Saturday, April 2, 2011

Composer Bruce Farquharson wants to write original scores for book trailers

Interview with Bruce Farquharson, a musician and composer talented in diverse styles and experienced with scoring videos.
I'm pleased to present musician and composer Bruce Farquharson today at Her Ladyship's Quest. I think music is probably the highest form of human expression and it has been with humanity since prehistoric times. I hope to encounter more musicians as I continue this blog's media journey, but now read about Bruce and his dedication to his craft.  

1. According to your biography you had an opportunity to study music in Vienna, Austria. When was that and what was unique about studying music in such a historic location?

I had the great opportunity to study in Austria, Vienna on a scholarship in 2000. It was a unique experience because many great composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms (to name but a few) all resided there and made music there. Symphonic music is so much a part of Vienna's culture and history being a part of it is inescapable when one is there. There are concerts there all the time. It is not uncommon for many concerts and operas to take place during the week. One is submerged in symphonic music in Austria. Another unique experience is that many musicians in Austria have a tie to some of the great composers composers who lived. It is not an odd thing to find a musician who is somehow related in some way to a composer from the past. A relationship can be blood related (an acquaintance of mine was related to Bruckner). But a relationship can also be from lineage with regards to teaching. It was not uncommon to discover that someone I met had studied with a professor who had a link to a composer form the past. A composer with whom I was able to study (Kurt Schwertsik) studied with Stockhausen. So, it was a wonderful experience and opportunity to be able to not only study with Kurt Schwertsik, who is an accomplished composer, but also to now be a part of that lineage.

2. You play many instruments, but do you have a favorite instrument and why?

I began playing guitar when I was 8. I studied it in school. When I lived in L.A. and N.Y. I performed in different groups and I did recording sessions. From my studies in school as well as my experiences outside of school I have played many different styles (classical, rock, jazz, funk, blues, country, jazz-fusion, etc). In addition to my studies and my performance experience as a guitarist I have been teaching private lessons at a music store and I have taught at NVCC for the past 10+ years. Given the amount of time I've been playing guitar is the most natural for me. I believe it to be one of the most versatile instruments. It is found in so many styles, it can be played acoustically or as an electric instrument. It is portable. It can accompany, be a part of an ensemble, or be performed as a solo instrument. I love the guitar both as a listener and as a player still to this day. But the other instruments I play also give me pleasure as a player and as a listener. Piano, viola, drums and bass also provide a wealth of knowledge and experience I could not have gained by only playing guitar. The piano repertoire for Classical, Romantic and 20th Century music provides one to gain access to great music not necessarily available on guitar. By playing viola I was not only able to enjoy the instrument, but I also learned much by playing in an orchestra and a string quartet. Drums and bass have helped my overall musicianship. Ultimately, each instrument has contributed greatly to my compositional skills, for being a composer is how I think of myself first and each instrument is a valuable vehicle in which I am better able to convey and develop my ideas.

3. You graduated from George Washington University with a music degree focusing on composition. Did you always know you wanted to pursue composition or did it develop while studying music?
I received my first guitar when I was little and before I began lessons I would make my own little melodies. In my teens I played in bands where I continued to compose my own songs and instrumentals all though high school. After high school I moved to L.A. where I studied at Grove School of Music. Originally I studied guitar in the Guitar Program. While I was in the Guitar Program I took an arranging class. One of the assignments was to arrange a standard for a 5 sax soli. At Grove they believed everything a student composes/arranges needs to be heard by real players in order to get the full benefit while one is studying. So, everyone was able to hear their arrangement (and original pieces as well) in a play-down/reading. After I stood on front of the ensemble and heard my arrangement of "All The Things You Are" played I was hooked. When I finished my first year in the Guitar Program I enrolled in ACAP (Acoustic Composing & Arranging Program). After Grove came Juilliard and ultimately George Washington University (and Austria). So, I have always composed. My time at Grove was probably the period when I realized I wanted to compose for more than just my main instrument (guitar). It also made me realize I wanted to compose in other styles and as well as other forms. I don't remember ever having a desire to do anything but music, nor can I imagine not making music in the future.

4. People like to joke that conductors are just waving their arms around. Describe what a conductor is contributing and the special challenges of the position.

The conductor's role can vary depending on the ensemble that is to be lead. The overall responsibility of a conductor is to ensure the players are together when they play and to determine the tempo, dynamics and overall sound of the ensemble when it plays. But the ensemble can require more attention depending on its ability. Orchestras and ensembles with professional highly skilled players (such as the Berlin Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, NSO, etc) are able to play pieces that are very difficult. A conductor is free to seize the opportunity when having such accomplished players to focus on interpreting the music. Even though the caliber of musicianship is high in a professional ensemble rehearsal is still needed. In addition to rehearsing the orchestra with the hands the conductor can also cover many things verbally. But in a performance the conductor communicates using only hand gestures, body language, and facial expressions to indicate the beat and the tempo of the beat (how fast or slow to play as well as when to speed up or slow down) and dynamics (how loud or quiet to play) as well as mood and spirit. The role of the conductor may change if the orchestra consists of volunteers and/or amateurs. Players of limited means may be unable to play certain pieces that exceeds their ability due to difficulty. It is the conductors job to ascertain which pieces are too difficult for the ensemble. There also exists the problem that an amateur orchestra may be able to play certain sections of a piece, but unable to play other sections of a piece. In this case the conductor may need to arrange the music by recomposing the difficult section(s) so that they are playable for the orchestra. An ensembles goal is to play music, and it is the conductors job to not only ensure that the orchestra remains together, but also bring the overall sound of the piece to fruition.

5. You've expressed an interest in writing musical scores for book trailers. What qualities do you think you would bring to the challenges of the book marketing arena?

Scoring book trailers would be a wonderful experience. I believe I offer great versatility to any trailer project. I am extremely flexible and I am excited to be a part of what I believe to be a new and evolving genre. I am excited to be part of the new media - the internet, social media, e-books - to promote authors and their stories. Book trailers are a new and emerging genre that will definitely grow and being able to contribute to it as a composer is exciting. My background as an orchestral composer as well as my ability to compose in jazz, rock, funk, electronic, as well as many other genres (even eastern music) offers a trailer a wide musical pallet from which to choose. I want to create music that fits an author's unique story. If a story is set during a particular time period or culture, I would use music from that place and time, if that what the author wants. For example, a piece set in Scotland or Ireland would include harp and bagpipes. If it is a fantasy or science fiction story, I would work with the author to discover what kind of sounds would be available in that alternate world. Any project with a newly composed score will benefit due to the scores ability to contribute to the trailer's originality. Scoring for indie films for the past 5 years will serve as a strong foundation, and scoring book trailers will be just as challenging and fun as scoring an indie film. I hope to add to the authors literary story and visual story by sonically shaping a musical score that fits and elevates the vision of what the story is conveying.

6. Any additional comments?

It is not uncommon for an author to use music that is free as the score for their their trailer. But an original score can really bring the trailer to a new level. Music composed specifically for a trailer can add a deeper dimension to a trailer that freebie music just can't always get. When working with a composer an author is able to communicate and help shape the ideas of what they want to the composer.A well-done book trailer can really draw readers to a book. Original music can bring authenticity to the piece, to add to the world that the author has created. I hope that I can help writers make their trailer stand out from all the rest. It would be a pleasure to be a part of that. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your blog. I'm really exited about the merger of writing and music.

Listen to samples of Bruce's music.

Watch video clips with musical scores composed by Bruce.

Thank you for the informative interview!