Category Archives: Composer

DIVERSITY IS A GUITARIST’S BEST FRIEND

 

Indian born guitarist Nipun Nair is a music purist…when it comes to being a great musician but not about the genre he is playing. Consider his latest work on Anthony Cruz’s premier major release “Cosas Del Destino”. Cruz is riding the wave of Latin pop artists whose ever increasing fan base is steadily taking over major radio and popular concert tours (Nair’s guitar work can be heard on the first single “Me Vuelas La Cabeza” currently in major rotation in New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and many other markets). The songs are catchy and the musicianship is top grade. All of Nipun’s influences combine in a way that lifts the songs and supports the vocals. It’s no wonder that Tushar Menon (music journalist for Prog Magazine, Rolling Stone, and other music publications) referred to Nair’s playing as, “that elusive combination of technical and enjoyable. There is much in his music to satisfy seasoned musicians as well as excite non-musicians.”  Top level music production and great recorded performances, combined with Cruz’s matinee good looks are a steady move towards a Hollywood ending; seemingly a world away from Nipun’s early success in India with his band Public Issue. Public Issue garners its identity from the world of rock and funk. Bordering on soulful and even progressive rock at times, the band started out as undergrad friends who wanted to play as a hobby. The group was as surprised as anyone when they immediately started winning competitions and fans, playing to crowds of 5,000 or more. Tours and television performances on music channels like VHI and Channel [v] followed. Press fast forward just a short amount of time and Nipun has travelled to the U.S. and, within days he was contacted to perform in a band, one of whose vocalists happens to be Anthony Cruz. Not only did Anthony take notice of Nair’s abilities, but the creative team behind him did so as well. This team includes Deborah Corday, Randy Phillips, and Rafael Esparza Ruiz (cumulatively they have worked with; Toni Braxton, Rod Stewart, Ricky Martin, Santana, Justin Timberlake, Prince, and many others). Their recognition of the guitarist’s talent and their desire to have him involved is quite an achievement in itself. The weight of the moment is not lost to Nipun who tells, “I was in disbelief at how I was able to come so far so soon. It felt like the moment I stepped into the country things started to happen. Now Anthony’s music is playing on all the Latin radio stations in the country; the songs for which I recorded guitars. The feeling is overwhelming and incredible.” Anthony Cruz 2

Some of the most successful artists in today’s music market are those who are the most diverse. Modern artists use their association with well known products and services (Apple, Kia, etc.) to jump start a new career or give new life to former glory years. Placement is as valid an avenue for artists as radio, possibly even more so due to the ubiquitous nature of music in our society. Many advertising agencies recognize this and employ contemporary artists as composers to create a sound canvas; artists like Nipun Nair. Nipun has enjoyed a successful career as a music composer with Rubecon Creative Solutions in India. Nair has created numerous scores for Rubecon’s campaigns which aired on major television networks (Zee TV, Star Plus, Channel V, etc) and in large cinemas like SPI Cinemas. Massive audiences were exposed to his work. Rubecon’s Alexander Zachariah confirms, “Not only did Nipun prove to be crucial to the success of the productions we did for our clients, but he also proved to be an integral part of the success of our agency.” Nipun has put these skills to use here in the U.S. working with Barbara Cohen to compose music for Dunkin Donuts and Hewlett Packard. Award-winning composer Luis Guerra is the founder of Terremoto Productions Inc., an audio production company that has compositions in feature films like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Tina Fey), Fallen Angel (CBS), and countless commercial campaigns for companies such as Honda, Samsung, and others. Guerra hopes to make use of Nair’s abilities creating music for projects with Mountain Dew, Disney Channel, and building the Terremoto Music Library.

Dreaming pic

For 2015’s Dreaming is a Private Thing, Nair was given a multitude of challenges. Filmmakers Alan Sardana and AJ Smith needed a score which would resemble and reinforce their film’s topic of corporal and electronic existence. They needed a modern sound with a sense of humanity. The film is based on the story by legendary science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and has a cast of three characters; Eli Lee (played by Leo Lee [Swordfish, The Replacement Killers, Contact]) the world’s last filmmaker and Sam’s creator, Sam (Dan Mousseau) the android/camera, and Samantha (Susie Park [Spider-Man 2, Miracle on 34th Street, The Chaos Factor]) the lead actress in Eli and Sam’s films. Due to the small size of the film’s cast, the score needed to become the fourth member of the ensemble, enabling the audience to further connect with the characters. Nipun’s score achieved this as well as complementing the characters. At times the music is dreamy and digital and yet, intermittently introduces overtly analog and “human” traits. Vacillating between man and machine was a goal the score achieved…all within three days! Nair reveals, “Short on time for submission to festivals, he [AJ Smith] would send me scene after scene and I was writing and recording as quick as possible. I’d watch the scene and compose something to capture the feel of it…but I didn’t have time to think about it. I was going on instinct and first impressions. It was exciting but a little crazy as well. I was happy that AJ and Alan were excited about the score. Dreaming…went on to be screened at the Toronto Short Film Festival as well as a win [for Best Production Design] at the Ryerson University Film Festival in Canada.” RED Bean Can

In addition to composing for film, Nair has been a part of creating music for live theater for years. As any actor can tell you, the two are similar but very different animals at the same time. For many years, Nipun worked with The Little Theater and its founder (award winning director and playwright) Aysha Rau. The theater, which focuses on fostering the creativity of underprivileged children, has received worldwide acclaim for productions like The R.E.D.Bean Can which has toured internationally. The R.E.D. Bean Can was selected out of sixty productions from all over the world to be performed at the 22nd International Children and Young Adults Theater Festival in IRAN. This production was Nair’s most recent compositional offering to The Little Theater. Founder Aysha Rau comments on his work, “I am floored by Nipun’s ingenuity as a composer. He brings a sense of freshness to his work that galvanizes the theater time and time again through his original compositions. It is because of his talent and dedication that our productions have been immensely successful and garnered significant press coverage.” Nair has composed the music for countless productions at The Little Theater; one of the most popular is the annual Christmas Pantomime which has attracted sponsors including; Coca Cola, Ford, and Citibank, to name just a few.

Nipun has also used his skill as a composer in live theater to benefit the Theater of Will in southern California. This non-profit arts and education company is supported by LADWP and performs musicals about water conservation. Award winning author/playwright/actor/director and president of Theater of Will, Willard Simms, confirms, “As his diverse array of achievements clearly indicates, Nipun Nair is among the most elite composers and performing musicians working in the field today.” The success did not come as an easy happenstance for the India born composer. Nair emphasizes, “The Water Wizard shows and the concert series posed specific challenges as a musician. You are trying to educate kids through music in a way that is fresh, stimulating and entertaining…but in a not too obviously educational way. The key is great lyrics and catchy melodies. Having a charismatic stage presence really helps when you are performing for an audience of hundreds.” It seems that Nipun will soon be performing for crowds of thousands (or more) again alongside Anthony Cruz; that charisma on stage will come in quite handy.Nipun solo 3

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U.K.’s EMILY RICE ENRICHES HOLLYWOOD, BLENDING TRADITION AND CONTEMPORARY

British born composer Emily Rice is a member of the club of young composers who began as serious instrumentalists but angled into the path of composition. While many gifted performers seek the adulation of a live audience, a subset chooses instead to influence and affect generations of audiences by writing music to interact with other art forms; in Emily’s case, film and television. The choice to have your work be supportive and shine the spotlight on another’s performance implies both talent as well as a complementary nature. No doubt, her early years as a cellist in London taught her the importance of each individual’s role in an ensemble, as well as the emotional impact the entire group could elicit on an audience. Following a successful series of compositional endeavors in the UK, Rice began fielding offers from Hollywood with highly successful results.MV5BMjIzMTUyNjIyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTAzOTYzNzE@._V1_UY1200_CR165,0,630,1200_AL_ (336x640)

Najmia is a film about the last days of a pregnant twelve-year old Yemini child bride before undergoing labour. The uneasiness of the subject matter in terms of social conformity and the life endangering experience of Najmia coupled with the presentation of this piece led to a win in 2015 at the Forum on Law, Culture, & Society’s International Short Film Competition. Ethical discussions were bound to arise concerning the situation in the film but Rice states, “Our main focus was to communicate the topic of humanity, especially towards the central character Najmia. The film ends ambiguously with Najmia giving birth and the audience is left not knowing whether she survives the labour or not. The film’s aim wasn’t to make judgment on child marriage and the pregnancies that result from these marriages, but to raise awareness about the need for proper midwife training and better sanitary conditions in these situations.” The film required a score that would match the intensity of the story being displayed on screen.IMG_3063 The compositions Rice created more than achieved this goal, as proven by her nomination for Best Composer at the Underwire Film Festival in 2015 (Najmia has received four nominations in addition to those previously mentioned). Rice took some extra precautions to assist the filmmakers in avoiding any preconceptions by the audience. She comments, “We wanted the audience to come away thinking that Najmia could be any young woman, not just a young woman from the Middle East as depicted in the film, and this is why I avoided using ethnic instruments. Also, emotion is something that strings provide very effectively. As a string player (I started my musical life as a cellist), they were the obvious choice.” Emily used an early musical form known as a passacaglia as a base to create the cue in the climactic scene in which we realize that the main character is in trouble. The composer’s knowledge of the prejudices that we may carry with us helped the filmgoer experience the true message that was intended.

2015’s award winning Clone Counseling is a stark contrast in subject matter to Najmia. A comedy that concerns a man in couple’s therapy with his clone; the film needs to evoke a completely different color of the emotional spectrum when it comes to music. Emily worked hand in hand with Aaron Burch to compose a sonic backdrop to set the proper tone. The subject matter of technology and its contributions to society are not lost on Rice and her approach to composing as she utilizes a blend of organic instruments, loops, and electronics.  Highly recognized composer Bruce Broughton (Academy award-nominated, Emmy award-winning, and ASCAP award-winning) recognizes Rice’s abilities and achievements. He relates, “In all of the musical combinations, whether large or small, whether with live musicians or with electronics, regardless of the demands of musical or dramatic style, Emily does a fine job in demonstrating her skill in approaching and successfully negotiating a broad range of contrasting and dissimilar requirements.”IMG_3058

As an artist who is cognizant of the evolution of TV and Film and the need for the compositions that accompany it to grow, Emily constantly seeks out new challenges and ways to widen her palette. In addition to live action films, animation has been popular for many decades and continues to change with technology. As continued validation that Rice is clearly a respected and contemporary member of the film and music community, the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival recognized and selected her to score the animated film Cowboys in a Saloon (awarded Best Picture at the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival). The score was recorded by the LA based ultra modern ensemble the Helix Collective. Emily takes an active interest in the live music scene in Los Angeles but it is her deep love of film and television composing that drew her to the city and industry. Her achievements working on commercially successful films such as the Jerry Bruckheimer production “Deliver Us from Evil” (Grossing $65 MM) and the $100 MM Worldwide hit “The Last Witch Hunter”, starring Vin Diesel, have benefited from Rice’s focus as well as longer formats like the WGN’s TV series “Underground”.

Emily continues to immerse herself in new challenges and musical experiences here in Los Angeles. The composition and orchestration for 93 Days, about a Liberian-American racing against the clock in a foreign country against the Ebola influenced panic, demands an intensity and suspense similar to other big budget films. It’s a situation to which Rice has already proven herself to be more than appropriate to contribute.  Firefly (2016, currently in production) sees Emily being challenged with the dichotomy of wonderment and suspense. The child’s perspective of Maya (the film’s central character) has led the composer to seek a nontraditional approach in order to bring something fresh to the story. The score of Firefly is based on musical motifs, including a “monster hunting” theme. Rice reveals, “The ‘monster hunting’ theme is quite rhythmic as it accompanies Maya while she prepares traps for the imaginative monster. I’ve also used a lot of instruments that are typically ‘light’ to reflect the childlike qualities in the story…mostly harp, piano, celeste, and a small amount or strings and percussion.” Sometimes it takes a light touch and approach in a score to leave a strong impression.

Composer Vincent L. Pratte Uses Music to Communicate Abstract Emotions

Vincent L. Pratte
      Composer Vincent L. Pratte shot by Marie-Ève Labadie

Canadian born film composer Vincent L. Pratte creates dynamic and thematically rich film scores that will enthrall any audience with their musical diversity and depth.

A musician who began scoring orchestra pieces in high school, Pratte is a composer who doesn’t mind going outside his comfort zones and trying new and unique methodologies. In college Pratte came to the conclusion that, “music and especially composition was not monolithic, and that there was room to do whatever he could imagine”.

Pratte believes that in films, the music is there to add emotional, dramatic or narrative layers to a scene, but not to overwhelm it. It is through this meticulous and complex process that Vincent L. Pratte is able to stand apart from other film composers as someone whose music is truly original and highly sought after.

Pratte says, “I do try to pay attention to things beyond the narrative, like editing choices, camera angles, and lighting… In the end, I think that those elements will have an impact on my musical choices as well.”

Demon Gate, a horror film revolving around demonic possession, beautifully demonstrates Pratte’s style of composition. The film’s score showcases an open ended musical structure that features a wide array of musical styles to achieve a deeply dramatic tone. Pratte is a composer who feels a film’s score can make the viewer feel visceral in ways that the visual medium cannot– a point that is driven home by the haunting score found in Demon Gate.

The film Eleanora: The Forgotten Princess, which is a cross between a musical, a period piece and a fantasy film, features a riveting score by Pratte that serves as an exploration of the character’s inner motivations. This super natural tale of revenge and jealousy sports a composition that embodies the weight of a much larger thematic piece without overwhelming the narrative.

“Although we often tend to think of film music in terms of dramatic end epic themes, so much of the work of a film composer is actually about how to subtly complement a scene,” admits Pratte.

Pratte’s score for Foos Your Daddy, a coming of age comedy, creates a brilliant texture reminiscent of large-scale gladiator-style films, which perfectly accompanies the film’s “absurdist touch,” as Pratte puts it. In the film, which was directed by Luke Patton, a father and son indulge in one last foosball game before the son heads off to college. Pratte’s score is a testament to his brilliance as a composer who fully understands how to create music that sets the tone for each scene.

As the film progresses the intensity of the score expands exponentially. Whereas the film starts out with a “coming-of-age… indie rock vibe,” as the foosball match unfolds the composer uses music to create an air of high stakes, big action, and emotional transitions.

Pratte has composed for a lengthy list of films across virtually every genre, but he admits that his favorite medium to compose for is animation because of the freedom and intensity it allows.

His poetically melodic score for Eloise, Little Dreamer gave the tale of a young girl, who is separated from her sister in the big city, a multi-layered emotional resonance. The film was most recently awarded the Best International Animated Film at the New York International Film Festival.

John Doe, the animated story of a detective lost in a case he is unable to solve, features another strong score by Pratte, with the film’s lack of dialog making the score integral to providing the narrative for the twisted tale.

Although Vincent Pratte still enjoys composing orchestra pieces, his passion for blending the abstract nature of music with the more concrete artistic medium of film, is by all accounts his true calling. A film composer who, like a magician, has many tricks up his sleeve, Pratte is a dynamic musical talent whose compositions augment any project to which they are attached.

Spotlight: Film Composer Shaun Chasin!

Shaun Chasin
                                          Composer Shaun Chasin conducting a string orchestra at The Bridge Studio

Shaun Chasin is a prolific composer who uses his immense musical talent to write and record soundtracks for films, television programs and video games for some of the biggest production companies in the world. Through his work Chasin essentially sets the mood for entire narratives, breathing life into what would otherwise be just dialogue and silence.

Chasin recognized early on the importance of the growing video game field, and has applied his knowledge and passion for that booming sector of the entertainment economy to boost the sense of immersion. He was integral to the success of the recent game Hektor, for which he was not only the composer and sound designer, but also worked with a 40-piece orchestral band to record the soundtrack.

“Video games provide an interesting opportunity for a composer because it’s a non-linear medium,” Chasin said, explaining how unlike the score for a movie, video game soundtracks must be able to change and adapt on a moment’s notice. “The music must stick with them and be able to change based on their actions.”

Hektor is a great display of his adaptable and varied talents, but Chasin primarily works in film, where his compositions truly shine. One such film is 11 Minute Mile, the striking story of a man stuck in an airport after all flights are cancelled in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. The man tries desperately to reach his brother, a runner in the ill-fated foot race, but his attempts are in vain. Through Chasin’s careful work on the film’s score, the audience feels that frantic anxiety and emotional distress.

“This was a particularly moving project for me to work on,” said Chasin, who was a long-time resident of Boston. “I had many friends there at the time of the bombing and it occurred in an area where we all frequently would hang out. For the score, I looked to the emotional potential of synthesised sounds to try to create the feeling of the main character’s inner turmoil and worry.”

In The Sin Seer, Chasin helped compose music, which set the tone for the intense thriller. The Sin Seer stars Lisa Arrindell Anderson (Clockers, Madea’s Family Reunion) as Rose Ricard, a woman who has a special gift for sensing the lies and motives of people, which she uses to solve crimes and cold cases. The film also stars Michael Ironside (The Machinist, X-Men: First Class) and Salli Richardson (I Am Legend, Antwone Fisher).

Chasin’s exceptional musical talents and the diverse range of his skillset also made him the ideal composer for Ho Yaqeen, a series which tells the stories of six people who have strived to improve Pakistan, their home and the country they love. The series is directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, whose film Saving Face won an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2012.

“The six-part documentary series looked at the contributions of unsung heroes to world,” Chasin said. “Each episode featured a new individual. This allowed each episode to have a different and unique musical sound.”

In addition to film, television and video game compositions, his contributions to the music of international advertising campaigns are invaluable. Among his projects are two public service announcements with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy prior to his work with her on Ho Yaqeen. He also did the music for Coca-Cola’s Crazy For Good ad campaign, the purpose of which was to encourage the commission of random acts of kindness.

With a virtuosic understanding of the power of music and sound, and an innate ability to apply them in a way that perfectly sets the mood and tone of any project on which he works, Shaun Chasin’s golden touch has made him one of the most desirable composers in the field of entertainment.

Composer Spotlight: Alex Redfern!

Composer Alex Redfern
Composer Alex Redfern

UK born composer Alex Redfern is a master of blending music and visuals for film and television. Alex Redfern is known throughout the international entertainment industry for having created emotive scores for the films Happy Face and Tumbleweed: A True Story, as well as for contributing to the music departments of Walt Disney Picture’s upcoming feature Cinderella, which stars two-time Oscar Award winner Cate Blanchett, James Franco’s Holy Land, Penguin Trek, Larson’s Field, and many others.

The young yet highly skilled composer is currently working on Sisterhood of the Red Garter 3D, as well as the film Varanasi, which stars Adil Hussain from Life of Pi.  Directed by Richard Connew, the film Sisterhood of the Red Garter 3D is a UK comedy film that is scheduled to be released next year. A feature film about a mysterious cult set in Northern England, the film stars Brian Woodward from Peaky Blinders, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, The Theory of Everything and Hollows Wood 3D.

Redfern admits, “it’s fun writing for comedy, but you have to be delicate with the timing to make sure it has the right effect.” He adds that the music in the film ”is a cross between light-hearted and dark, and mysterious. It is mostly orchestral, but it has a few surprises thrown in.”

One aspect of Alex Redfern’s career that sets him apart from other composers is his incredible ability to bring diversity to all of his musical creations, something audience will notice in his other upcoming project Varanasi, where he is working as the film’s orchestrator. According to Redfern the film is “a dark thriller set in the holy city of Varanasi in India. It uses orchestral and Indian instruments together.”

Alex Redfern was also a key contributor to the music department on Mark Marchillo’s film The Curse of The Un-kissable Kid. A comedic and whimsical coming of age tale, The Curse of The Un-kissable Kid follows a young boy named Josh, played by William Leon from the hit television shows True Blood, New Girl and Modern Family, who finds himself in a sticky situation after taking a potion from a fortune teller at a local carnival without reading the fine print. After swallowing the potion Josh realizes that the bottle says it will make him disappear if he doesn’t find true love’s kiss within 24 hours. In an effort to keep from dissolving into nothingness, the desperate teen sets up a kissing booth and soon finds himself in a passionate lip-lock with a boy named Clark, played by Christopher Bones from the shows One Life to Live and My Name Is Earl. Redfern used his musical talents to heighten the fantastical elements of the film with his subtle orchestration of instruments.

A truly talented composer, there is no doubt on anyone’s mind that audiences around the world will be seeing, or rather hearing, a whole lot more of Redfern’s musical creations for many years to come. Be sure to check out the video below to see Alex Redfern conducting one of his original compositions “Riding Out West” with a 47-piece orchestra at Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Brothers Studio in Los Angeles.