Courtesy of David Heymann
INTERVIEW: David Heymann
Crafting a musical world for movies and videogames requires the help of many talented people. Composer and orchestrator David Heymann is one of these experienced behind-the-scenes types, lending his nuanced musical ear to some of the indie world’s highest profile projects. He’s quickly earned credits on a bevy of high profile games and films, including horror short film “Ghosted”, a mid-budget thriller currently making the rounds at horror short film festivals. David chatted with me and Vents to discuss his career path, how he got his start in music, and more. Oh, and for all you gamers out there — David also recently handled orchestration for none other than Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls Online. Yeah, I knew that would get your attention.
Hi David! Let’s start with the basics: how did you get your start in music? What was the moment you decided to pursue it professionally?
The first time I got in touch with music was when my parents bought me a small keyboard to see if I enjoyed playing on it. I was around ten years old at the time. With my increased interest in playing, I started taking piano lessons and later took classes in music theory. It was also the time I began composing my own music for piano. But it wasn’t until I watched movies like Star Wars that I really fell in love with orchestral film music, especially with John Williams’ music. That’s when I started to compose music not only for piano anymore but for orchestral ensembles and knew that writing music for film and other media was what I wanted to do in my life.
You’ve spent time in the industry in The Netherlands, by way of Germany — what are the main differences between the music industry in Western Europe, and your perceptions of it here in Los Angeles?
There are some significant differences which mostly have to do with the available budgets on projects. Composers and musicians in general often have to face way lower budgets in Europe than in the US. This means that music for pictures are a lot more sample based (which means they’re made via computer as opposed to live musicians) simply because there isn’t any money to pay musicians, let alone an orchestra, to record the music. On lower budget productions, that’s sometimes even the case in Hollywood. But in Europe, you might also encounter this in big-budget projects. Music budgets are getting smaller pretty much everywhere in the world nowadays. That’s why more and more Hollywood productions record their music in Eastern European countries where the fees for everyone involved in the recording session can often be a lot less than in the US.
You have an orchestration credit on one of the biggest game releases in recent years, The Elder Scrolls Online. What was it like playing a part in such a massive development operation?
Working on Elder Scrolls Online was a wonderful time. As the orchestrator, you are involved in the whole process, from receiving the music from the composer as a “midi” format, all the way to hearing it at the recording session. But of course, there’s also a lot of pressure when working on a project of this dimension. You are in charge of turning the midi files into readable scores for the musicians, and there better be no mistakes in the scores! There was so much music that needed to be recorded that we booked The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra for an entire week! But recording sessions can only be a few hours long per day, so every minute you have is valuable and costs money. But hearing the music you worked on for months for the first time played by an orchestra is always worth the work and trouble!
You were recently nominated for an award at the International Transatlantyk Film Music Competition, did you attend the ceremony? What was it like?
The whole experience around this competition and its festival was absolutely great!
I was nominated for my rescoring of the Oscar-winning animation short “The fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”. The festival actually covered all expenses to fly me in from Los Angeles to attend the ceremony in Poland. I like these ceremonies because they are one of the rare moments where composers can meet and chat with other composers, including that year’s jury members of the competition (which included Oscar-winning Jan A.P. Kaczmarek and Daniel Pemberton). It’s always great to spend time with colleagues and also get recognized for your work.
Tell us about your score for your most recent short film project, “Ghosted”, directed by Sevgi Cacina. What was your methodology and inspiration behind your music for the film?
The tension between the characters of the film reminded me a lot of the movie “Basic Instinct”, which was scored by the late Jerry Goldsmith. I analyzed his music to find out more about his composition techniques for the score, and applied it to my own music for “Ghosted”. This was especially important for the most significant scene in the film. I developed the rest of the score around that scene and music music for it. This whole scoring process was also based on my communication with the director, Sevgi, who had a very clear idea of how the music should affect the picture. As composers, our main task is always to translate the director’s ideas into musical notes. In the end, we had a traditional, orchestral sounding score with some synth elements in a few tracks.
What are your plans for the future? Are you currently scoring any projects?
I’m so busy working on trailer music at the moment that I have little time for other scoring projects! In terms of more distant future, I’ll be the lead composer on a film project in Germany in early 2018. I’m also about to start working on some more solo piano pieces and contemporary concert music!
by Giorgio Chang
Ignacio Peña creates thought provoking modern rock music and owns the stage with songs like, …