COMPOSER SPOTLIGHT - Benjamin Cook
Welcome back to composer spotlight, the blog series where we talk with emerging composers from across the world about their creative practices.
We are pleased to bring you this interview with Benjamin Cook, A UK-based composer. Ben recently collaborated with us on some of his recordings, working with musicians from our string section to record his compositions, Lunar, Nostalgia and Blossoms. Read on below to check out the interview!
1 - How would you describe your creative process?
One of my favourite quotes is from the renowned composer John Williams, who perfectly epitomises how I create music:
“ Writing a tune is like sculpting. You get four or five notes,
you take one out and move one around, and you
do a bit more and eventually, as the sculptor says,
in that rock there is a statue, we have to go find it."
When I first read this, I felt that he perfectly described what it means to be an artist. I find it very freeing and rewarding just sitting on a piano and composing, sometimes there is nothing better than just sitting down to your piano and letting you fingers do the rest.
Strangely some of my favourite compositions have come from random moments on the
piano. Usually It will be a simple melody idea that crops out of nowhere and when this
happens everything I am doing stops and I must find the gem underneath the rubble!
For composing to picture it is somewhat different. Most importantly I like to have a good
rapport with the director of the film so that he can trust me with his vision. The hardest part is finding the tone of the film and subsequently what the director envisions for the film,once this is found everything else falls into place. This can be the longest part of the
creative process but once it is found with the right instrumentation/themes/structure etc,then finishing the rest of the score is an easier process. After that I compose a mock up score with VST instruments so that the director has a clear idea of how the film will sound and continue from there.
2 - You have released some new tracks over the last few weeks. What can you tell us about them?
My own artistic work is music I am really proud to have released. So far In 2022 I have
released three classical music tracks called Blossom, Nostalgia and Lunar. It’s a collection of music that I wrote during the Covid pandemic where I finally found the time to write music for myself. Being a film composer I am very used to writing music for other peoples stories in either feature films, short films or adverts so it was nice to finally release music under my own name. It’s music that is inspired by some of my favourite artists such as Max Richter and Ludovico Einaudi with my own personal spin on them.
Blossom is a piece where I imagine you are transported to Japan with cherry blossoms
floating around you as the music twists and turns to encapsulate the spinning flowers in
the wind. Nostalgia perfectly reflects the warmth and the sentimental feeling of coming
home and finally Lunar emphasises the loneliness of the moon, fluctuating between melancholy and ending with enlightening hopefulness. Each piece I have released has a distinct time slot in my life and I cannot wait to release more music this year. For these
tracks I was very lucky to work with the Northern Film Orchestra, I was delighted with the outcome overall and I hope to work with them again in the near future.
Ben's debut single, "Blossom".
3 - Do you find there to be a difference In your process when writing music for picture vs a standalone piece?
Yes I find that when I write music for someone else’s project, you have to take your ego
out of the equation. It's important to respect that this Director or Producer probably has
worked on this project longer than you so it’s important to listen to what they want and not for you to decide what is best all of the time. On the other hand it is also important to stand your ground in a creative decision that you believe works well for the project but also be respectful in the process. It’s a fine line that you get better with communicating as your career progresses.
My biggest difference between the two is in the way I work towards deadlines. I firmly
believe that deadlines work and some of my best music has come from the extra pressure that a deadline brings. This is why some creating some of my standalone pieces have taken me longer to finish.
Ben listening in the studio.
4 - What is something that inspires you?
My new year’s resolution this year was to attend more live music events and for me this is something that inspires me continuously. I recently went to go and see film music
performed at the Royal Albert Hall by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and afterwards I
came out of it creatively renewed. I have also attended a lot more Jazz gigs this year as
London offers some of the best musicians in the most unique venues around. Since the
Covid pandemic we forget how important seeing live music can be for us musicians so it's important to regularly attend live events.
Experiences are another form of inspiration. This summer I will be travelling around Asia
for 3 weeks, seeing and undergoing so many new things will hopefully inspire me
musically when I come back home.
Ben during his recording session with NFO, tracking strings for his pieces Blossom, Luna and Nostalgia.
4 - What advice would you have for composers who want to release their music on streaming platforms?
If you are starting out do not release an album/EP first! I think the music industry has
changed and we are in a world were everything is on demand and we need constant
entertainment. I personally believe that composers/artists should be regularly releasing
music as singles to start with before they release an album or an EP. Too many amazing
up and coming artists are releasing all of their music at once but they don’t realise the
general public forget easily, so after a month or so the audience is asking what next? It’s
imperative to keep the fans engaged on your journey.
Next I think it is to do your research into music business. As artists we all forget that
releasing music is as much learning the business and marketing side to it than just
releasing music and hoping for the best! Before I released any music I read books,
articles, watched seminars about the best practices in the music industry and am still doing it now. So it’s important to keep up with the latest music marketing trends to stop you from falling behind.
Statistics are also not the most important thing. We all do it and worry that other artists
have more streams or more fans than us, but we are all in very different parts of our
journey so I think its crucial not to compare yourself to other artists and enjoy the process.
We hope you enjoyed checking this post!
For more from Ben you can check out his website and socials via the links below:
Contact - firstname.lastname@example.org
Soundcloud - https://soundcloud.com/nforchestra
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/northernfilmorchestra/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/northern_film_orchestra/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/NFOrchestra