At what age did you decide that you wanted to become involved in music as a career and are you from a family that has a musical background ?
Actually pretty late…I took the decision in my early twenties, after I realized I was madly in love with music! In this sense, I think I was very lucky to find it out so “early”…had I discovered it later in my life, it may have not been possible to make the effort to pursue a career. There wasn’t any musical background in my family besides my parents being huge lovers of music, in particular classical music, which means that there was always something being played on weekends! My mother loved singing and my father took piano lessons when he was young and used to play the organ in his hometown’s church, but he never completed any musical studies. But it was enough for him to teach me, initially, how to play the piano when I was 4-5 years old, since it seemed I had a small, but relatively important interest for music…and an ear for film music!
What musical education did you undertake and at what age did you commence your studies ?
I started the piano very early and my parents, initially, got me into a musical conservatory…but it seems that the pedagogy, at that time, wasn’t too much to my liking, so I quit after a few days…but I kept playing the piano, improvising and, most important, rushing back from cinemas to home to try and play back the music I had heard in the movies. One day a friend asked me to do the music for his short film and that’s how everything started…after understanding that I couldn’t do anything else and realizing that, without a proper craft, I wouldn’t be able to write the way I wanted to, I decided to quit my daily job and enter the national conservatory in Madrid…after a few (intensive) years, I finally got my degree in Composition and Orchestra Conducting.
Was it music for film and television that you were always attracted to doing?
Initially, yes. But while I was in the Conservatory, I was really lucky to have some outstanding teachers that opened my mind and broadened my scope in music and, in particular, in concert music, both as a composer and as conductor. Nowadays, I divide my working time in composing music for media, concert writing and conducting… I am very, very happy to be able to dedicate my life to music and really grateful to the effort of the talented and committed teachers that pushed me beyond my safe zone.
Olivier Vidal, one of the directors (the Film was directed by the incredibly talented Olivier and Sébastien Maggiani) had listened to my music and contacted me. We shared a couple of emails and, one day, he offered me to read the script and asked me what I thought about it. I was absolutely and immediately amazed at the sensibility of the story and its writing, and I told him I really wanted to be part of it…a few minutes later, I wrote a very short piece, which I sent him, to see if we shared the same vision of the story and the musical needs. Fortunately, we did, and that’s how everything started…after that, we tried very hard to bring the best possible quality to the production and agreed to be adamant on putting every effort into using real musicians.
What size orchestra did you utilize for the score to LE VENTS DES REGRETS ?
It was a 40 piece String Orchestra that was just starting at that time, in Madrid, called Mad4Strings, that has been growing, little by little, into a splendid orchestra for session recording. I have worked with them a few more times and it’s a real pleasure. Their musicians, besides being excellent professional players, are very easy to work with, very generous and motivated, and they worked hard to portray the textures and feelings I wanted to express in the story. Mikel Krutzaga, the mixer, did a wonderful job too.
Do you orchestrate all of your own music or do you at times because of deadlines etc have to work with orchestrators and do you think that orchestration is an important part of the composing process?
I think that Orchestration is, indeed, part of the composition process…the composer establishes the structure of a piece and the musical material, but, of course, the timbres, colors, textures and instrumentation are just as important to me as a painter’s color palette. Your choices define layers, roughness, sense of space, etc. In this sense, I have always orchestrated my pieces and have been lucky enough to been given enough time to do it…but we also need to remember that media composing is part of an industry, of team work, and, sometimes, deadlines will imply the use of a group of people, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Having worked as an orchestrator myself for other composers, it may be tricky to hand over the “duties” and allow other orchestrators to bring creativity and excellent ideas to a project, but I’m sure that, when the time comes, I’ll be more than happy to work with some of the incredibly talented orchestrators that are out there!
LE VENTS DES REGRETS is quite a powerful and haunting movie, how many times did you see the film before you started to form ideas about what style of music you would write and also where you would place the music to best serve the movie?
Most of the times, I need to see the films before being able to write anything, in order to set up pace, textures and music that will fit the actors and the editing. But, in this case, it was the first time I heard music in my head while I was reading the script. I understood that, in this particular story, music shouldn’t come out of the film itself, but rather, to delve into the emotions that moved the two main characters, the boy and the elder…the present and the past. And, in this sense, I wanted the music to act as part of their own memories; both characters have repressed memories, so music couldn’t be intrusive, but, still, always there, impossible to forget, knocking at their doors, but seeking pardon instead of punishment (in contrast with the flashbacks of the trial where there is a real punishment being sought).
Were the producers of the film involved in the musical side of things, by this I mean did they have specific ideas that they related to you before you began to work on the project?
I was given a great deal of freedom and I am deeply thankful for that. There was music temped but I asked to see the film, initially, without the temp and be able to bring in a fresh idea…we agreed that, if my idea was far from the temped tracks, I should stick to the temp tracks…fortunately, it seems I was close enough to their approach, so I was given green light to propose music. The only indication Olivier gave to me was to bring in light at the end of the tunnel. To show that there is love in these characters. That was the moment I understood that, in a film where Judgment was at the core of the linear story, music shouldn’t act as a judge, but, rather, as the bringer of peace and pardon that only time can give. There is this only moment, in the final part of the film, where the characters hug each other, in silence and then go separate ways. To me, that was the only moment where they could express their feelings a little more…for a composer, to be able to score something that, on screen, is featured only through music and the performance of the actors, without any words, is the ultimate present for a film composer.
Were you involved in the preparation of the compact disc release of LE VENTS DES REGRETS ?
Initially, yes, but Godwin Borg’s enthusiasm was so big that it was a pleasure letting him take care of everything, and I thank him for that! The director, Sébastien Maggiani also created a beautiful cover and we decided to use it!
The score is quite a short one so you have also included on the compact disc other music, can you tell us about this ?
Godwin and I thought that it could be a good moment, given the small amount of music for the Vent des Regrets, to release some music from other projects I had done for Film and TV (mostly music from short films and documentaries) that we both liked and were fond of and otherwise, would have never seen the light of day.
Your style of music on the CD release is varied at times intimate and delicate and also it includes grand and quite epic sounding pieces, what composers either classical, contemporary or names from film music would you say have influenced you ?
I firmly believe in freedom of style…music should be, ultimately, music…if there is any such thing as a signature writing, for a composer, it should be embedded into the music and, probably, it should be able to be identified over the years, no matter what style the piece is written…if you listen to Chopin’s fugue exercices, you can clearly see where his soul was trying to break the rigid structure of the fugue, and it’s highly entertaining to be able to see that inside a defined writing style. And, at the end, the ultimate gift for a composer is to be able to express himself both in pure, concert work but, also, throughout musical styles. In this sense, since, inevitably, we all have musical references that influenced our musical writing, I would certainly mention, in film music, John Williams, Morricone, Michael Kamen, Alberto Iglesias, Jerry Goldsmith, Basil Poledouris or Hans Zimmer, among many others and, certainly, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Ligeti or living composers such as Aaron Jay Kernis or Helmut Lachenmann.
It says on your CV that you are also an actor, what came first the acting or your music composition, or by doing both roles does it give you an insight into the actors side of things and allow you to maybe create a more intimate score or musical support etc ?
Haha! Funny you found that out!! I was, indeed, initially trained as an actor, since I thought, at that time, that I wanted to express myself through words and body, not necessarily through music. Although I miss sometimes that highly rewarding experience, I think I can see much deeper inside me through music and, most important, to be able to express it a little better. But I think that the process of creating the “musical” characters can follow a very similar approach to the acting process. I like to think that, because I do understand what the actor or actress is going through in a scene, music can boost his/her performance or reflect a specific feeling that can follow his/her own acting or, on the contrary, play a double or a different role…music, in that sense, can work as another element in the acting process…how it helps to understand the story is up to the role given (or decided) by music in the context of a movie…it can be used in a very subtle way, almost imperceptible or, on the contrary, overstated…that is why understanding the psychology of filmmakers is important….to be able to communicate with them properlyin order to understand what they want…as film composers, we should act as musical translators of the director’s ideas and adapt to their way of making movies.And, in this sense, I certainly think that my experience in acting and in the film industry has helped me a lot…but, apart from that, it also helps with other musical experiences, such as conducting, where, ultimately, you are a communicator and the link between the audience, the musicians, and the composer embedded into the performed score. The more you are able to communicate properly with your body and onstage, the more rewarding experience will be for everybody.
Do you listen to other film scores at all or do you buy soundtrack albums by other composers ?
The paradox of film composers probably comes from the fact that we don’t have a lot of time to listen to music! When you are on deadlines, you certainly don’t want to listen to other people’s music, but rather to focus on your own. The rest of my time I am rehearsing concert work, so I spend much more time listening (or performing) concert music and, very randomly, listen to soundtracks…which is odd, since I grew up as a lover of film music…but, as I said, that’s probably the paradox of the film composer and, as far as I know, it happens the same to my film composer colleagues!
How do you work out your musical ideas, do you use piano or modern methods such as synths or computer when working on a project ?
I like different approaches…each project has its own process…depending on the “feel” I get from the project, an approach or another should be followed…if it’s more experimental as in the track “No” from the album, there is no need to go, initially, to the piano (where I usually start). Other times, I would write directly into a score or, especially under tight deadlines, I usually work directly on my computer’s DAW.
Having started, as many others, with computers and, having, later, been able to write in an “old school” way, I can have fun being able to jump from pencil to technology and vice versa.
Do you approach a project in a set fashion, ie; do you create a central theme at first and then build the score around this or maybe work on smaller cues and then build the central theme from these ?
As I mentioned before, every project has its own process, so I don’t think that there should be a “method” to be followed. Sometimes you begin with a texture, a color, an energy in form of a pulse…other times it’s a musical gesture and, others, it can be a theme that will be used and developed throughout the project. I initially wrote a lullaby for this story…since the two characters were, deep inside, nothing more than children in need of a very primal reassurance (and the fact that the are some flashbacks involving parents). And I thought that there was nothing more reassuring, for a baby, that a lullaby sung by their parents while they go to sleep.
Since I, obviously, needed to adapt the thematic material into the picture itself, the lullaby ultimately was transformed into a “broken” lullaby, whose initial statement is featured on the solo cello, as if the theme would never be fully completed…until that final moment, where the characters hug each other and say goodbye. The use of cello, instead of a voice, was because of the sound I needed…a cello can be highly expressive in the upper register, like a human voice, but the sound of the wood brings in something more unearthly and old, and I needed that for this specific story.
You have worked in TV motion pictures, the theatre and also video games, is there a vast difference between these when working on the music ?
Absolutely! Deadlines and production process are pretty different. But what has always surprised me the most is that, on TV, it’s very difficult to be experimental, since a great care is taken to be sure that the product meets the audience’s target. The wider the target is sought, the less “personal” you are usually allowed to be. But that’s where the challenge lies…to be able to communicate and to help tell a story even with limited tools and stylistic approaches.
You also compose for the concert hall, I know the art of composing is never easy, but is writing for the concert hall maybe more relaxed than writing for film as there are no specific timings etc ?
There are certainly deadlines for concert work as well! So no, writing for the concert hall is by no means more relaxed…given the pure nature of concert work, music should be more experimental than music for work. So yes, in can be more fun and more rewarding, some times, than writing programmatic music, but not necessarily easier or more relaxed!
What is next for you ?
I am currently writing music for 2 documentary series and will attend in a few weeks a premiere of a choral work written by me, currently finishing writing a concert piece for solo flute that I’ve been commissioned, performing in concerts, conducting sessions and concert work, teaching, in talks for some possible projects both TV and Feature Film…having fun!!