Tag Archives: IAN ARBER



Ian Arber is a film and television composer, known for his work on “I Am Bolt” (2016), “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015), “My Name Is Lenny” (2017) and BBC2’s comedy “Quacks” (2017). Ian is an emerging talent in the film music world. With a growing portfolio of work across a variety of genres, Ian is bringing a fresh and unique compositional style to each project…



I know you started in music from the age of five, so what are your earliest memories of any music?


I began playing cello at age 5. My earliest memories of music were certainly around this time period, I used to play in very young orchestras when I was 7/8 years old. I remember being fascinated by instruments, and wanted to build a collection. I had a bass guitar, electric guitar, classical guitar, cello and piano before the age of 10.



What musical studies did you undertake?

I studied cello through my whole childhood, earning grade 8 in my teens. I studied piano from 10, then began to produce music later in my teens. At university I studied Music Technology which focussed on music production, orchestration and composition.

Were you always drawn to TV or film music, or was this something that just happened as you experimented with performing and composing?
I was obsessed with movies, and movie music as a kid. Ever since seeing E.T. I was fascinated in what music could do to picture. It wasn’t until university that I really understood what it took to make a career as a film and TV composer. I would say that I have always been drawn to working in music, and that film was a passion I wanted to pursue in combination.


You worked as Joe Kraemer’s assistant on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION, what was your duties as assistant on this?

Cheerleader. Friend. No, seriously.. I guess doing what I could to allow Joe to focus on the creative aspects of the scoring process. On such a huge movie with intense deadlines, it was important to support Joe to allow him to focus on the music.



You collaborated with Ron Scalpello the director on MY NAME IS LENNY, did he have any specific instructions or ideas concerning what style of music he though the film needed?
I loved working with Ron. He had a very clear, and collaborative approach to the Lenny score. The basic idea was for the score to represent the trauma of Lenny’s past, and building uncontrollable anger within as a result. So the score is very sound-design heavy at parts, and builds throughout to disturbing and claustrophobic climaxes. We also wanted to incorporate the sound or feeling of punching in the percussion for some of the fight scenes. I actually ended up recording the sound of myself punching my studio sofa, and layering this in with the percussion.

How many players did you use on MY NAME IS LENNY?

One. Just me. We didn’t have the budget for an orchestra, and most of the score is distorted cello, piano and bass and electric guitar, all of which I performed live.

So you perform on your score, your scores, and do you conduct at all?
I perform on every score. Even if it’s just layering some cello ambience or percussion on top of samples to bring them to life. On the BBC series ‘Quacks’ I performed every instrument in an almost fully live score. A large selection of percussion and props from the show, cello, violin, guitars and a plucked piano.


You have worked on many documentaries, I AM BOLT and MO FARAH RACE OF HIS LIFE, come to mind straight away, is it more difficult working on a documentary as opposed to writing a score for a feature film?

I haven’t actually worked on a huge amount.. Perhaps 3 or 4, but generally I love working on cinematic documentaries. I Am Bolt and Mo Farah were both very cinematic and required “big” scores. It can be tricky to work on a documentary, as generally there is a lot of dialogue, and not a lot of room for a melody. But in the case of these 2, there was plenty of space for thematic writing.

Did you have any say in compiling what music went onto the MY NAME IS LENNY and I AM BOLT soundtrack releases?
Yes I put together the tracks/suits for soundtrack release, in collaboration with the label. They sometimes suggest an order change or to perhaps remove or add another track.


Are there any composers from film music and other genres of music that you feel have influenced you?

Bernard Herrmann, John Barry, John Williams, Joe Kraemer, Muse, Radiohead.. to name a few.

You worked on all 6 episodes of QUACKS for TV, is it demanding for the composer working on a series?

Yes, the whole of series 1! 🙂 – It can be, deadlines in TV can be very tight. I was scoring an episode a week at some stage on Quacks. I’m currently working on season 2 of Netflix show ‘Medici: Lorenzo the Magnificent’ and it is a lot of music, to be written in a short amount of time. So it’s important to keep writing and stay on top of deadlines.

What was your first scoring assignment, and how did you become involved on the project?
My first project was scoring a short film for a good friend and very talented director, Matt Campbell. I think I may have dropped him a message on facebook with my portfolio back in 2009 and we hit it off. I’ve scored 3 or 4 of his films since then.

For you what is the best time to become involved on a movie, do you start at the rough-cut stage and spot the movie with the director or producer or are you given a script?
It differs from project to project. The best time, for me, is to be hired during filming, when they have some rough footage from the shoot. Ideally you’re working with some picture, and have enough time to experiment and come up with some ideas before the edit starts. Deadlines suddenly become tight after the locked cut, so ideally I’m on board a good amount of time before then.



Is it hard to break into writing for film and TV?

Very… There’s no right way into the industry. You have to create your own network and make your own luck.

Budgets at times can be rather tight, especially for the music as it is often the last thing that is considered, if the budget is low how does this effect the way in which you score a film or TV project?

Low budget usually means no live musicians. You have to be a great programmer to be a composer these days. I make the samples sound as real as possible and record a layer or two of live instruments myself.



Have you encountered the TEMP track on any of your assignments, if so did you find that it was useful to you or maybe distracting?
I don’t think I’ve ever NOT encountered the temp. Sometimes it’s useful, sometimes it’s problematic. If the temp is a rough guide for tone and instrumentation or emotion, that’s fine. But sometimes a director can fall in love with a temp track, which can be tricky for a composer. I would hate to have to do a sound-alike of a temp track.
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How do approach a project, I mean do you start with core themes and develop the score around these or do you work on smaller cues and stabs and from these develop the main themes?

This can differ.. but generally I like to work on some core themes. Once I have a few themes or ideas I and the director are happy with, I’ll begin to attack scenes. Either from scene one, or perhaps from the ‘biggest’ scene of the movie and backwards.


What are you working on at the moment?

I’m in the middle of season 2 of Medici. I’m also working on a documentary called The Story of Motown. There are a couple very exciting projects lined up for later in 2018 too.










MY NAME IS LENNY, is a compelling and fixating story about the life of Lenny McClean, who was a leading figure in the bare-knuckle fraternity in the UK, THE GUV’NOR as he liked to be called was said to have taken part in over 4000 fights and moved in circles that included the more notorious and seedy sides of the London criminal underworld. Directed by film maker Ron Scalpello, MY NAME IS LENNY stars Josh Helman in the title role, Helman of course found favour with cinema audiences in his acting roles in movies such as MAD MAX FURY ROAD and turned in a convincing and memorable portrayal of Commander Stryker in the newer editions of the X-MEN pictures. McClean became an iconic figure within the British fighting fraternity and even made an appearance in Guy Ritchie’s LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, where the fighter made the role of Barry the Baptist his own. Ron Scalpello’s movie shows us the story and background of McClean the man, and the legend he became. Composer Ian Arber has created a musical score that is just as powerful and riveting as the movie itself, Arber is a rising star in the world of film and TV music and has already fashioned memorable and commanding soundtracks for numerous projects which include, documentaries, such as I AM BOLT and SIR MO FARAH (Mo Farah no easy mile). He also acted as musical assistant to Joe Kraemer on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE-ROGUE NATION, and provided the music for BBC 2, s QUACKS. MY NAME IS LENNY, contains a soundtrack that is a combination of conventional instrumentation and synthetic or electronic sounds and samples. The opening theme, on the release MY NAME IS LENNY(suite) has to it a style and sound that is not unlike Hans Zimmer, now we all know how I feel personally about Zimmer’s scores of late, but in this case, I am using him as an example to describe to you the construction of this particular piece, it is basically a four or five note motif that is repeated over and over, with momentum gathering as the composer flesh’s out the theme adding textures and layers giving the piece a commanding persona and a sound that is powerful and haunting, the theme builds and builds gaining volume, then as quickly as it reaches its crescendo of sorts moves into a quieter and more calming interlude, in many ways it has affiliations with Zimmer’s TIME theme, from INCEPTION. As in it begins low and brooding and then opens out into an expansive piece, which, has the ability to make one want to return to it as soon as it has finished. The remainder of the score is constructed from mainly electronic performances of the composer’s compositions, which are for most of the time tense and quite urgent sounding, but there is a guitar solo and plaintive piano present at key points which adds a certain amount of melancholy and emotion to the proceedings. This hint of a theme accompanies Lenny’s girlfriend Val in the movie and is an acknowledgement of her influence upon the fighter.



There is also a rock sounding segment, with fuzzy sounding guitar, enhanced by percussion, both of which work in unison in the cue COME BACK TO ME, the two being hard to separate at times as they are complimenting each other so well. The composer does make effective use of percussive elements throughout the score which at times we are told were made up of the sounds of boxing gloves hitting their target, which is an ingenious and highly creative move on the part of the composer, I suppose this can be compared to Jerry Goldsmith’s synthesised percussion in HOOSIERS that mimicked the sound of a bouncing basketball in many of the on-court scenes that the composer enhanced. This percussive support in MY NAME IS LENNY, punctuates and underlines various instrumentation, both conventional and otherwise, giving it not only support, but also adding depth to the work as a whole and in my opinion becoming the driving heart of the soundtrack. There is a mood or atmosphere of apprehension and darkness throughout the score, that is maintained via the use of a simple guitar rift if that is the correct terminology, the composer also making affecting utilisation of distorted sounds and a grossly distorted cello which represents Lenny’s abusive stepfather, these elements add even more tension and uncertainty to the style and sound of the music, thus adding more colour and more layers to the work. The opening theme returns briefly in a few cues but does not fully develop until we reach track number, 11 THE DECIDER, when it is a more triumph sounding version, and again in the final cue THE GUV’NOR, which is slightly more subdued and emotional, piano adding a tinge of sadness and giving the final track a low key melodic foundation. Overall, I did enjoy listening to the score and discovering the musical colours and textures of Ian Arber, the composer seems to have a unique approach to scoring movies and works with a varied line up of artists, which have included the hip hop performer NAS, and David Rowntree the drummer from BLUR on his score for I AM BOLT. I look forward to more of his work, soon. Soundtrack available on Movie Score Media.