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From Sound Algorithms to Showbiz: Discussing the Music Studio with Raúl Feliz

We recently interviewed international music studio whiz, Raúl Feliz. Born in Mexico City in 1992, and eventually moving to Los Angeles, Feliz has since started making waves in multiple facets of the industry. In the world of entertainment, he has worked with Jeff Russo, the Emmy-award winning composer behind FX’s Fargo and HBO’s The Night Of. He also has a strong academic/research interest in music, experimenting with algorithmic composition after an invitation to work at the “Open Music Initiative”, a joint Berklee-MIT music industry think tank. We interviewed Raúl so that he could share his broad perspective with all of us.

What made you decide to move to Los Angeles? What advantages does the city offer you? 

The whole concept of the rite of passage of “heading out West” in American culture is quite appealing to me. “The West” is seen as this land where orthodoxy does not reign supreme. Re-invention of art, business or lifestyles is celebrated and encouraged. Because of this, I think Los Angeles’s eclectic nature is the perfect spot for a person with as diverse interests such as myself.

While composing for different studios, you have maintained an interest in music research, experimenting with algorithmic composition. Do you see this as a new frontier in music that people should be excited for? 

Absolutely! I believe that as our interaction with technology continues to grow, so does the demand for artistic forms that speak the language of this interactivity. Algorithmic composition is a great way to create music structures that become responsive and adapt to user interface. The philosophical and mathematical problems behind cracking the cognitive element of music are highly enticing and we see breakthroughs almost every month. I believe the whole way we listen to music is changing rapidly and extremely exciting ideas are just around the corner.

Could you describe your experience working on the educational games created by Televisa in Mexico?

I am a big believer in the positive role of video games as educational tools. I was glad to take Televisa as my client for this game. It was a little difficult given this was my first time working in children’s music. That doesn’t mean it is “simple” or uninspired music; young minds are extremely adept at receiving high complexity inputs. Overall I would way I tried to score the games in a way that would create a stimulating and memorable atmosphere for them to learn the lessons these games were trying to teach.

Your sound design skills in the studio have allowed you to be versatile and work in many facets of the music industry. However, on your own time, do you have an instrument/genre you enjoy playing most? 

It is somewhat of a tricky question, because sound design is such an integral part of my playing as well. I love sampling elements of my life, be it a conversation or chopsticks over plastic from my lunch, and then mapping them on a keyboard to create music with them. Outside of this “experimental” world I love playing Jazz guitar, I’m a big fan of 70’s performers such as Joe Pass.

Your primary interest is in narrative art, but have you developed any interest in composing independently or doing live performance? 

Yes, I’m currently working on a string quartet that is completely independent from any form of narrative frame. It is a way of instantiating abstract musical thought in a familiar setting, that of European classical music. I also love designing interactive musical structures that can be controlled via motion or gameplay.

Along with composing for TV/Film and video games, you’ve also worked at a music-focused academic think tank. Is it hard to transition between these different mediums? 

Not really, at the end of the day music is nothing but a system. It can be understood and adapted to any sort of activity. Having said that, the communities in those two worlds are extremely different. It becomes much more of a social challenge than a musical one. Conversations that are interesting in an academic setting will get you yawns in the entertainment world, and elements of composition in entertainment are often disregarded as shallow by the academic community. Personally, I love living in between these worlds.

With all of your international success, what advice would you give to up and coming musicians and producers in today’s industry? 

I think the answer is to find an element within your field that you are completely baffled by. A question or a field that calls you to explore it independently from any employer or project. As your understanding of it increases, people start to notice and you are called to participate in projects and join teams. Find a community that values the work that you do and do whatever you can to join it (i.e move cities, participate in contests, join online communities).It’s really hard at the beginning; I’m still a very young composer and learning the conduct codes and work practices for different fields is tough work, but I believe always being willing to learn and looking to the future is the best driving force to achieve an artistically fulfilling working life.

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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