It’s been two years since the last time we interviewed you. What have you been up to in that time?
I’ve done a few big projects, including two feature films, an animated television pilot, and the music for the gondola ride, a short film and the upper terminal exhibition at Banff National Park’s Sulphur Mountain.
You’re the composer of the upcoming CBC series Equus: Story of the Horse. Tell us a little bit about this series.
Equus is Niobe Thompson and I’s second major collaboration since The Great Human Odyssey. Along the same lines as Human, it tells the anthropological story of how horses helped man shape history. Stunning visuals and fascinating science are again weaved into an incredible story arch that lends itself to some incredible scoring moments.
What drew you to this series to want to compose music for it?
Well, the opportunity to work with Niobe again was first and foremost. There is something that is hard to put in words about our relationship — and quite frankly, the second time around was easier since we knew how each other worked. I think for any composer, the opportunity to work with the resources we had — the orchestra, the choir, the organ, the ethnic instruments, is a dream. Don’t get me wrong, we still didn’t have a Hollywood blockbuster budget and our budget was tight, but the opportunity to work at that level is a gift for any composer. Third, is that the mini-series is visually stunning, and to be able to write music to it is awe inspiring. All this put together makes it a no-brainer for any composer!
What was it like working with members of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Procoro Canada?
I grew up in Edmonton, and actually had my first orchestral start with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s Young Composer Project (when I was fifteen I got to write a piece for the orchestra, and that experience was pivotal in my career). I have a lot of friends in the orchestra, and there’s quite no feeling like going into a room with friends to make music. The same thing with Pro Coro Canada. They were so warm and colloquial our first time around, I relish any opportunity I get a chance to work with them. And on top of all of that, working at the Winspear Centre is an acoustical wonder. I think it is one of the best sounding halls in the world!
This is your latest collaboration with director Niobe Thompson. What’s it like working with him?
As I mentioned before, I think Niobe and I’s relationship has gotten to a point where we are also good friends as well. I so respect what Niobe does as a filmmaker, and he gives clear direction without being a micromanager. But he’s also open to suggestion: I think that the most successful directors are the ones who realize that they are not going to bring their project to the finish line by themselves, and they are open to suggestions on how to make their project better. We both bring a lot of self-deprecating humor to the table, but we both understand and respect the collaborative nature of the filmmaking process and that’s what makes us into a great team.
What’s the live orchestral recording process like?
It’s intense! I think on top of worrying about how good the music sounds, you’re worried about budget and project management. It’s so important that you have a team that you trust in place. That includes engineers, an extra set of ears in the recording booth, library and music prep staff, and assistants. I can’t tell you how important that team is — on a project like this, there is so little room for mistakes, and to have people who understand how high stakes it is, is crucial. That being said, I don’t think there is anything more rewarding than standing in front of an orchestra, conducting and hearing your own music for the first time in a fantastic sounding hall. It doesn’t get better than that.
What’s a day in your life like outside of composing music?
Ha! So unglamorous! We just recently had our second child a few months ago, so there are a lot of late nights with little sleep, just like when I’m on a project! I’m a hockey player and a rower, so there are a lot of late nights and early mornings in my itinerary. I do a fair bit of advocacy work as well — while I’m still on the Board of Directors, I recently finished a second term as Second Vice President of the Screen Composers Guild of Canada. I also act as a Program Advisor for the Slaight Music Residency at the Canadian Film Centre.
What’s next for your career beyond Equus?
Good question! I’m starting some work on a video game, and I’ve got a couple of features that are getting ready to go to the camera that I’m attached to.
If you could compose music for any established movie/television franchise, what would it be and why?
That’s a great question. I’m a big sci-fi geek — I’d love to get a shot at doing the next Star Trek series. Really, anything that I get a chance to work with an orchestra, I’m game for!
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