Ghiya Rushidat in my opinion is one of the rising stars within the film scoring fraternity, she has written some wonderfully lyrical music for the projects she has been involved with and has the ability to produce small intimate works as well as grand and lush scores. As well as being an accomplished pianist and composer she is also a film producer. My thanks to Ghiya for answering my questions, and also thank you to Jason Drury for his help in contacting the composer.
Can I begin by asking you, what do you think is the purpose of music in ﬁlm?
Music is a subconscious form of feeding the audience with information, emotions, and thoughts. It makes them anticipate or get shocked by an event. It allows them to connect better with characters and their stories and triggers their emotions. Music excites you in a battle scene, it gets you on your toes when a thief is about to enter a house, it makes you cry when the hero dies, or makes you laugh even better when a character says or does something funny. The art of music (or silence, meaning when to use music and when not) can be very underrated. Imagine a horror ﬁlm with horror music, and imagine the same horror ﬁlm with comedy music, see what difference it makes here? One of my favourite quotes by Star Wars (1977) director, George Lucas, who said that “the sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie”.
I understand that it was TITANIC that made you want to write music for ﬁlms, was this also the ﬁrst time that you realised that there was music in ﬁlms?
The ﬁrst time I was “aware” of the music was when I saw Little Mermaid at the age of 5. The score by Alan Menkin and the mermaid’s theme captivated me for years and I can STILL hum the melody although I have not watched the movie again since then.
Do you collect ﬁlm soundtracks at all?
Yes, I do. I am a sucker for collecting soundtracks and physical albums. I have all music on my phone but still go old school for vinyl and CDs when it comes to ﬁlm scores.
Do you come from a family background that was musical in any way?
Not at all! None of my family members (close or distant) has anything to do with music or even played an instrument. They all appreciate music and my mother even used to listen to Tchaikovsky and Mozart while pregnant with me. She used to sing to me all the time and I would play by ear whatever she sings and start improvising on it. So, I guess I am just born with it 🙂
What musical education did you receive?
I have been classically trained as a concert pianist since the age of 12. I received my Bachelor’s degree from Jordan, my Licentiate LRSM from the Royal College of Music in UK, and my Diploma D’etude from France. I also received courses in musical theory, composition, and conducting from Trinity College in UK and a couple more courses here in the US and mentorship programs in Film Scoring.
TITANIC and James Horner had a big inﬂuence upon you, but are there any other composers either from ﬁlm music or other genres of music that you would say have inspired and inﬂuenced you?
For sure, each composer has their imprint and their voice that inspires me. I listen to almost all composers and love their music and the way the convey emotions. I especially enjoy the music of Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer, Thomas Newman, Brian Tyler, Sarah Schachner, Pinar Toprak, Michael Giacchino, John Powell, Neal Acree, Rachel Portman, Alan Silvestri, and the MASTER John Williams. I can go forever with my list but I will stop here for now. What James Horner scores do you like the most and for what reasons? A Beautiful Mind cue of the Kaleidoscope and Avatar’s Jake’s First Flight are two tracks I always meditate to. They uplift me and my soul, the build-up is insane and makes me feel like I am soaring or having an out of body experience! I love his scores for almost anything, really!
When you are working out your themes for a movie project, do you use piano and then develop them into orchestral pieces, or do you use a more technical method?
Being a pianist originally, I always start with the piano. It has all the harmonies I need to “visualize” the arrangement and orchestration. Do you think that many of the ﬁlm scores today are lacking a central theme that the audience can identify with? Yes. I don’t really remember when I last left the movie theatre humming the movie’s theme.
PEN OF MIRRORS, which was a short was released in 2014, how did you become involved on the movie, and what size orchestra were you able to utilise on the score, the music is so effective within the movie, but it never overpowers, how much music was there in the ﬁlm?
Thank you! Music was 80% of the ﬁlm, it was composed to script and not to picture, so despite how challenging that might sound, it was super fun and creative. We did not have the time or the big budget to score with orchestra, but we did use Nicolas Laget’s talents in recording the ﬂute and drums, and of course mixing the score.
You at times have scored smaller ﬁlms with lower budgets with a rather large-scale score, which is something that James Horner used to do in his early career, do you prefer writing for a large orchestra as opposed to writing for smaller ensembles? I love writing. period. There are times when the score does not need more than a piano and a ﬂute, for example, and there are times when we need a large-scale orchestra. Of course any composer would DREAM of recording with orchestras all the time, as it is a different experience and very grand, it gives me Goosebumps every time I do it, but I also enjoy and embrace minimalism and the intimacy of an instrument or two depending on the musical vision of the composer and the director or producer.
When working on a ﬁlm is there any set way of approaching it for you, by this I mean do you develop a central theme initially and then develop this and maybe build the remainder of the score on it?
Working with a theme makes it easier and more structured for me, so if we have a theme I would go from there and start playing around with the arrangements and rhythms. There is no set way, but it all depends on the conversation between me and the head of the project I am scoring. Sometimes the theme is not necessary and can be a burden to the score, so we opt out of it. It all really depends on the story and its elements and what we want to convey to the audience.
Also, is there a set routine or schedule when you are scoring a ﬁlm, ie Main Title through to end credits, or do you tackle smaller cues ﬁrst?
I go with what my heart tells me, I know it is not very systematic, but I improvise and work with the scenes that speak to me ﬁrst and I take it from there. It has been working great so far as I am tackling that raw intuition and unleashing its creative vision.
You have worked on ﬁlms, tv series, documentaries and ads, is it harder coming up with a piece of music for short running time as opposed to creating a theme for a movie where you have the duration of the ﬁlm to introduce and develop it?
It is deﬁnitely more challenging when you only have 5 minutes to create a full story in music, you don’t have the luxury to do much, but it also gives you that discipline and focus on making sure you don’t just “clutter” the ﬁlm with music. Which is a great way to learn. Short ﬁlms teach us to prioritize and condense thoughts in a short period of time.
Is orchestration an important part of the composing process for you and do you orchestrate all of our music for ﬁlm?
Orchestration is everything. It is the sparkles and shimmers of the piece. You might have all the ingredients to a recipe, but you would need to know the measurements too, and this is kind of what orchestration is to me. I have orchestrated all of my projects except for two when we had a bigger budget and less time, I needed to manage time and priorities.
Do you conduct all of your scores, or do you have a conductor so that you can focus upon the actual recording of the music?
I always have a conductor, while I LOVE being with the musicians while recording, I would rather be in the control booth listening to the overall sound and making sure I have my undivided attention on the score and the sound of it through speakers.
You have recently released a compilation of your ﬁlm music, are there any plans to release any more of you ﬁlm music maybe a complete score?
Yes, I am in the works right now of releasing my ﬁrst physical album, new tracks and music of video game and ﬁlm scores, with Buy-Soundtrax, I am so excited and there you go, you are the FIRST to know now! 🙂
We look forward to that, soon I hope. You also produce ﬁlms as well as acting in them and composing the scores, is it difﬁcult trying to ﬁt in all these careers and as a producer are you more conscious about what the composer is doing on one of your productions?
The acting part was VERY random. A producer and director I work with was here in Los Angeles shooting a TV series and was like: we have a few lines for you. I went for the experience and it was fun, I would never do it again though because I suck at acting. Producing, however, is a different story. I am passionate about starting from scratch on anything. I LOVE movies and storytelling, and there is a business side of me that wants to be unleashed and the music composition career is not enough for it to blossom. I really enjoy producing movies, but composition is my main passion and career.
Going back to PEN OF MIRRORS how many times did you watch the movie before getting ideas about where music should be placed and the style of music that you would write? Have you encountered the TEMP TRACK and is this something that you think is a useful tool for composers?
As I mentioned, it was all written to script. I was handwriting it with pen and paper while spending a few hours at a lake every day. Then the picture came, and I started putting the music to it and tweaking as I go. It was a magical experience for me and the director who never even shared with me a temp track. A dream come true for every composer!!
Do you have any preferences regarding studios when you record your ﬁlm music, and have you ever recorded in London?
I am recording soon in London. My favourite studio in Los Angeles would be The Bridge, because I love working with Greg Curtis and the acoustics of the facility is impeccable. I didn’t get the chance to record there yet but hopefully soon.
What is next for you?
The album, a meditation album, two shorts, a VR game, and a feature coming. And hopefully more as days unfold.