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Composer Spotlight: Adele Etheridge Woodson

Welcome back to the NFO blog. Today we have a fresh instalment in our composer spotlight series, where we look into the creative practices of emerging composers around the globe. This time we are pleased to feature American Composer Adele Etheridge Woodson. Take a look below to check out the interview and learn about Adele's creative process.

How would you describe your composition process?

Before writing anything, I always ask myself: what story am I telling with this piece of music? I then give myself parameters by deciding the instrumentation and general style beforehand. I find this helps me focus by already knowing what type of ensemble I am writing for. I like to spend the first few days experimenting without pressure, finding themes and motifs I enjoy.

I return later with fresh ears to flesh out those melodic ideas, adding harmonic material, and finalizing what colors and textures I want (warm/hazy strings? Sharp, cold percussion? Full ensemble vs soloists? etc). I like to stay disciplined and write every day, but not so disciplined that my work feels forced and mechanical. I really love allowing myself time to feel inspired and creatively motivated. How does your process differ when composing for picture vs a stand-alone piece of music? When composing for picture, my music is heavily inspired by the visuals. I like to assign instruments and motifs to characters/actions, and of course the music is usually tightly conformed to specific timecodes and hits. So when I am given a picture, I already have a map laid out for where the music needs to be, where it needs to hit, and what emotion it needs to convey. When composing stand-alone works, I am almost overwhelmed by the options. There's no picture, so I can do anything! To narrow my ideas down, I like to sketch out musical ideas on paper first -- almost a type of journaling, where I write whatever comes to mind. By getting it all out, I can look at my ideas, and decide which one is worth pursuing. Then, the writing process is pretty similar to how I work on films -- it's all about telling a story!

Do you have any favourite instruments, sounds or plugins that you find yourself going back to time and time again? Strings, strings, and more strings! I love using Spitfire Audio's Sacconi Strings/Albion One Strings, Fluffy Audio's Trio Broz cello, and of course recording myself on my violin. I think strings are so versatile and can elevate any composition. I also am a big fan of Valhalla VintageVerb and Valhalla Room – I probably use those on everything.

What tips would you have for new composers who are working with directors for the first time? Remember that the film is the director's baby. They have been working on this project for much longer than the composer has, with all of the ups and downs of the creative and production process. You may encounter directors who feel super confident, and others who may need some extra emotional support. Always be a friendly face, be communicative, and be confident (or at least, pretend to be confident) in your abilities as a composer.

The best tip I ever learned: ask the director to describe what they want for the score in terms of emotions and storytelling. It's usually easier for them to communicate what they want that way, instead of feeling as if they need to speak in musical terms to you. And remember: you were hired for a reason! You got this!

Adele is active on Instagram where she posts videos of herself creating music.

You're based in the USA. Do you notice any cultural differences between composers from North America and other countries? Most composers who work within the Western musical tradition (read: the White European canon) tend to compose in a similar manner -- at least in terms of Western music theory, chord progressions, instrumentation, scales, etc. So if anyone is like me, who grew up in the classical world, I'm sure we all have more similarities than differences, no matter our geographical location. Composers from regions and musical practices that are outside the Western Classical realm (such as Indigenous/Native composers, Latin American composers, and South Asian Karnatik musicians) offer amazing, versatile bodies of work and introduce non-Western instruments, scales, and rhythms into the world of film scoring. I love seeing how composers from all over the world interpret visual storytelling! For more from Adele you can check her out on the links below: Official website: Instagram/Facebook/Twitter: @adelecomposer We hope you enjoyed this blog post!


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