1. Tell us about your background as a composer. Were you formally trained?
Very much come from a formal training background, though not specifically for music for picture. I’ve been playing and writing music since I was a kid, starting with violin at age 8. “Classically trained” as a composer is what most would say, though I was always straining against what that training was trying to fit me into; probably more of a “misfit toy” situation than some romantic “bad boy” label though. I also worked as a DJ in the Seattle area for a while, though my sets were pretty esoteric; e.g., mashing up Steve Reich with Aphex Twin and swing music.
Until recently, most of my work has been what you’d call concert music/experimental written for groups to play, other than some fairly anonymous library music and trailer work. I’ve come to scoring a bit slower than might seem reasonable as I’ve always been a film nut; my film and music collections have always been vying over which is more extensive. I even made a few (awful) short films in high school; torturing a couple VHS decks into piecing something together. But I’m glad to be working on scoring projects now. It feels like a pretty logical outcome of my interests and abilities.
2. What specific artists or works inspire you the most?
No one really worships a single creative god anymore, right? But it’s true, the influences come from all over. It just becomes a laundry list to talk about them all, but I do remember the specialness of discovery; where someone (a film editor, a visual artist, a composer) was doing something so singular that it just knocks you on your butt. And I often found that it wasn’t music where I found the most profound inspiration for music. It was more often outside of music, while watching a movie or reading a book, attending an art exhibit and I would say, “That’s amazing, and I know how I can take that idea and run with it in music.” It’s exciting because you feel like you have a secret way of looking at music that you get to share first.
3. How did you come to be involved in the webseries Microaggresssions? What was the workflow like on the project?
I met Brian and the rest of the Great Notion Collective at their mini festival a few years ago. I enjoyed the first night so much that I ended up going the whole weekend and saw Brian’s film The Black Sea. Brian and I kept up a correspondence afterward and we started talking about Sister/Brother as a future project together. He let me know that he was working on a web series as a way to keep creating in-between larger projects.
We had occasional email conversations about what the music should be like and I read the script over several times before and during production; making notes as I went. As they moved into production and the beginnings of post, Brian would send me clips and rough cuts of episodes. Once all the episodes were locked, Brian and I sat down together and did a complete spotting session of all the episodes to put together all the cue details. For me, that’s where I really started to understand what was needed, so it was a pretty straightforward process of just getting it done. At that point, I had the lovely privilege of also getting to work with our editor Evonne Moritz and see everything start to come together.
4. What are some of your upcoming projects?
I’ve got a couple albums happening in the near future; down the sky they sing released on redbirdsong workshop is being recorded right now and will hopefully come out this fall. I’m also working with the crazy talented pianist R. Andrew Lee on another album, bird-drawn in the sky of light on Irritable Hedgehog which we are lining up studio time to record in the coming months. We are also working together on a large-scale live performance piece that will hopefully see a premiere this time next year in Portland.
My next few scoring projects are in active production (and pre-prod), but I can’t talk about them just yet. Hopefully soon. And of course, I’m excited to see SISTER/BROTHER head into production this next year so that I can tackle that score!
5. Your top 3 favorite films?
Only three? Yikes, man. Not fair.
Magnolia (1999) by Paul Thomas Anderson
(music by Jon Brion and Aimee Mann)
This one may unequivocally be in my top 3. Despite having two fistfuls of story to keep track of, there’s not a second out of place and you are quickly and deeply imbedded in the ecstasy and agony of every tendril. It revels in a self-aware and hyperreal playground of coincidence and the unexplainable, that beautifully elevates these otherwise seemingly ordinary and sometimes pathetic lives. I love how so many of these actors are playing against type and knocking it out of the park. Jon Brion’s score and the accompanying songs by Aimee Mann gorgeously embrace the fantastical and melodramatic opera that it is.
Talk to Her (2002) by Pedro Almodovar
(music by Alberto Iglesias)
It doesn’t always have to be so, but I love film where the music almost exists as another character in the story and this is definitely the case in Almodovar’s truly elegant meditation on loss and loneliness. Even more than that, the music almost exists as a geography of its own; not specifically of “Spanish-ness” but as a land of internal upheaval. It’s very much like the scores to Annihilation (2018) and Elevator to the Gallows (1958) in that way (see how I’m getting more movies in?). Some of the cues are really long (8-10 minutes) and just embed themselves into your consciousness. Almodovar is so great at completely melding together character, visuals, and music and does so in such a heart-rending way with this film.
Out of Sight (1998) by Steven Soderbergh
(music by David Holmes)
I adore heist movies and crime dramas and I love Elmore Leonard’s characters. It’s a masterpiece of casting; I can’t think of a single role that’s wasted on anyone and some roles are the best of their careers. It made me like actors that I didn’t think were very good before. The score and soundtrack is a complete groove machine and does its job without getting in the way.
note: was fantastic working with Scott. His instincts were all spot on, and he was able to anticipate the needs of the project. Example: I was adamant that there be no score in episode 5, wanting the sole driver to be the dialogue and performances. Scott talked me into just seeing what it looked/felt like if he added a slight bit underneath Evelyn’s dialogue at the end of the episode. His argument was that there was a flow to the score, all building to the end of the series in episode 6 and it would make less sense as a cohesive whole without the bridge in episode 5. He was right. It worked.
Learn more about Scott at his site. - BP