Tag Archives: Composer

Min He communicates through her extraordinary compositions

William Shakespeare once said, “when words fail, music speaks.” It is a universal language with the power to change lives, to evoke emotion, and to allow human beings to connect with each other on the deepest level. For renowned composer, Min He, it is a language she speaks fluently. She is one with her music and her compositions are profound. When audiences listen to He’s work, they hear far more than an arrangement of notes and chords. They hear her passion, her expertise, and her extraordinary ability to connect the world through her music.

“I love composing because I like being creative. I have so many things to say to this world, whether it’s my feelings, my thoughts, or my imaginations. For me, being a composer is an opportunity to capture my emotions, to write them down, and then to share them with my audiences. It is a bridge that connects me with the world and it is the most wonderful form of communication that I can think of,” tells He.

Through He’s unwavering desire to compose, she has built a career unlike most. The award-winning composer has acquired experience from a variety of different projects and she is well versed in studying a script and determining how best to bring it to life with her music. Whether she’s scoring or orchestrating, she has an unprecedented affinity for creating unique sound arrangements and she is an invaluable member of any team she works with. She has a vast amount of experience, composing for films like Princess Eun Hwa, Sanjiang Dream, and Jin Zhi Xi Yan (No Smoking).

 One of the many things that sets He above her competition is her diverse understanding of the art of music and her willingness to experiment composing for different genres and mediums wherever possible. For instance, in 2014, He was approached by game designer Zi Li about composing for the video game, Dissonance, and due to her love for video games and her passion to expand her knowledge in the arts and entertainment industry, He eagerly accepted. The success she earned from Dissonance, however, was the reason she was later approached by designer Jack Cai about lending her talents to his game Pursuit of Light 2 in 2015. Cai had heard of He’s reputation, sampled her work in Dissonance, and knew that he needed He to take his game to the next level.

When He composes for a video game, she begins by speaking with the game designer about the type of feel that he or she hopes to communicate in the game. She then requests a cue sheet with the designer’s vision for each piece. This is where He’s magic begins. She carefully and considerately reads through the designer’s ideas and determines how best to translate these ideas into scored scenes. Once she has developed her composition, she vigorously edits through it to ensure that presents the designer with nothing but the highest quality composition. She then allows the designer to review and make any changes necessary.

Due to the fact that He has such a vast understanding of her profession and an unparalleled creative edge, she is often trusted with taking full creative authority over the process. In rare cases, where designers are skeptical about stepping outside of their comfort zones, He uses her professionalism and work ethic to communicate their options and to make sure that they are getting the best result for their project. For instance, when He worked with Li on Dissonance, she was asked to write dark and depressing music to keep with the mood of the game’s storyline. He, knowing Li’s vision for the game, was certain that there was some leeway to dive deeper into the player’s emotions and create a more dynamic score. When she suggested adding elements of hope and brightness to the composition, Li was hesitant. He proactively decided to craft two separate pieces, one keeping with Li’s vision and one demonstrating He’s ideas. Upon reviewing the two compositions, Li realized that He was right and loved the result.

“Working with Min was a wonderful journey. She has phenomenal ideas when it comes to making music and more importantly, her sound is unique and she is innovative beyond measure. On top of that, she is so gifted and hard working. Her love for video games also helps to make her music fit with the game. She just knows what will work best for the project at hand and I am glad I was able to work with her,” states Li.

He becomes instrumental to any project she works on and is often showered with praise and recognition for her efforts. She has received a number of awards for her work. Dissonance, for instance, won the Indie Prize for Best Innovative Game 2015 and The Experimental Game Showcase at the Out of Index Festival. Pursuit of Light 2, on the other hand, won the CGWR SINA Award for Best Indie Mobile Game of the Year. For He, receiving recognition for her work is fulfilling, but the true joy of her job comes when she hears what her audience or the players of her video games have to say about her work.

“One of the greatest joys about my career lies in the way that people receive my music. They truly love it and they actively look to hear more. After Pursuit of Light 2 was released, I saw reviews from players left on the Apple Store and they were all talking about my music, saying how beautiful and enjoyable it was. In that moment, when I was reading those reviews from absolute strangers, I felt truly loved and it was the highlight of my career,” He recalls.

In future, He hopes to continue creating beautiful compositions to share with the world. Professionally, she aims to work with more talented and prestigious movie and television directors, as well as game designers. Personally, she is bursting at the seams with inspiration to compose even greater works than she has already created. For He, composing is more than a job. It is her creative outlet and she is always ready to try something new.

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MADDURY CREATES AN EPIC SCORE ALONG THE STORMFRONT

One of the most important things that Steve Jobs proved in his illustrious career is that vision is equally as important, some might say even more so, than the ability to manifest. There’s a bit of a chicken/egg quandary there but, what Jobs made clear was that genius exists in the birth of an idea just as much as creating something. Of course, the symbiosis of these two factors are essential. Technology has created an ease that never existed before. It allows individuals to do what took legions previously. Consider entertainment. The ability to create full length animated productions that are vivid and amazingly realistic require a fraction of the man power previously needed. The same can be said for music. Modern purveyors are able to use technology to make single droning notes or the sonic onslaught of a major symphony orchestra…all at the fingertips of one person. Of course they may not sound exactly like an orchestra with the subtle perfect imperfections that are the human trait but, the end result is so moving and virtually undistinguishable that only the most discerning experts might even notice the minute difference. The animated film “Along the Stormfront” is epic in both its action and its music. Sai Sriram Maddury is the composer who was contacted by Griffin Giersch (Director & Screenwriter of the film) to match the tone of this larger than life story.

“Along the Stormfront” is an animated tale with epic fights and a huge visual landscape. A powerful score was needed to match the striking visuals. The idea was to balance the humor of the tiny characters while also rising to acknowledge the epic battle scenes. The music in the film was the ingredient which empowered the characters to become something akin to superheroes during the battle scenes. In a distant futuristic world, Finn (a fox) and Dallas (an armadillo) take a bus to get to town. They are later attacked by deadly Monster who jump onto the bus. The personalities of these characters are representative of the characteristics the animals are noted for; however, the events of the story call them to achieve inner strength and greatness in a classic story of self-discovery. It’s no coincidence that Maddury’s score recalls visions of superhero films and their grandeur. When Finn stands his ground for himself and his friend against a seemingly unconquerable oppressor, his bravery is announced by a huge brass section.

Griffin Giersch (Director, Screenwriter, & Animator of “Along the Stormfront”) declares,

“Sai was an incredibly important part of making Along the Stormfront what it was. His music brought the project to a higher level that it could not have reached otherwise. The goal with the story was to make an epic action/adventure with elements of suspense, tension, excitement, and some humor thrown into the mix as well. Sai brought all of this to the forefront with his music, letting all the moments of this story shine through. Working collaboratively on projects like this that have so many different aspects and pieces can often be a huge challenge, especially when it comes to communicating and sharing ideas to get everyone on the same page creating a cohesive work. Sai was always right there with us, listening and understanding our thoughts and ideas. He did more than just listen; he brought his own ideas to the table as well. Ultimately, his creative voice came through in a strong way that we hadn’t even expected. His contributions to the project made it even better than we’d hoped.”

Maddury concedes that modern technology has made composers capable of spending more time experimenting with their ideas and sonics with a much more budget friendly approach. Instead of having studio musicians wait “on the clock” while varying approaches are taken, a composer is allowed to hear each of their ideas on a schedule that is conducive to inspiration. This characteristic however does not preclude the use of real instruments and musicians. Sai communicates, “Technology plays a vital role in the process of film scoring. Due to the advancement of technology most of the job is done at the studio with Computers installed with DAW applications (Digital Audio Workstation) and connected to MIDI Keyboards and speakers. The major advantage in today’s music programming technology is to have amazing sample libraries for film scoring, allowing composers to create an orchestral score and make it sound exactly or very close to a live performance. This helps directors and producers to listen to them before going to the scoring stage. Basically now we can have the mock ups for the entire score sound close to the live recording. But for a film that demands an electronic score, it can pretty much be written and produced in your DAW at the studio.  That being said, I love the qualities that come from a more traditional approach in film scores. I’m a musician and have a soft spot for traditional or organic instrumentation. I think it’s the life of a modern composer to use the proper tool for each film they work on.”

05 Sai Sriram Maddury Pic

It’s a testament to this composer’s talent and creativity that he conceived of and created the score for “Along the Stormfront” based on storyboards and sketches rather than the final film. The common practice in the industry is for a composer to view either dailyies or the completed production and then compose based on this. Against normal convention, Sai discussed the characters and the story with Griffin, composing during the animation process in order to meet deadlines. Proof of the success of the film and its composers work lies in its being recognized as an official selection to the Full Bloom Film Festival 2015 and Carrborro Film Festival 2015 as well as receiving the Gold Remi Award at the 49TH WorldFest­Houston International Film and Video Festival. Discussing these accolades, Maddury remarks, “I personally consider awards as a token of encouragement requesting the recipient to contribute more to the respective field of art with which we are involved. Even though I did get more projects to work on as a result of my score for Along the Stormfront, having the experience of working on an award-winning film will always keep one motivated and inspired to work hard and contribute more to the art of film scoring/storytelling.”

Peter Lam’s musical genius wins Best Score Award for film ‘Lovebites’

When Peter Lam was a child, he, like most other children, loved movies. He would sneak into his parents’ movie collection, eager at any opportunity to experience a new film. However, unlike most children, who would be enthralled by what they saw on the screen, Lam was captivated by what he heard through the speakers.

Now, Lam is an internationally sought-after film composer. He has worked on countless successful projects, including the award-winning films The Ballerina, The Shoemaker, & His Apprentice, and (le) Rebound. He recently worked on the score for the TV movie Menendez: Blood Brothers, which premiered on Lifetime earlier this month, with over a million people tuning in to hear what he is capable of. However, what is perhaps the most celebrated film of his career is Lovebites, a 2015 animated film that catapulted Lam to the top of his field, being recognized as one of the best film composers to come out of Hong Kong in recent memory.

“I am always excited to work on animations. It’s a very imaginative genre and music often plays a big part in shaping the ‘sound world’ of the animated world. A composer often doesn’t come on board on a live-action film until the film has been shot. But in animation, I often start composing while the animation is still being developed or rendered alongside. The whole creative process feels very organic, hence it’s always fun to work on animations,” Lam described.

Lovebites is about the praying mantis Cecil, and tells the story of his first date. Lam’s music is vital for Lovebites, as the story is essentially told through music. It is an animated film with no dialogue and minimal sound effects, and the score runs continuously through the film from start to finish. Lam’s ability to capture the emotions of the two mantises is what makes the film so engaging.

“We bounced back and forth about musical ideas and the storyline, and when I started working on the project, I was presented with the initial character sketches and concept art. I scored the entire film based on the animatics (pre-rendered animation). In a way, the material I was working with then was not as detailed or delicate as the final product, but on the other hand, it offered me a bit more freedom for imagination, and encouraged me to be creative,” he described.

Stuck Truck Studios, the production company of Lovebites, had total trust in Lam’s creative decisions. Knowing they needed the best for a film that relies so heavily on the score, the team quickly invited Lam to be a part of the project after hearing samples of his work. Lam decided to create a score that only featured percussion and plucked instruments to create the quirky world of insects.

“Stuck Truck Studio encouraged me to think outside the box in order to create a colorful and quirky palette for this cute animation. It’s always fun to break away from conventions and experiment with new sounds,” said Lam. “I think the approach I used for the music gave the film a unique character, and I had a lot of fun experimenting with wild percussion sounds that, if not for this film, I would never have thought of using.”

This musical approach proved fruitful. After its premiere at the Original Narrative Festival in Dubai in February 2015, the film went on to see enormous success at film festivals around the world. That same year, it was an Official Selection at BFI Future Film Festival, Chile Monos International Animation Festival 2015, Athens Animfest, Tiltshift Festvial, 9th River Film Festival, Original Narrative Dubai, Reel Teal Film Festival, MICE Valencia, and the Vancouver International Film Festival. It went on to win the Audience Choice Award at the Melbourne International Animation Festival, and the Character Animation Award at the ANIMEX International Festival of Animation and Computer Games. Lam was personally recognized at the Short Sharp Film Festival Australia that year, winning the award for Best Score.

“Given that this was one of my first experiences in working with animations, I was very delighted to know that the film did so well in so many film festivals. Lovebites has been screened around the world and has set foot on almost every continent. I guess winning the Audience Choice Award at the Melbourne International Animation Festival and Best Score in Short Sharp Film Festival in Australia shows how effective my music can be,” said Lam.

After its success at so many film festivals, the film was later featured in the acclaimed animation website and channel CG Bros. It has amassed more than 4.2 million views (on YouTube since that time), making it a viral animation. None of this success would have been possible without Lam’s creative ear for the score, knowing its importance in telling the story. Agaki Bautista, the Art Director for Lovebites, believes Lam is one of the best film composers he has ever worked with.

Peter was always punctual in responding and we always felt comfortable having a dialogue with him. Communication was clear across all fronts. Peter is super receptive towards creative collaboration. We started off by sharing references and bouncing off ideas with each other and he was open throughout the process. It is rare to have the level of creative cooperation that we had with Peter,” said Bautista.

Lam’s talent is evident in everything he does. His work on Lovebites shows the world that his creative instincts are spot on, and he is exceptionally versatile. Be sure to check out his work in the upcoming animation film Slippages – Grace in IMAX later this year.

In the meantime, watch Lovebites here and let your eyes, and ears, capture the essence of the story with Lam’s work.

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.