Studying both music and audio provides a wide range of opportunities. Over the past 20 years, the business has definitely morphed into something that from a certain perspective is incomprehensible. However, I can assure you that at its core, the music business hasn’t changed one bit and still offers a ton of work, especially if you’re a music composer. At some point, technology is going to be able satisfy just about any need you have of a session musician. I feel for session artists, because they’ve dedicated their entire life to the instrument. That said, automation is something every industry deals with especially when it regards a single task like playing an instrument. Music composers on the other hand are far from being substituted. You can sample a sound, a riff, or just about anything, but you can’t sample original thought. A music composer’s job is to write the music, not to play it. Until Judgement Day happens, machines will only be as sophisticated as the person who creates them.
I started playing the drums at 16 in Texas. I started studying at 18 in Sicily. I started recording the band at home with Creative at 19. One day, we went to a guy who had proper equipment at home and recorded a few songs. I was curious to know if Creative was really the best I could have at home, so he gave me the number of a friend who introduced me to Cubase VST. I was blown away. This was my introduction to the world of music production. I quickly realized that with a PC and Cubase at home, I could record my own ideas with a classical guitar I had around the house. The thought of becoming a rock star was starting to sound realistic, just until I started to see how things worked behind the scenes when recording tracks. Perhaps, I’m a techie at heart, maybe it was that perfect combination of art and science, in any case, I fell in love with audio engineering and without hesitation, enrolled in the next course at the SAE Institute in Milan and 6 months later embarked on a journey that I could have never foreseen even a year earlier. The abstract art combined with the production process laid the solid foundation that I would later refer to in everything I did creatively.
There’s never been a better time to work in music composition. The writing process is as simple, quick and as intuitive as it’s ever been. You have sound libraries and programs that will give you a perfectly orchestrated segment, or even arpeggio’s at the stroke of just one key. Loops are now impeccable right out of the box and virtually every single element in a band has been sampled, including vocals. Individually, everything sounds amazing. But what happens when you put them altogether and they don’t fit? And what happens when everyone is using the same libraries? Ultimately, the downside which in turn becomes a deal breaker, can be originality. Though I am a child of the digital era, and I encourage new composers to take advantage of the technology that is available today, that once wasn’t, I also encourage upcomers to take a good look at the basics, and start from there.
Great samples on the go aren’t really that customizable. At that point, you are basically flying autopilot and crossing your fingers that the client won’t ask you to modify some aspect of the composition or sounds. This is where the basics still hold up today, and in fact end up being the actual methods and techniques you use. Library riffs, segments and grooves are great for quick mockups and drafts, but at some point, you’ll need to make changes and that’s when you will be grateful that you know how to write those measures yourself.
That in itself, is what they ask me for when I get calls…original music. I might be requested to follow a similar tone or adapt a certain sound, but today, if a client wants a clone of another piece of music, a lot of times is actually easier to simply get the rights to specific music rather than hire a composer. The second aspect of my work that is requested, is the thematic attention. Believe it or not, themes are still desired even if just for marketing purposes. If this is a new concept to you, I’ll give you a brief explanation. Using musical themes to underline certain characters, or to give ones film an identity is not fundamental, however, when it is used, people can’t forget it. Here are some easy examples: Back To The Future, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and The Godfather. My personal favorite of all time is Danny Elfman’s theme to Beetlejuice. As I said, these are easy examples that are unforgettable. If you heard them…basically anywhere, you would immediately recognize them. Thanks to Hollywood (I suppose), orchestral music breaks away from classical, and becomes pop. Not only does pop sell, but in many cases with films, it better compliments a well written story line. In essence, films aren’t expressing a million ideas without a point. Instead they are telling even a very complex story that somewhere down the line, finds itself funneling towards a hypothetical end. It’s nice when you have a reoccurring theme that seems to fit into all the aspects of your story, as complex as your story may be. Look at this for example: I love you. I love you. I love you. By emphasizing a different word, you’re saying something different, but the words are the same, and the common theme is always love, it’s the action. So, if you write some music based on love, the story will probably fit together. Whereas, if you write something based on I or you, you’re being too specific to the character. With few exceptions, movies aren’t cherished for the characters, movies are remembered for the story that involved those characters.