Here’s a preview of the interview i did for a multimedia project by Reese Spykerman
1. Why did you choose to become a composer?
I didn’t choose it really. I mean from a philosophical point of view… I think it’s something you can’t choose, it is like breathing. A deep need to express yourself. Some people write poems or paint, so it’s just the choice of the medium… I remember that even when I was a child I enjoyed improvising short melodies more than playing other people’s music. Growing up I’ve played some rock and jazz and people have always told me that my music could have been good as a movie soundtrack. I’ve been a big movie fan since I was really young, that’s simply my favourite way to spend time. So I guess that becoming a professional film composer was in some way something I was destined to.
2. When you were learning about composition, what things that you learned
surprised you the most?
That creating music is often to assimilate really rigid rules, and then forget them and break every rule you learnt. Talking about Art, the best ideas and solutions come when you push the limit imposed by tradition.
3. In your education, was the focus mostly on technical? Or did issues such
as crafting a story through music, and principles like balance, contrast,
and audience energy play a role?
I have a strong jazz background, so I’ve got a really instinctive and quite improvisational approach when crafting soundtracks. I’ve also studied classical music and orchestration to “speed-up” my work and to understand
what could be good or wrong in a specific contest. Listening to the great masters of film music is still an amazing training for me, I tend to trust my ears when I have to choose a solution or another. If I feel that something doesn’t work, then technical studies help me find what it is. But the first thing is of course to tell a story with the music, or better, help the movie to tell the story. This is about feeling and no school can teach you how to do it.
4. How do you utilize contrast in your work, both macro and micro?
I use both of them, maybe more in a micro way. That’s because I usually keep some common elements in my projects, little clues which let listeners know that different tracks come from the same project. But, of course, when I
work on big projects like a feature movie I like to add variety to the tracklist. As a listener, I do love it when I can listen to a soundtrack and enjoy the album even if I didn’t see the movie. That’s the reason why I always try and add some contrast in the style of the various tracks: it is meant to work as a metalanguage in the context of each single cue/scene, when that helps the scene itself. Sometimes the use of contrast can be just useless or a way to impose a composer’s art over the movie.
5. Can you explain some techniques composers use to introduce contrast?
(e.g. change in tempo, layering, pauses, etc)
Being the jazz musician that I am, I like to use pauses, not regarded as absence of music, but as a way to enhance the dialogue of instruments. My focus is often on the harmonic contrast as well, or on the use and interaction of instruments.
6. Why is contrast in music important?
Because if we don’t use it, music could be really… boring. Think about a persons who always talks in the same “vocal-tone”, like a robot. That person could tell you the most amazing story you’ve ever heard, but after a minute or two you just stop listening… Using contrast helps tell the story and holds the listener’s attention!
7. Is contrast more difficult to accomplish in shorter pieces? Is it more
important in longer pieces?
It’s the same… in shorter pieces you may have less time to build up the athmosphere and to create different contrasts, it really depends which way you choose. Rhythmic contrasts work less in this case, it’s better to use harmonic contrast for shorter pieces.
8. What are some of your favorite modern pieces of music (aside from your
work) that have great contrast in them?
I really like the “mood incongruency” that is used for the iconic contrast in movies, expecially in comedies and animation: it happens when the emotive meaning of music conflicts with the one of the film. I think Danny Elfman is a master in this art.