INTERVIEW: Composer Pietro Milanesi

LA-based Pietro Milanesi wears many hats as a film composer, musician, and engineer. His list of credits is long, and his experiences are varied. His philosophy and outlook on composing are unique and focused, and one of his favorite film scores is “How To Train Your Dragon”. After hearing from a friend about all that this young man is doing, I decided to find out more…


You’re originally from Italy, but also have significant credits here in the USA — can you describe the main differences between your experiences in the industry overseas versus in the states?

Most of the movies and shows that get made here have an international market and get broadcasted overseas, while Italy is mainly a closed market. Consequently, in Italy the budgets are much smaller and production companies are less willing to invest in new projects.

When I started in Italy I was still in college. There were often times where I was the youngest person in the studio and I had a lot to learn. By the time I was ready to move to the US, I had some experience and credits under my belt.  I’ve broadened and expanded my skillset and I feel I have many more opportunities to grow as a composer ever since relocating to the US.

Do you have a favorite film score or composer? What do you think makes for a good musical accompaniment as far as film and other visual media?

I have many favorites. How To Train Your Dragon by John Powell is one of them. It exemplifies many of the aspects of what I believe makes a great score. Important aspects of a successful score include themes, orchestration, originality and a fantastic production, all of which can be seen throughout Powell’s score.

I think a score should serve the movie it was made for.  As a composer sometimes it’s hard to remember it’s about the movie and not about the music. That said, I believe in most cases it’s possible to write music that can stand and have value on its own, while at the same time be functional to the movie.

What’s the most difficult part of your job as a composer and engineer?

The business side is not easy! Ideally I would like to just work on the music and not worry about deals and contracts. I think it’s a common struggle for many musicians.

Do you have any experience producing pop music? Who’s your favorite singer right now (don’t lie!)?

I venture in the pop world from time to time. The last big project I did was the recording and mixing of the debut album by Norwegian singer-songwriter Amanda Bäcklin. I have lots of pop songs waiting to get recorded. I’m looking to do it more often if the occasion arises, but film scoring and pop music are two separate careers and I’d rather focus on the former at the moment.

Adele is extremely talented. They’re all very different, but I like The Weeknd, Bon Iver and Bruno Mars — they’re some of my favorite singers and performers at the moment.

Based on your experiences in the industry, where do you think the business of film music is heading?

Film music encompasses music of the past, classical to rock ‘n’ roll, as well as whatever is the new trend, so the sounds used in scores will keep evolving.

Regarding the business side, we are seeing in recent years how companies like Amazon and Netflix are creating new markets and different opportunities for composers. The videogame industry is now bigger than the movie industry, and many composers are finding their path scoring for interactive mediums like VR & AR instead of linear ones. I don’t know what the future will look like, but I believe music will continue to play an important role regardless of the technological changes that are happening.

How often do you collaborate with other musicians?

I try to collaborate as much as I can. I work mostly with singers and songwriters, because the human voice is the only thing I can’t recreate with virtual instruments and my experience in songwriting is limited.

Whenever I get the chance to get in the studio and record live players, it is always a wonderful experience. As much as I like to be by myself writing, the energy and the unique kind of excitement I get when I’m in a room full of musicians playing is much more powerful.

Do you have an interesting story from the studio you’re able to share?

Once I had to record a rapper and he arrived to the studio quite unprepared. We only had a couple hours to get a solid take from him. I wrote the song, including most of his lyrics, so I knew how it should have sounded. The rap part was tight and there were a lot of words to fit in, so I ended up rapping in English over the talkback to the rapper and had him sing the line I just did back in the microphone to record it. It was quite interesting but the result came out great, and his flow was awesome!

by Giorgio Chang

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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