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Alt Notes is a series looking at another alternative to the alternative music scene in Ireland. With musical diversity at its height around the country, this series is dedicated to bringing the contemporary and experimental musicians and composers of Ireland to your attention.
Branching away from the more experimental, this week I got to speak with film and media composer Jake Morgan [pictured above with director Baz Luhrmann]. Morgan’s music and style is a twist of drama, emotion and beauty, evoking nearly a visual element to the sound, making Jake’s music perfect for its intentions. His filmic landscapes create an extra dimension beyond what is on screen into a world beyond the visual, all shaped by the music. Jake’s imaginative approach to music is discussed in this insight into the film composer’s craft.
How would you describe your music?
Dramatic, animated, colourful, story-telling, imagination-stimulating, emotion-kindling and texturally varied. I believe I was destined to be a film, TV and games composer. A composer for any type of visual media! Music that delves into triggering or inspiring an emotion, or many emotions in an audience excites me! Or giving life to something, with music.
For example, providing a pace or tempo to a high-octane chase scene, or introducing a character with a theme that totally captures their essence, spirit and personality all at once. Have you ever been walking while listening to music and somehow it becomes your life soundtrack? And you’re immersed in a world, your world, where almost everything seems to fall perfectly into a bar structure and operate at the same tempo as the beat? It’s things like these that made me want to write music like this in the first place.
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What distinguishes you from other composers?
What distinguishes me from other musicians in general is my ability to meet deadlines, my experience and knowledge in music technology, my ability to collaborate with people of diverse disciplines and, obviously, my musical voice and style. I also share similarities like owning a phone full of ridiculous recordings of me singing draft themes and ideas, not being able to fully focus on a conversation while in the company of loud music and drumming on tables when I have nothing better to do.
What made you want to start composing?
I committed my life to music and started composing because I have a dream, I have a fascination and I have a yearning to grow into the person I want to become.
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What kind of opportunities have you encountered as a film composer?
This summer, I studied film composition in Bulgaria under the mentorship of acclaimed Hollywood composer, Maestro Christopher Young. There I got the opportunity to compose for many different ensembles, including a 40-piece orchestra. Next year, I will have the privilege to have my music performed along side Christopher Young’s in a programme touring internationally. The music I wrote in Bulgaria was all recorded in Radio Varna Studios, Bulgaria by internationally renowned recording engineer, Debbie Smith. Derek Gleeson conducted the cues and Christo Pavlov was the musical director/supervisor.
Is there any of your work being performed soon?
One of my new compositions, ‘Jango’ (a tango), will debut in a concert called ‘Buttons and Bows’. A concert for accordion and double bass (performers: Dermot Dunne and Malachy Robinson) taking place in Lutheran Hall, 24 Adelaide Road on the 22nd of October. On November 13, Irish Composers Collective will be running a music exhibition to showcase the work of Irish composers. The concept is that ICC are “taking over” the Irish Architecture Archive (45 Merrion Sq) and in each room there is a separate installation. I am the organiser of the ‘Reinterpreting Film Through Music’ installation.
The ‘Reinterpreting Film Through Music’ installation comprises of six composers (myself included) writing an underscore for six distinct clips of film. Each individual composer was assigned a different instrumentation and the music they write will be preformed by Kirkos ensemble. This music will then be recorded and synced to the film material which, will then be projected onto a wall in the Takeover building. The goal of the composers was to re-score an existing film clip in their own unique style. Luke Morgan, Alex Harrison and Bob Gallagher are the filmmakers who contributed a helping hand by donating some film footage. The composers taking part in this installation are: Conor Buckley, Shell Dooley, Stephen Kavanagh, Ena Brennan, Matthew Whiteside and myself.
I was also asked to be a part of a film music programme that will be toured internationally in places such as Harbin – China, Plovdiv and Varna – Bulgaria, in 2016. On the programme I am sandwiched between Tchaikovsky and Christopher Young. In other news, my website was very recently launched.