutations.

Fritz Coleman (00:08:40):

Nice to talk to you. Thank you. There in beautiful Boston with your foliage, rich in the background. I can't see the color of those leaves, but are, are we seeing fall colors back there yet, or what?

Ruth Mendelson (00:08:50):

Oh, I over there, yes. Over here. Not

Fritz Coleman (00:08:54):

Yet. Okay.

Louise Palanker (00:08:55):

Alright. Can you turn your camera? Thank you, <laugh>. So, um, production value, come on, Ruth, let's go. So, I just finished reading your book. I'm wondering, did you write this during the pandemic, or, and when, like, what was your writing process like? Because it feels to me like you had to put yourself in, in an alternate universe, and what was that process like for you?

Ruth Mendelson (00:09:16):

That's a really good question. Um, and first of all, hello everybody out there. I hope you're well. Staying safe, nice and healthy. Um, I, it took me over 30 years to write that book.

Louise Palanker (00:09:28):


Fritz Coleman (00:09:29):


Ruth Mendelson (00:09:30):

On and off I've been. I I was, I was inspired by this back in the, in the 1980s.

Fritz Coleman (00:09:35):

I'm not surprised. There's so much wisdom in there. It's not something you could just sit down and crank in a couple of words.

Ruth Mendelson (00:09:40):

I, I had to, yeah. Yeah. It, and it wouldn't leave me alone. I had no intention of writing a book. Um, I, but it wouldn't leave me alone. And it, you know, I do feel, honestly, and I, I've, I've, I've said this before, but I think that, you know, honestly, you know, there's so much agitation happening in people, and I think that part of, if you really quiet down and that agitation is still there, it likely could be that there's something that, that is there for you to create that's asking you to, to create itself

Louise Palanker (00:10:09):

Or to turn that, uh, energy into fuel.

Ruth Mendelson (00:10:12):

Yeah, exactly. And, well, that, it, it's, it's kind of impacted in there. It's encoded in there. I think sometimes creative works are like that. Okay. Like if you're, if they, in order to be manifest though, they're gonna tap you on the shoulder and it might not always feel great. Sometimes it's great. Like, total, ah, inspiration.

Louise Palanker (00:10:29):

Like, like in your book it's a mosquito <laugh>.

Ruth Mendelson (00:10:31):

Yeah, exactly. Ex Exactly. So things

Louise Palanker (00:10:34):

That we might, you know, and it's interesting the way that you wrote your characters because things that we may, uh, perceive as annoying are actually a lesson. And you, and you should pay attention. Maybe there's something there for you to learn,

Ruth Mendelson (00:10:47):

Correct? Absolutely. So

Fritz Coleman (00:10:49):

Give, give a little, um, a framework of the story just so folks who haven't read it yet, understand what we're talking about. It's fanciful and wonderful. And

Ruth Mendelson (00:10:57):

Yeah, this is kind, it's like an, the way that I like to describe it, it's like an inner outer, multi-dimensional treasure hunt fairytale for children of all ages.

Louise Palanker (00:11:05):

<laugh>. There you go. Well done.

Ruth Mendelson (00:11:07):

So, um, it's a, but I never could have imagined, I mean, I did finish it up during the pandemic, and the pandemic allowed me the time to do it, because film production for me, kind of gratefully halted for a while at the beginning of the pandemic. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, cuz I, I was, I mean, I'm, I love what I do, but I was, I was too busy. Like, it was just like film after film after film, and I didn't really have much time in between projects. Um, so when the pandemic hit, actually for me, I had the luxurious position of just being a little relieved that I could just stop.

Louise Palanker (00:11:47):

I think that was shared by maybe more people than you realize. Yeah. Because there, the pandemic, pandemic lessons will be unfurling for decades.

Ruth Mendelson (00:11:56):

Thank you. Exactly. I I mean, it, it, to me, it was like nature just sending everyone to their room Yes. To think about what they've done. <laugh>, you know,

Fritz Coleman (00:12:04):


Louise Palanker (00:12:06):

Yes. Beautiful.

Ruth Mendelson (00:12:07):

That's what it was always like to me.

Louise Palanker (00:12:09):

So if you, if this book has been your companion for the past 30 years Yeah. Would, is she Or we, maybe they come to you in Dreams the way they do, the way a lot of the lessons do for Jay.

Ruth Mendelson (00:12:22):

Um, music comes to me in dreams. Ah, but the book didn't come to me in Dreams. The book came to me in, in Living Vision.

Louise Palanker (00:12:32):


Ruth Mendelson (00:12:33):

Yeah. I spend a lot of time alone in the desert whenever I can. Okay. Wow. For 30 years. A lot. I mean, whenever, even, you know, preparing for a film score, whatever I'm doing, the first thing that I'll do whenever I can, I mean, the, the Covid has changed this for me, but, um, I was going out to the desert, you know, three to five times a year and always alone. And it's just me in 400 miles of land in all directions. And just to get quiet,

Fritz Coleman (00:13:03):

You Well, an inspiration for Jay, your character in this book is influenced and inspired by music, which is the key to your life as well. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So do you feel that that plays out in the lives of all humans? That there is a soundtrack to their emotional life?

Ruth Mendelson (00:13:23):

I actually had a dream about that once where I was told that. Yeah. Wow. That, that everyone, I wasn't planning on talking about this. This is Cole. Okay. I had a dream once about 25 years ago where there, there's this one character that I often dream who I call professor music and I get music lessons and I'm always in the same, um, it's like an old fashioned one. You, you know, those old fashioned table chairs? Like, um, or table desks where it's just one piece of wood. Yeah. I don't even know if they exist anymore.

Fritz Coleman (00:13:59):

Oh yeah. That was my elementary school. That's how old I am.

Ruth Mendelson (00:14:01):

Yeah. Okay. Alright. So the room is always like that. I'm always the only one in there, but I'm surrounded by these desks. And then professor music comes to the, the head of the class and I get these different music lessons. So one time it was about triads. Oh. Which is basically a three a triad, for those of you who don't know, it's just, uh, three notes that, that, that then makes up a chord. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then what I, in the dream, what it was about was that every single person, every everyone, no matter who you are, has their own triad coming from the frequency of the mother, the frequency of the father, and the frequency of the incoming baby for the lessons there to learn that life.

Fritz Coleman (00:14:45):

Oh, wow. Wow. That's wonderful.

Ruth Mendelson (00:14:47):

And so based on that triad, everyone has their own song.

Louise Palanker (00:14:51):

So then that, that should be a harmony. Correct. But it doesn't always work as a harmony. Does someone kind of drift out of tune or into another key? Or what happens when it's not quite behaving as a chord as you continue together?

Ruth Mendelson (00:15:06):

Um, I think honestly, that's when people get sick.

Louise Palanker (00:15:08):


Ruth Mendelson (00:15:11):

If that, if, if that tune, if that inner alignment, that tuning is off, then it can be experienced as physical symptoms to help you get back on.

Louise Palanker (00:15:21):

Okay. So is that what you would define as the center when, when Jay is told to look for her center, would that center be like, the cord would be in tune?

Ruth Mendelson (00:15:30):

Yeah. Because that cord then vibrates with love.

Louise Palanker (00:15:33):


Ruth Mendelson (00:15:34):

Because the center is love.

Louise Palanker (00:15:36):

Okay. So I'm going to kind of review a few of the lessons. It, it's, it's like I was telling Fritz, it's like if you wanted to give your child all of the important lessons of the universe, you, you would give her or him this book, or they, cuz we have to honor who we are. And so I'm wondering if you went through and thought, okay, there needs to be a chapter that addresses this cuz this is really, really important. Or if they just all came very naturally to you. So what I got was, uh, the lessons include perseverance, respecting nature, noticing patterns, finding your center remaining calm, deescalating, conflict, honoring your ideas, hearing your own music, and that we are all connected.

Ruth Mendelson (00:16:29):

Hmm. That's beautiful.

Louise Palanker (00:16:30):

And, and so tell me how you, what, what the journey was like for you to incorporate everything that you felt was important for a human being or for any particle in the universe. <laugh> to know Yeah. Into this book.

Ruth Mendelson (00:16:45):

Um, it was a very organic process. It wasn't very intellectual at all. Okay. Um, so, and, and thank you for really reading the book in earnest, cuz it's obvious that you have That's, that's a, that's a beautiful thing. Oh, my pleasure. Um, the book is meant as an offering of all of the things that I've, that, that I've learned over time and things that I was shown. So in terms of, uh, I do a lot of humanitarian work mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that influenced the part about especially, um, what to do in the face when you've experienced violence. How do you not take revenge? Because that's the fulcrum. It's like, if we're, you know, if you're gonna perpetuate the cycle, then react. If you're gonna put a stop to the cycle, then respond. But how do you do that? And how do you, you know, how is a child supposed to know that if an adult doesn't know how to teach that?


Mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, you know, I do a lot of work with children in war zones. And so I've learned there, there was a project that I did called the Well Wishes Project. Right, right. Okay. I'm just going to, can I transgress for a second? Absolutely. Because it's completely informed part of the book mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because the reason, it, it took 30 years. I mean, I wasn't thinking when I started. It's like, oh, I'm gonna take, I'm gonna write a book and it's gonna take me 30 years to release it. <laugh>. Um, that was the last thing, you know? I know. Uhuh, this, this is just how that, that's just how it unfolded. Um, but okay. So the, the Rock war, the second Iraq war was about to break out, and it would just keep me, it was strange. It would just keep me up at night. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>,


I would just be staring at the ceiling in bed. Like, what is this gonna mean? Not only for children in Iraq, because that's obvious. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's gonna be devastating for them. But what about the children here? What is it gonna mean for the children here? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And the reason for, okay. This is, I, okay. This is, we're gonna go down a little bit of a wormhole. Let's go go back to 2002. When I met Jane Goodall at the UN and Geneva, I was opening as a musician. It's a crazy story if we have time for it. Oh, yeah. Jane and I immediately, we just totally hit it off. So she called me back in the States once I got back, and she, I, I wanted to do this project just interviewing children about life. And Jane was always, always just a huge ally in my commitments of service for the planet.


She just got it when other people, when most people didn't. Yeah. That's beautiful. Yeah. No, she's, she's, she's incredible. And really, really funny, by the way. <laugh>. It's hilarious. So, but anyway, so I did this project where I, I just decided, okay, I'm gonna travel around the United States and I'm gonna record, I'm gonna record children, three children to youth. So three to 19 years old. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that was the bracket. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, and just interview them about life, love, forgiveness, anything they wanted to say to kids their age in Iraq. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And somehow I, I was gonna edit. I mean, I'm, I'm also a professional editor, so I was gonna edit the whole thing together. I was also gonna record onsite music from the kids themselves. Okay. And so I created a cd and I had no idea. I knew nothing about Iraq. I knew nothing about Iraqis.


I had no idea how to get a project like that over there. Um, I, I had nothing. You're supposed to ha I didn't have any funding. I didn't have anything you're supposed to have. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I just, it, it just, but, you know, there are just certain things in life. It's like, when, when, when that impulse is there and it won't leave you alone, to me, that's life saying, go that way. That's the thing to do. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it didn't make any logical sense. And I hit the road. And so five months later, I had 72 gigs of interviews Wow. With amazing children and youth. Wow. Like former gang members wrote raps about love. Little kids, white kids, black kids, native kids, Asian kids. Just kid North.

Fritz Coleman (00:21:04):

And how did you get this material to the Iraqi children?

Ruth Mendelson (00:21:08):

It was, okay. So then I finished, I, I finished the cd and then it came time to, first of all, I had to get it translated into Iraqi Arabic because now arrogant to create a gift for the Iraqi people and expect them to listen to it in a language that actually is not innately their own. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So there was a student at Harvard who will forever remain nameless, who defied her family. We hid in a basement in, in Harvard and recorded translations by flashlight. She was first generation Iraqi American. Why

Louise Palanker (00:21:44):

Was that forbidden?

Ruth Mendelson (00:21:45):

Because at the time of the sea of production, it was so dangerous in Iraq that if an Iraqi was, was, if it was even heard about an Iraqi collaborating with an American, their family would've been murdered.

Louise Palanker (00:22:00):

Oh my goodness. Wow. Okay.

Ruth Mendelson (00:22:02):

Like, there's just so much, it's, it's so layered and so devastating what happened over there. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I just innocently kind of stepped into it, you know, I was just thinking like, well, you know, these children, I just, all I knew was that children need a better way than what the adults are. What we adults. I include myself in this, what we're providing for them right now. So this is a little thing I can do. And if I don't do a little thing than, than I am most certainly a part of this problem.

Fritz Coleman (00:22:30):

How was the reaction over there?

Ruth Mendelson (00:22:32):

The reaction was incredibly positive. So to answer your question mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it was, it was, um, unknown to me when the, when the project, so I had to record the, the translations by flashlight, like I said, cut those in. And then the, the, the CD was smuggled in by a, a very brave, brave school teacher in Baghdad who did not want her students to grow up hating anyone. Oh. I mean, what a beautiful soul. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then that's when I started getting emails from Iraqi students. Really? Yeah. The first one was from this guy named Mohammed, who became a friend. Yeah. Um, and I'll never forget, he, he wrote, you know, thank you, you know, I hope this finds you at your very best. Aw. You know, he's in the middle of a war. Yeah. And, and he said, thank you so much. We didn't know anyone anywhere cared about us. That's

Louise Palanker (00:23:28):

So powerful. Mm-hmm.

Ruth Mendelson (00:23:29):

<affirmative>. It's just crazy powerful. And so that the CD actually ended up connecting medical communities between Baghdad and coach in India, and resulted in babies being airlifted out of Baghdad to Coach Inn at Ames Hospital in India for medical treatment. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I mean, it prevented murder in Kenya. It's, there's stuff online about it. It's just crazy. But that really influenced a por a portion of the book because it's like these children are enduring circumstances that no adult should ever have to endure.

Louise Palanker (00:24:07):


Ruth Mendelson (00:24:08):

What are we doing for them? How are we equipping them for the insanity that is inevitable in this world? It's not, you know, it's, it's not to, I mean, it's important to fight the insanity, but I think it's, it's really important to, how do we navigate through this insanity? Because it's here.

Louise Palanker (00:24:26):

Well, you, well, you, your instinct is light a candle. Don't pick up a rock.

Ruth Mendelson (00:24:31):

Absolutely. Absolutely. Light a candle because the, because the light is within us.

Louise Palanker (00:24:36):


Ruth Mendelson (00:24:37):

I mean, it's, we don't even have to light anything,

Louise Palanker (00:24:39):

But we have to show someone our light. Yes. And

Ruth Mendelson (00:24:42):

That's what you, we have, I mean, to have, to have the courage to love actively, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, love is a verb.

Louise Palanker (00:24:51):


Ruth Mendelson (00:24:51):

It's a verb. You know, and so, and, and to have boundaries and to be smart about it, because Yeah. They're, you know, I mean, it's a crazy world right now. But, um,

Louise Palanker (00:25:02):

Can we go back to your childhood and, and maybe talk a little bit about where you received this wisdom and these lessons?

Ruth Mendelson (00:25:09):

Uh, I just knew very early on to go within. Hmm. I just, I, it's always been that way. I was kind of like odd man out <laugh> or odd kid out. Not

Louise Palanker (00:25:23):

Man in in your family or in your community or,

Ruth Mendelson (00:25:26):

Uh, in, in family. Ah, and, and in and in a way in community. But I mean, it, the, I always knew that there was something greater. Um, and I was always very brazen. And I was never prevented from being, which is a tribute to my parents. Like, they didn't try to stop me from blazing away.

Louise Palanker (00:25:52):

That's cool.

Ruth Mendelson (00:25:54):

You know? Well,

Fritz Coleman (00:25:55):

You, you, you, you work from your soul. You work from your heart, which is quite lovely. And I'm wondering if your music is an outward manifestation of what it is that goes on in your soul, <laugh> to sort of help you make the improvement to the planet that you sort of envision.

Ruth Mendelson (00:26:16):

You nailed what my intentions are. That's exactly it. Hmm. So, if, if, well put it this way, if the music doesn't work, then it's not in alignment. You know, it's like, it's just to stay out of its way. That, that's my goal, you know, at the level of my personality. Um, I don't write from a level of personality because that's tickle. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But to write from the soul, that's, that's much more, uh, broader, more colorful, more expansive, far infinitely more expansive.

Louise Palanker (00:26:50):

So how would you define the difference between soul and personality, and how do people keep those two entities, if you will, in in alignment?

Ruth Mendelson (00:27:01):

That's a really good question. <laugh>. <laugh>. Wow. Okay. That's a big question. And that's a life pursuit, I would say. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Okay. And that's, I think it's a journey for each person to choose if they choose it.

Louise Palanker (00:27:13):


Ruth Mendelson (00:27:15):

Um, but personality to me is more, um, hmm. Well, put it this way. The soul, I think one of the, one of, at least in my experience, one, one of the intrinsic qualities of the soul is that it's loving and selfless. It strives to it, it, it strives to contribute. Uh, an aspect of personality or ego is that it, it can be any way that it strives to just take for itself.

Louise Palanker (00:27:42):


Ruth Mendelson (00:27:43):

Um, and it not necessarily care so much about the whole, but much more caring about only the self, which is important. I'm not saying that that's not an important quality to have because we all have to, you know, care well for ourselves or, you know, hopefully. Um, but, you know, I think, you know, what you were talking about the whole opioid crisis, and I just love you. Both of you are clearly such incredible truth tellers. It's just awesome. Um, thank you. I, I, I think, you know, there's so much medicating going on because people are out of touch with their souls. You know, people just, they're looking for relief. They're just looking for the relief and the wrong way.

Fritz Coleman (00:28:23):

They're self-medicating. I know. Well, they just want the whole society's

Louise Palanker (00:28:25):

Doing. They want the pain to end. Yeah. Yeah. They don't know the source of the pain. Right. And they're not willing to dig in and address the source of the pain when that's available.

Ruth Mendelson (00:28:33):

It, well, also, I have to say, yeah. True. But we're also taught that, and this is where the part of me that's an educator, I see that a lot. I, I, I, I deal with kids. Well, they wouldn't wanna hear me say, call them kids. I deal with students because these are like young adults. I, I teach college seniors and I love all of them. <laugh>, you know, I really do. Um,

Fritz Coleman (00:29:01):

I, I, I didn't have one professor in college as inspirational as you.

Louise Palanker (00:29:05):

No one loved you.

Fritz Coleman (00:29:06):

Now I wanna go back to college.

Louise Palanker (00:29:07):

No, no. Your professors love

Fritz Coleman (00:29:08):

Me. <laugh>. No, they were bored. And it might have been, cuz it was a college for underachiever and they were underpaid. I maybe, I don't know,

Louise Palanker (00:29:14):

Maybe they were self-medicating.

Fritz Coleman (00:29:17):

<laugh>. Maybe they were. I know I was. Hey,

Ruth Mendelson (00:29:19):


Louise Palanker (00:29:19):

Know, <laugh>. No, but I mean, it's, it's just hard when there's so much available to us. Not even just opioids, but the things that are available to us that, that could be healing in some ways. Like video games or streaming, you know, binge watching all night long. Um, how much is the right ba you know, talk about balance in your book, Ruth. I mean, creating balance where you, you look forward to something and you delay gratification and you enjoy it because you've earned it, or Yes. Are you just numbing yourself with it all day long cuz you don't wanna get back to where you left off with your life?

Ruth Mendelson (00:29:56):

Well, I mean, the thing is, okay, one of the, the one of the essence, the essence of the main Cal character to me is that she relishes taking risks, which is the, it's a, a bit of the opposite of the kind of lifestyle that's encouraged of just being comfortable all the

Louise Palanker (00:30:15):

Time. Okay? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

Ruth Mendelson (00:30:17):

So, but I just wanna get back to just, just for a second Yeah. About this whole thing about classrooms and, and opioids and drugs and all of this. I see many students, many of them being American, I, I have, you know, there's large international presence in my classes. The American students especially, who are addicted to, um, a d d meds. Okay? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I, I, I hear this a lot from students. They don't like the drugs. They've been told to take them since they were children. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, now they're jittery. They, they're, they're very, they, they have a hard time focusing on anything. Um, there is a model of education that I think we all really hopefully will, you know, address of modeling this idea that behavior modification is only to be found in a pill

Louise Palanker (00:31:10):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right. And it's, it's, you know, and there's certain forms of mental illness where you, you really need to medicate just to feel normal. Yes. So it's, it's hard, like in your, in your book Jay, she has to discern the difference between the advice that's good and the advice that our detractors or that are talking her out of something that she intended to do. And how at 10 or at 25 or, or at 75, do you know the difference and how do you figure out the difference between what you, what the medicine that you need to take and the medicine, you know, there's these scenes in American Rust. Have you been watching that Fritz?

Fritz Coleman (00:31:47):

I saw the first episode only, but

Louise Palanker (00:31:48):

I wanna watch. Yeah. We're gonna, we haven't talked about it yet on the show, Ruth mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But anyway, it's about a cop that lives in the, kind of like a steel town where the steel mill has shut down and it's played by Jeff Daniels. And there are these scenes where he's got these knives and these measuring devices where he's trying to weed himself off of the meds that he's was prescribed after Vietnam or whatever he's been through in his life. I'm not sure. He's really trying to take a little bit less every day by crushing the pills and measuring them, putting

Fritz Coleman (00:32:15):

'em on

Louise Palanker (00:32:15):

A scale and, and putting and doing a less each day. Right. And he's having a hell of a time because every time he feels challenged in his life, he just pops the whole pill <laugh>. So, and this is what we all face, right? Like what's moderation, what's, what's useful, what's, uh, damaging?

Ruth Mendelson (00:32:31):

Right. Well, I think that there's a really important lesson, and this is something that I really try to weave throughout the book, which is that we all have the, the power within us.

Louise Palanker (00:32:40):


Ruth Mendelson (00:32:42):

You know, we, we all have something very innate that that, that we can all count on. Also, I, I think that the, um, you know, one of the biggest problems in, in a way is also one of the greatest services. Is it like, I mean, in terms of the internet and everything being, being so quickly available to us. Right? I mean, that, that is a, a huge benefit in so many ways. However, it doesn't replace showing a child, for example, just give a j give a child a plant so that they can see what, how does that plant grow when the seed first comes up out of the ground. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, how did you know? And waiting for that moment when you first start to see that, and then watching it uncr every single day and watch just the, the, the rhythm of nature.

Louise Palanker (00:33:36):

You can't hit fast forward on a plant.

Ruth Mendelson (00:33:40):


Louise Palanker (00:33:40):

That? I'm sure they've tried, but you can't hit fast forward on a plant <laugh>. No,

Ruth Mendelson (00:33:44):

You can't. And that's the magnificence of it, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but also like, it teaches so many different lessons when the seed coat is ready to drop. I mean, lessons in detachment.

Louise Palanker (00:33:55):

And that was so fascinating, the way that you created the stem as the wisest figure in your pieces.

Ruth Mendelson (00:34:02):

Yeah. That, that, that just popped into my brain. This

Louise Palanker (00:34:06):

Is that, that just, this is how we're attached to life giving nutrients. Or how would you describe it? Uh, uh, well, how did you come up with that concept?

Ruth Mendelson (00:34:15):

It, it, it just came to me. You know, I, I wish I could really outline some really cool process with it, but it just, it just occurred to me like, these stems are absolute precise knowledge and they, they can explain how things really work. Like, for example, the lesson that in order to achieve something, you need to fail.

Louise Palanker (00:34:34):


Ruth Mendelson (00:34:35):

And, and that's such an important lesson. Again, getting back to the whole drugs thing, it's hard. It, it, I mean, it sucks to fail. It hurts to fail who wants to fail, but it's necessary for success. So unless that's taught, then failure is always going to be avoided. The pain of failure is al that gets into that self-medicating thing.

Louise Palanker (00:34:55):

And one, one of the, one of the fears I think is that, you know, cuz for example, you, you know, you take a child, you know, take, take a 10 year old child and he's willing to fail repeatedly at a video game. And he knows he's learning while he's failing. But to fail publicly, to fail in a way where other people, like the diving board, you, you have a, you open on a very public scene where the child is failing publicly in front of all her peers. That's something that I don't think a lot of kids are strong enough to endure. And I wish that we could bolster that part of their, their, their being to be, to be more patient and more resilient to what, against what people would say or judge.

Ruth Mendelson (00:35:39):

That's one of the purposes of this book. Okay. Because you can't know what you have never seen. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, you, you can't, I mean, none of us really can. I can't. So, you know, here's an example of a kid with real guts who really goes through some really hard things and triumphs and doesn't, doesn't give up. And also, you know, has, you know, there are, there are these other relationships with her classmates that are, uh, you know, how we're all connected mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, I mean, she goes on this journey alone, but she's not really alone. Yeah. She, she has a certain kind of a foundation. So, you know, I really hear what you're saying. But in terms of, um, I, I think it is as many, um, it's cliche, but as, as many role models hopefully that are fun, because it was a big emphasis.


It really important for me to make the book fun. I had a lot of fun writing it. Yeah. So I figured if I had fun writing it, it's gonna hopefully be fun to read, you know? Yeah, absolutely. Um, but, um, these days, at least, uh, many of the people who I talk to, there's, there's this overwhelm, I mean, understandably so, because there's so many problems and kids are taught in school that they're running out of air. Yeah. Not to mention other resources. Adults are really, many of them, not all of them, but many of them are very understandably preoccupied. So where are the examples of some health and some resilience and some inner brilliance? Like, where are they? So that's, that's where we need the arts right now.

Fritz Coleman (00:37:28):

Hmm. That's such an important point. And, and speaking of the arts, if you don't mind, I I just wanna get into the nuts and bolts of your main vocation music, because, uh, people may have been affected by your creativity that they're not even aware of. For instance, what are some of the shows that you have scored that we might have watched?

Ruth Mendelson (00:37:50):

Um, okay. There was a really beautiful, uh, featured length documentary called The Prison Within that was streaming on Prime. Um, I think it's on Apple iTunes now. Okay. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So there's, there's that, um, there, uh, part of the hope for the National Geographic, the hope, uh, about Jane Goodall, I scored part of that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the, um, Jane's podcast series, hope Cast. I scored that, um, year for years. There was this guy named Bob Vela. Yeah.

Fritz Coleman (00:38:24):

Oh yeah, of course.

Ruth Mendelson (00:38:25):

Okay. Yeah. I, I scored his show for 17 years. Oh my goodness. I been playing all those guitars, <laugh>.

Louise Palanker (00:38:31):

Oh really?

Ruth Mendelson (00:38:32):

Oh, yeah. Play. What

Louise Palanker (00:38:33):

Instrument can you play?

Ruth Mendelson (00:38:36):

Uh, guitars, basses, drums. Flutes, uh, piano of course. Different kinds of keyboards. Violin really poorly, but just so I can write for it. Well, yeah. Some cello clarinet.

Louise Palanker (00:38:48):

Oh wow. So do you use, uh, particular program for audio?

Ruth Mendelson (00:38:53):

Uh, yeah, I use cubase.

Louise Palanker (00:38:55):


Ruth Mendelson (00:38:56):

And digital performers still am one of the last ones to still use that one. Oh.

Louise Palanker (00:39:00):

But you know, it's, it's kind of like whatever becomes native. Right,

Ruth Mendelson (00:39:05):

Exactly. Right. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, DP and Cubase are my, those are my, my dos or my digital audio workstations, isn't

Fritz Coleman (00:39:13):

It called? So, as a musician, where do you fall in the argument between live, uh, acoustic musicians and a keyboard generated soundtrack for film? In a perfect world, which would you rather use?

Ruth Mendelson (00:39:28):

It all depends on the story being told.

Fritz Coleman (00:39:31):


Ruth Mendelson (00:39:32):

So, because there are, there are some stories that need to sound, um, me mechanical or, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So if, if a, if a score is gonna benefit from, uh, of a more of a indus, but not industrial, that's the wrong word, but more of a mechanical nuance, then since they're gonna be the way to go for that, if that supports the story.

Fritz Coleman (00:39:55):

Yeah. And it's the budget too, right?

Ruth Mendelson (00:39:58):

And the budget. Well, yeah. That, that's always the decide. I mean, these days, um, I write a lot of orchestral scores, but the budgets can't afford a 90 piece orchestra.

Louise Palanker (00:40:08):

Wow. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we have a question from Mason, our engineer for you. Oh,

Ruth Mendelson (00:40:13):

Hey. Oh, okay. Hey Mason. Hey.

Mason (00:40:14):

Um, I also do film scores as well. Um, and I was just curious, cuz this is something that I encounter a lot, but how do you balance expressing yourself personally with also doing service to the film and to the picture?

Fritz Coleman (00:40:28):

What a great question. Great

Ruth Mendelson (00:40:30):

Question. That's a really

Fritz Coleman (00:40:30):

Great question. I'm gonna have you back Mason <laugh>.

Ruth Mendelson (00:40:32):

Yeah. My personal answer for that is that I make time for my own writing. So, um, I mean, in terms of film scoring is a collaborative art form. And I love that. It, it's an amazing thing to, um, have to stretch to embrace another person's perspective. So I'm always growing whatever project I'm scoring, you know, sometimes, like, like, okay, the prison within, for example, that score everything I innately felt for the score, the director innately was on the same page, which was amazing. Cuz that doesn't always happen. You know, sometimes a director wants something different. But if it's a director who I really respect, who really has vision, I know I'm gonna grow by having to, to do a rewrite for example.

Mason (00:41:25):

Hmm. Yeah.

Ruth Mendelson (00:41:25):

Um, you know, for, just for the people out there who may not know what we're talking about, you know, when you're scoring a, a scene, you know, some people can think it's like, oh, well, the composer just gets to do what they want. Like I've heard, you know, people have come up to me and said, oh, you have the most amazing career, you just get to do whatever you want. And I'm like, it is so not

Fritz Coleman (00:41:43):

Matter. No, no, no.

Ruth Mendelson (00:41:44):

This is a service profession. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right. So, you know, you're in service to the director's vision to, um, fulfill the purpose of their film. Now, I, I place a value on that that's valuable to me. To, to help another person fulfill their vision is highly valuable to me. So I really enjoy that. So I don't, I don't see that as a contradiction. However, I also make time to, in fact, just, just last week I completed a piece. I co-wrote a song with someone in India. They contacted me with some lyrics and they asked me to, to set it to music, which was a big honor. This was a really incredible lyricist from India who's in, um, Kerala, I think. And, um, so that was just music for music's sake. So I, I try to, you know, have a balance of writing personally as well. That, that, that helps me in a way. Does that answer it?

Fritz Coleman (00:42:46):

Yeah. Yeah. That's a great answer. Thank you. Let, let, let me, let me tag onto, uh, Mason's question. How does the process work? The director comes in and shows you raw footage or shows you specific scenes and says, I'm thinking of melancholy here with a tinge of yellow or something. I mean, I mean, <laugh> some

Ruth Mendelson (00:43:06):

Of 'em speak that way.

Fritz Coleman (00:43:07):

Yeah. But I mean, just tell us how the process works from beginning to end.

Ruth Mendelson (00:43:11):

Okay. No, that's a, it's a, it's a good question. It, it, again, that can depend. Sometimes a director will send me a script before anything's even shot.


Hmm. So that's more rare, but that can happen too. And then based on the script, I come up with meth, thematic material that happened one time, actually. Um, rainbow Harvest, you know, river Fu re River Phoenix's sister, rainbow Harvest was starring in this film called another Honky Tonk Girl says she will, this was a long time ago. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, um, based on the script, I wrote some music and they actually ended up using that music playing out of the, they, they incorporated that into the film then where the main character was actually listening to the radio. And it was that music that I wrote based on reading the script. Oh, wow. So, you know, that can happen. That's kind of rare though. But, but usually what happens these days is, I'm told this is a final, and I'm saying this in quotes, because they're, you know, it's always, the footage is all usually being changed to the Empire. Um, and then what I really love to do, first of all, the first thing that I try to do is negotiate not only for money, but for time.

Fritz Coleman (00:44:25):


Ruth Mendelson (00:44:26):

<affirmative>, when I'm working on a project that time is at least as valuable as money, money because I don't, I mean, I can write super crazy quickly, like the way that anybody can in the industry, but as a norm, I like to approach this artistically. You know, let, let it sit for a minute mm-hmm. <affirmative> and review, you know, um, now

Louise Palanker (00:44:47):

Will you come up with maybe four or five themes and then incorporate those in different moods and textures throughout, throughout the piece?

Ruth Mendelson (00:44:54):

Right. So basically what happens is, I, I watch the film and this is what I tell my students too. Um, this is what I, I watch the film at least 10 times without thinking music. It's very ironic because I'm there to provide the score mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but the first thing, I just want the story just to inform itself. Okay. To me mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I really wanna understand the story. I wanna understand the inner workings of the characters. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> first. Then I get together with the director and really discuss the inner life of the story. And also if it's documentary, this also means involving that this involves background that's not even on film, that's on camera. So that I really have a well round. So I'm in relationship then with the characters in the film. Right. Once I'm in relationship. So there's just all this preparatory stuff. First, once I'm in relationship, then I'll start writing and then I'll come up with, you know, like, like you were saying, like three to five different motiv ideas mm-hmm. <affirmative> for different characters. Play those for the director. If it's a go, then I just start writing. Okay. And

Fritz Coleman (00:46:09):

Then Quincy Jones said that a, a movie soundtrack, and I assume he meant the same thing for his television work should never call attention to itself. It should just magically change the mood of the viewer. And they can't describe why

Ruth Mendelson (00:46:25):

True ex exact true, completely agree with that. It's, it's a, it's a thankless job. If it's well done, you don't notice it at all. If it, if it's, and also I have to say though, if it's well-mixed, that's the other thing. Because if the score is too loud, that can kill it too.

Fritz Coleman (00:46:44):

You don't have any control over that. Right. That's the director of the editors.

Ruth Mendelson (00:46:47):

I, I have no control over that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but I suggest mixes, put it that way. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I, I strongly suggest mixes when I submit my final cues. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, A cue is a piece of music for a scene. Everybody who's doesn't know what that means mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so, but absolutely it's just to draw the, the purpose of the score is to draw you into the scene. And depending also if it's fiction, cause I score both fiction and documentary. If it's documentary especially, one of the really important roles of, of what I feel personally good scoring of documentary is you don't lead the viewer into a particular emotional conclusion. Hmm. Especially if it's a very, uh, serious topic,

Fritz Coleman (00:47:41):

Don't get ahead of the action sort of a thing.

Ruth Mendelson (00:47:43):

Exactly. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you, you, you wanna honor the intelligence of the viewer. Hmm. What's that? So, so it's really like holding the, the holding the, the space. There was a documentary, um, there's a incredible photographer named Abdo Morrell. Have you ever heard of him? No, I don't think so. Okay. He's, he's really something. So he, uh, he was the first photographer to actually photograph camera obscura. Oh. Where, where light will come in through, uh, a small hole mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and, and then a and then the reflection will appear opposite, you know, upside down on the wall that is the light is, is reflected on mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it basically is, is in other words, photographing how our eyes work. Oh, wow. Yeah. And so he has an amazing life story. He was a refugee out of Cuba, came to the United States, and in this film that I had the, it was a real honor.


He actually requested that I score the film. Really? Yeah. And, um, his wife is also a filmmaker, and I've done a lot of work for her, and he really liked that. And so when it, when he actually had a film made about him, which he did not want. Mm. Because he's just a, you know, very humble guy. He didn't want that kind of, I mean, he's very celebrated. He has, like, in the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston, there was a whole mid midlife, um, or mid-career retrospective of his work. Like, you know, he's, he's something really something else. But, um, but like the score for that had to, um, hold the space for the words that he was talking about in terms of when, when he left Cuba, and why he left Cuba as a young boy. And that he defied his parents to go back to Cuba 40 years later. And somehow the, the music had to hold the tension of his story and support his portraits that were being shown as B-roll while he was speaking throughout the film. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So like a score like that, it's a very delicate balance.

Fritz Coleman (00:49:50):

Very precisely timed, I'm sure too, to the frame.

Ruth Mendelson (00:49:53):

Oh, abso all my scores are mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I mean, I'm totally anal when it comes to sync mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because that, that actually can be, uh, sorry for anybody out there to sync is, um, when you synchronize a sound with a movement or, uh, an emotional nuance on camera, that's, that's what sync means.

Fritz Coleman (00:50:11):

Mm-hmm. So do you ever give the director alternatives, for instance, uh, uh, several different treatments of the same beat and allow him to choose Yes.

Ruth Mendelson (00:50:20):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>? Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. So, you know, once I'm set free to do what I wanted, what I feel will be most supportive, I'll write, uh, I'll score a scene. But then there's a lot of back and forth as part of the, you know, getting back to this process. It's, there's a lot of back and forth with the director. It's never like, okay, well this is what I feel should work. So here it is, we're done. It, it's, it's never that way. Then the director watches it and either agrees, disagrees, or actually, what I've learned to really enjoy is the back and forth of like, well, this is working here, but I want more of something else here. I mean, it never feels good to, to be told you have to redo your work. Right? Like mm-hmm. <affirmative>. However, if you're working with somebody with vision, it's exciting to me. Mm-hmm.

Louise Palanker (00:51:12):

Yes. Because it just keeps getting more and more dynamic. But you would really need locked picture before you're gonna do anything that precise. Right.

Ruth Mendelson (00:51:21):

Yeah. Um, the hard part is when I'm told something is a final lock and then it's not. So, um, these days I, I will write sketches

Louise Palanker (00:51:34):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>,

Ruth Mendelson (00:51:35):

But I will not really dig into scoring until I know it's, it's really a final. And the directors who I work with know that <laugh>. Mm-hmm.

Fritz Coleman (00:51:43):

<affirmative>, what instrument do you compose on?

Ruth Mendelson (00:51:47):

Um, good question. <laugh>, this is gonna sound really strange. The shower half the time. Cool. That's a lot of time. The

Fritz Coleman (00:51:57):

Idea, I, I do my best composing in the shower as well. I'm really good at it.

Ruth Mendelson (00:52:00):

<laugh>, you know, it's like, sometimes it will, it'll ride in sideways when I'm doing something else. Um, but usually, I mean, what I'll piano is, is the overall mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what I'll compose on. Um, but a lot of times, you know, if I'm, again, getting back to how important it is to have time to work on a film mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, over the years I've learned to trust the infinity of my own imagination.

Louise Palanker (00:52:28):


Ruth Mendelson (00:52:30):

So I'll hear something, or I might hear a color or a gesture. Um, I, I sing stuff into my phone all the time. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like if I hear a melodic, you know, some kind of melo, I'm was singing melodies into my phone. I have like a gazillion memo tracks in my phone of just melodies that I hear. Wow. Um, oh yeah. Um, but sometimes it's like the color that I'll hear that, you know, that's accessed just through imagination. The reason I need more time is to come up with the right instrument combination to match that color than I'm hearing mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

Louise Palanker (00:53:09):


Ruth Mendelson (00:53:10):

Wow. Yeah. And how do

Louise Palanker (00:53:12):

You, how

Ruth Mendelson (00:53:12):

Do you, the prison within is all about that one. That's a, that's, I just love the meaning of that film cuz it's all about compassion and the score was, was nothing but this process. I'm, well, all the films I work on, but in ter in terms of like hearing these sounds and how can I possibly reproduce that, that was the major really fun challenge of that particular film.

Louise Palanker (00:53:36):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right. So what you're saying is that with documentary, you want the people in the film to tell their story, but with, uh, a dramatic piece, scripted piece, we're often cud that something scary is about to happen because the, the, the music changes. So we're all, you know, like for me being skittish, I'm all, I'm cued by music to close my eyes.

Ruth Mendelson (00:54:01):

Right, right.

Louise Palanker (00:54:03):

But you don't want that in documentary. Correct?

Ruth Mendelson (00:54:05):

No, I, I mean, I personally don't. Yeah. Especially because when you're dealing with really serious topics, um, it's disrespectful to me mm-hmm. <affirmative> to, to, to be dramatic. It's dramatic enough. Yeah. And, and also the thing is, if you add drama to drama, you get entertainment. Oh,

Fritz Coleman (00:54:26):

That's really a wonderful expression. <laugh>, you're a documentary filmmaker. Wheezy, uh, this is just an observer from somebody who enjoys documentaries. They don't use as much music in a documentary. Right. There are lyses and there's, um, transitional, transitional things, but not, it's not, it's not really responsible for the emotion of the piece as much as it is in a dramatic movie. Am I right about that or No,

Louise Palanker (00:54:50):

You can almost always have a little bit of music. Um, you know, you can pull it way down and not have it, you know, interfering, you know, but I've never had anything scored. I've used cues that I've purchased, and then with the Castels, I used their music. So Ruth has a different experience because she's been hired to create a score. Yeah. So it's just a completely different process.

Fritz Coleman (00:55:09):

I guess what I wanted to say is, Ruth, is, is is the score less important to the success of a documentary than it is to a dramatic film?

Ruth Mendelson (00:55:19):

Not in my experience. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I'm, I'm actually usually the one always asking for less music. Uhhuh <affirmative>.

Louise Palanker (00:55:25):

Oh, that's interesting. Yeah. So you understand its role and that, and that it's like seasoning. And if you overdo it, it's n nothing tastes good.

Ruth Mendelson (00:55:33):

Exactly. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Exactly. And I'm usually the one, I mean, it's ironic, but, you know, working with the director, producer, and the editor, I'm usually one, the one saying it doesn't need anything here.

Louise Palanker (00:55:44):

It's distracting. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

Ruth Mendelson (00:55:45):

Yeah, exactly. Why put, you know, it works, you know, especially when something's really well done, it needs to be treated really delicately. You don't wanna step all over it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know. Um, but I, I think that music can, it again, it, it just depends on the topic. You know, what's, what's being, what is the story being told mm-hmm. <affirmative>, if you, what what I do find is like for certain documentaries that I've worked on, if you want to inspire compassion a score can really help with that.

Louise Palanker (00:56:18):

That's interesting.

Ruth Mendelson (00:56:20):

Yeah. Because, because the score has the, you know, has the capacity to really open the human heart. Um, but not in a, not in a pull on the heart string kind of way. It's far more subtle than that.

Louise Palanker (00:56:33):

So what do you think that we learn as we move through our day? What do we learn from the music that we hear just kind of extemporaneously, whether it's on the radio or in a store or in a coffee shop? Are we constantly, are, are kind of molecules constantly shifting based on music that we just happen to be walking through?

Ruth Mendelson (00:56:57):

Um, I think that we're, unless we really master our minds, I think that we're influenced by everything around us.

Louise Palanker (00:57:04):

Okay. Yeah.

Ruth Mendelson (00:57:05):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, you know, I think music definitely is a part of that. But I think that the, I mean, certainly like, um, the things that we pay attention to on the news, the kinds of conversations that we have, the kind of conversations that we're exposed to, um, I think, you know, all of these things, um, affect us much more than we're, we may possibly, you know, realize. I mean, I'm not saying that there are people who don't realize that, but I think that internal mind management would be a great skill from, you know, people to have for their own peace of mind.

Louise Palanker (00:57:38):

Or do we sometimes know what music to put on if we need to kind of take down some tension or,

Ruth Mendelson (00:57:45):

That's Yes. That's the thing. Yeah. Cause yeah, it's powerful,

Louise Palanker (00:57:49):


Ruth Mendelson (00:57:50):

It's powerful. Absolutely. So there's music that can be extremely healing and rejuvenating to the spirit, and therefore, if it's in rejuvenating to your spirit, it's good for your body.

Louise Palanker (00:58:04):


Fritz Coleman (00:58:04):

So, you know, the, there are, um, large department stores that have teams of professionals Yeah. That focus group. This is true. Uh, I, I've learned this from my time at broadcast.

Louise Palanker (00:58:16):

They grew with aromas too.

Fritz Coleman (00:58:18):

Yes. They focus group this stuff to see which type of music, which ambiance is going to, um, create an atmosphere in which you, you're likely to spend more money or buy their product. I mean, it's, the psychology behind it is crazy.

Ruth Mendelson (00:58:34):

It is crazy. And that, that's exactly what I mean in terms of like, if we understand how to work our, how our minds work, we can't be manipulated so easily,

Louise Palanker (00:58:43):

Right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>,

Ruth Mendelson (00:58:45):

You know, I mean, I'm, I'm constantly emphasizing this to my students. Okay. You know, I, I in another kind of way, just in terms of, because most students really are incredibly hard on themselves. Aw. Like, um, like there, there's a, there there's a, there can be a real self-esteem issue with,

Louise Palanker (00:59:07):

Is it this age group or is it people who are this talented?

Ruth Mendelson (00:59:12):

That's a good question. I think there's a lot of con That's a really good question. Um, I mean, I have private students also who, uh, wanted to study with me, but didn't get into Berkeley. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I, I would say it's across the board. I think it's just a, I I think it's, it's, I don't think it's the result of, of having, uh, being extraordinarily talented or not. I think it's just the human condition. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, just because it's such an unsure world.

Louise Palanker (00:59:44):

It also could be, the creation of music is so personal. It's so raw, it's so vulnerable.

Ruth Mendelson (00:59:50):

True, true. But it does take confidence to express

Louise Palanker (00:59:55):

It. Right.

Ruth Mendelson (00:59:56):

You know? Right. Um, I mean, I'm always con, you know, emphasizing to my students is like, you know, this is, we all have the power to contribute to improve this world. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it's important to, again, that gets down to, gets back to like valuing, taking risks, you know, valuing, you know, it's an accomplishment to be vulnerable.

Louise Palanker (01:00:18):


Ruth Mendelson (01:00:19):

You know, that, that's an achievement. That's not something to fear.

Louise Palanker (01:00:23):

Whatever the outcome is, that's

Ruth Mendelson (01:00:24):

A, that's an inner triumph,

Fritz Coleman (01:00:26):

Right? It is. The greatest artists are those that can tap into that part of their soul. And, uh,

Ruth Mendelson (01:00:31):

Absolutely. I, I think that that's really available to absolutely everyone. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But, you know, there's a, like an instruction manual that's really missing with that. They, that says something like, if you were to open it up, it says get ready to take risks, get ready for it to feel scary. If you are feeling afraid, you're on the right track.

Louise Palanker (01:00:50):

And that's why I feel like your book is such an instruction manual. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I'm wondering for you personally, since you put that in writing 30 years of your energy driving this story and then creating this story and it being out there on Amazon in writing, in a concrete, tangible form, has it instructed you in any way to have that out there in the world?

Ruth Mendelson (01:01:14):

Yeah. I mean it, the writing of it instructed me actually mm-hmm. <affirmative> because there was like, you know, predicament after predicament that the main character is going through. And it was just so obvious to me as I was writing that, writing it, that all of these predicaments were just only designed to help make her stronger.

Louise Palanker (01:01:34):

Right. And they're parallels to writing a book. Right. The, this journey, right. <laugh>.

Ruth Mendelson (01:01:39):

Right. Yeah. And, and having it out there is, um, definitely something that I would not have been ready for up until now.

Louise Palanker (01:01:48):

Oh, okay. Um,

Fritz Coleman (01:01:49):

You must have gotten some fairly profound reactions to this book. Are there any that you can share with us

Ruth Mendelson (01:01:56):

Without, um, yeah. I've, I've, I've, I think I've gotten many, actually. And the, the very first was that there was a child who just lost her father. Oh.

Fritz Coleman (01:02:10):


Ruth Mendelson (01:02:10):

Boy. And her mother wrote to me saying that the book is a lifeline for both of them.

Louise Palanker (01:02:16):


Fritz Coleman (01:02:17):

Well, you're,

Ruth Mendelson (01:02:18):

That was, that was the, that was some of the, that was one of the very first pieces of, of email that I got. Oh

Louise Palanker (01:02:24):

My goodness. Um,

Ruth Mendelson (01:02:24):

Wow. And, um, people also, it, it's interesting. Like, I don't want to, um, I mean, it's important to not connect. This book is completely not a political statement at all. I have gotten emails from people saying that they haven't known how to negotiate in themselves or talk to their children about certain conflicts in this country mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and that the book has actually given them a way to be able to, to discuss certain issues with them.

Fritz Coleman (01:02:56):

I think your bravery in this book is you're, you're going into some, some very, very, uh, uh, dark, not dark. Dark is not the word, I mean, but for instance, you, you, you engage in the concept of war. Yes. And how even people as young as Jay react to that. And I think that's so important. I mean, most ch that that's a topic that most parents, because of their own fear of not being adequate enough to talk to 'em about, about it, uh, want, want to engage with their children.

Louise Palanker (01:03:28):

Yeah. It's the emotion of rage and how do you ha how do you,

Ruth Mendelson (01:03:33):

How do you handle

Louise Palanker (01:03:34):

It? Yeah. How do you handle it? Yeah.

Ruth Mendelson (01:03:35):

Yeah. How do you, how do you handle it? Sorry, I didn't mean to finish yourself.

Louise Palanker (01:03:38):

No, no. You helped, you're helped me with the right word. Yeah.

Ruth Mendelson (01:03:41):

Yeah. I mean, that was one of the reasons this book took so long, because I had to go through my experience of working with children in war to see what they go through.

Louise Palanker (01:03:52):

What have they taught you?

Ruth Mendelson (01:03:55):

Uh, how much they need to be loved.

Louise Palanker (01:03:59):


Ruth Mendelson (01:04:00):

How, how much they need to be reassured that they're gonna be okay. Yeah.

Fritz Coleman (01:04:04):

And that's the whole, that's, that boils it down to everything.

Ruth Mendelson (01:04:08):

Yeah. Right. And that's, you know, and the adults though, too. Okay. So I'm, I'm just going to get back to this well wishes project for a second, if that's okay. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Sure. Okay. So I got an email from this woman in Nakuru, in, in Kenya. It was the uprisings of 2007 mm-hmm. <affirmative> and listening to this well wishes CD that I had no clue. This is the one from the kids in the US to kids in Iraq. Right. That smuggled in it ended up in Kenya. Wow. So long story that there's not time for it right now, but it's this woman, it was the uprisings of 2007. And people, it was like Rwanda there for a couple weeks. People were like burning down each other's homes and just like all this strife. And the only reason I know this is because I had this little CD project. It's like, I, I, but I've learned a lot of, uh, conflicts on the ground from people, um, just, just what day-to-day people go through. Not the news, but just civilian life, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So this woman heard this cd and it's just children expounding on some of the most profound universal truth without an agenda, just with innocent expression. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And she wrote to me saying, I was planning to avenge for loss of life and loss of property, meaning she was going to murder and, and pillage in return. Oh.


And then she said, but I heard this CD and I decided that I was going to work for peace instead. Oh,

Fritz Coleman (01:05:38):

Well there you go. Your work is

Ruth Mendelson (01:05:40):

Finished. So, right. So like that, but what, but what did it, what was the fulcrum innocent love and the innocence of common sense, it's innate to all of us. That was the fulcrum that pride her out of what would've been a perpetuation of all untold help for

Louise Palanker (01:05:56):


Ruth Mendelson (01:05:56):

Yeah. And her family and whoever else. So, you know, that is that, that's, that's what's needed. So all of these experiences that I've had through the, also through, through the film scoring work though too, because that's taught me a lot about all K, how to be flexible and open-minded how to, to, to, to be able to change one's perspective. I've learned all those things in the course of scoring films. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>, or they've been really reinforced, you know, I, I have an amazing career. It's, it's a great, and, and how to also detach. You can't score films and be attached to what you do. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you can't mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, because if it's your film, go ahead and be Yeah. But if you, you're, if I'm scoring someone else's film, you're in service. I have to stay in my lane.

Louise Palanker (01:06:43):

You're in service to it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>

Ruth Mendelson (01:06:45):

Sure. Be service to it. Yeah. And, and also, um, you know, but if I feel, you know, I like to approach any work situation where there's, I really respect the people I work with, so if they, if they have a, a, a perspective outside of my own, that means I can grow. Hmm. I mean, it's not a bad thing to be disagreed with.

Louise Palanker (01:07:05):

So rather than feeling threatened, feel like you've been enriched.

Ruth Mendelson (01:07:09):

Yes. Exactly. And it took me a long time to realize that. Yeah. You know, because I used to think like, oh, you know, I, you know, either I really thought my way was better or I thought, you know, whatever, whatever my, there's that kind of ego e thing or feeling like, oh, I should have known this. That kind of

Louise Palanker (01:07:25):

Ego. Ah, okay. Both, you know? Yeah.

Ruth Mendelson (01:07:28):

Because they're both ego e Right.

Louise Palanker (01:07:30):

But it's like both counterproductive. They're

Ruth Mendelson (01:07:32):


Louise Palanker (01:07:33):

Both and natural, but they we have to, that's what we have to work against.

Ruth Mendelson (01:07:37):

E e Exactly. They, they don't, they're not the thing that, they're not, that, that doesn't, that's not an expression of one's best

Louise Palanker (01:07:43):

Self. Sure. They don't move your story forward at <laugh>. Right. Well, we wanna thank you so much for being with us. This conversation has been just truly beautiful and enlightening, and we thank you so much. We're gonna put links in our show notes for all that you create that's beautiful and of service to the world. And Fritz is gonna tell people where they can, how they can review our show.

Fritz Coleman (01:08:03):

All righty. If you enjoyed this episode of Media Path, it would help us to be more discoverable by potential new listeners. If you leave us a quick review on Apple Podcast, and if you're new here, and this is your first time with us, please check out our back catalog. You'll find all sorts of binge worthy stuff. And th th this episode with Ruth Mendelson will become part of the binge worthy snack that we have for you. We've added everything from the Castles to Gary Puckett, to Richard Sturman of the Oak Ridge Boys, to Mark Summers to Bill Medley, all kinds of wonderful things. Henry Winkler, Keith Morrison, Josh Minowitz, thank you so much for spending an hour with us and we would be overjoyed if you took a moment to share your thoughts with us or recommend us to a friend. Thank you so much, Ruth. It was just awesome. Thank you.

Louise Palanker (01:08:47):

Here come your close. So, credits great. Thank you so much. We would love for you to join us online on Instagram and Twitter, where we are at Media Path Pod, and on Facebook where we are. Media Path Podcast. You can find full episodes with all kinds of bonus visual content on our YouTube channel Media Path podcast. We would love to know what media you've been enjoying, so you can contact us at our social media or email us at Media Path We wanna thank our wonderful guest, Ruth Mendelson. Our team includes Dean of Friedman, Francesco Demond, John Maddox, Sharon Bello, bill Fiac, Thomas Hubble, Mason Brown, and you. Our theme music is by me and John Maddox. I am Louise Lanker here with Fritz Coleman, and we will see you along the media path.

Fritz Coleman (01:09:31):

Wait, I have one question for Ruth. Yeah. Is there any indigenous blood in your background?

Ruth Mendelson (01:09:37):


Fritz Coleman (01:09:38):

There is, because you're just displaying the most beautiful turquoise, your earrings and your ring. That's some beautiful stuff. Not that that's important, it's just, I, I wondered if, if it was,

Ruth Mendelson (01:09:48):

Yeah, there is th Thank you so much. Yes,

Fritz Coleman (01:09:50):

<laugh>. Okay. Anyway, that answered my question, <laugh>. Okay. Now we really are ending this podcast,

Louise Palanker (01:09:55):

<laugh>. See, next week.


Thank you so much. Don't hang up yet, Ruth, we're gonna take our picture with you. Walk over to the

Fritz Coleman (01:10:02):

TV screen.

Louise Palanker (01:10:04):

So, uh, Mason is gonna tell you when exactly to smile. You

Ruth Mendelson (01:10:08):

Guys are awesome.

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