COMPOSER SPOTLIGHT: Lukas Lindner
Welcome back to Composer Spotlight, the blog series where we talk with composers across the globe to discuss their creative process and tips for success. In this edition, we were delighted to speak with German composer Lukas Lindner, who had some very detailed and insightful thoughts on the craft of composing music for film. Check out the interview below!
How did you get into composing music for film?
My first contact with music was when the idea of playing the trumpet was brought up to me. I regularly refused to do the assigned exercises and instead wanted to just play the music that I liked. Out of frustration with the assigned etudes (because they weren't fun to play), at some point I simply wrote my own. After elementary school, I went to a high school that had a focus on music and art and it was there that I had my first contacts with various ensembles, big bands and orchestras. I was just blown away by the feeling of making music with so many other people together. I started taking piano lessons and composing music for those ensembles I played in.
As a teenager, I listened to all kinds of musical styles: from pop to dubstep, metal, classical, hip-hop and reggae, and finally I got into jazz. But all along, I also listened to a lot of film music (in the beginning especially the Harry Potter scores, as I was and am a big Potterhead) and was impressed by the effect it can have in films in all kinds of styles and moods. How it can evoke or manipulate emotions, and how the music alone can change a scene completely. And when I heard that it is actually possible to make film music composition your profession, my future path was decided. I started taking composition lessons with Robin Hoffmann, later with Manfred Knaak and Ingo P. Stefans.
After two years at the "Berufsfachschule für Musik" in Sulzbach-Rosenberg, I am currently studying music and media with a focus on media composition (taught by Andreas Grimm) in Düsseldorf and work as a film composer.
You are currently based in Germany. What is the film industry like over there? (Many aspiring composers would assume London or LA are the only options of where to be located).
The main reason why I am currently based in Germany is the fact that I was born there and lived there ever since. It just happened that I study here as well for my bachelors degree but I am actually thinking of studying abroad for my masters degree (London would be nice). I am currently doing a lot of projects with film students to build a network and make connections with other storytellers who share the same passion — people who have a creative approach that I like and resonate with, and hopefully those connections develop into long-term collaboration relationships.
To answer the question about the film industry in general, of course London or LA are the most known locations. As I never lived in any of them, I can’t compare the situation properly. I guess, if it is "better“ to start working in these places depends a lot on what is important to you: The Art, expressing yourself, gaining knowledge, a huge and/or impressive portfolio, money, a fair working environment, fair copyright laws, safety or risk, a quick climb of the career ladder and/or a substantial career…
I guess it is true that in Germany you currently don’t have as many opportunities to score a huge feature film compared to other countries but they do exist and why not enforce some change? Also, as far as I observe it, the residence of living is slowly becoming less important these days. It seems like it is way easier nowadays to work and connect internationally. Besides, it feels to me that films beside Hollywood and London are slowly getting more attention, too. If it is possible for composers like Volker Bertelmann (who lives and works in the same town as I am currently located) to win an Oscar, then I guess the location does not matter as much as back then in those days. Also, just because London or LA are the most known locations of the film industry does not mean that other spots on the globe can’t produce good films as well.
I think, as the world gets more and more connected: If we can, we should think more globally/internationally than locally, work with the people we like working with and who share the same visions as we do, no matter where they are located at at the moment.
Lukas working in his studio.
Your work on “Violet” was selected as the winner of “best score in short film” award at The North Film Fest (Congrats!). What can you share with us about your creative approach when scoring this film?
The film is about a protagonist named Blue, a young artist who struggles to accept her sexual identity and admit the feelings she has for a fellow student (Violet). Since it's a short film, I decided on just one leitmotif to carry the film. Anything else would have “overloaded” the film. The leitmotif should be approachable and connect us directly to Blue emotionally. I chose a solo clarinet, accompanied by harp, piano and strings. In the film we switch back and forth between the real and a fictional world "within Blue's self-portrait“ representing Blue's inner life. While the music in the real world is more "orderly" and classically structured, in the inner world it seems comparatively more experimental. All in all, I tried to capture the feeling of "brush dabs" in the music (either colourful or dark), as the whole film is permeated by the theme of art and colours as a stylistic device. Then, the musical "order" of the real world is broken at one point, when Blue becomes re motivated and makes a new attempt to paint a self-portrait but in doing so she increasingly loses her composure and becomes desperate. So this "order“ represented within the music reflects her attempt to fit into something that does not represent what she actually is. Since there is almost no dialogue, the music is very important to emphasise the meaning and help and guide the audience.
You recently worked on the Sky drama “Souls” as an orchestrator. What can you tell us about this project?
I have been working as an assistant of film composer Dascha Dauenhauer for several years now. The field of orchestration interests me — I have always enjoyed writing music for real musicians and at that time had recently worked with a real orchestra on a few of my own projects, so when Dascha was composing the music for "Souls", she asked me if I would like to work as a co-orchestrator in addition to my regular assistant job. Together with supervising orchestrator Andreas Lange, we orchestrated the 8 episodes of Souls and the music was recorded with the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg. Dascha has developed a very unique musical voice, so orchestrating her music was a challenge but a fun one. I can only repeat and stress what Robin Hoffmann has told me once: With each orchestra recording session you learn new things. If you haven’t watched Souls yet, I can only suggest you do so as soon as possible. It is a really great story and the music Dascha wrote for this series is amazing. I am very grateful to have been able to work on it.
Lukas attending an orchestral scoring session.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
I don’t know if it was the biggest challenge but at the moment I think of the process of getting my first project. It is really frustrating when you know that film scoring is what you really want to do but you don’t know how to get projects. And even if you eventually get a project, there are the doubts: "I have never done this before and I have no idea of what I am doing.“ and so on. For a long time, I scored deleted scenes or scenes without music of Hollywood films, because, I always thought that I wasn’t ready for a "real“ project and I needed more practice. Of course, I needed more practice… I need more practice now as well and I will always need more practice. It is a journey and you always learn new things. But if you never start in the first place, you will never learn how to score your own projects. As stupid as it sounds: Just start, you will find a way. Another reoccurring challenge for me personally is to not take critique too personally. You will be criticised. A lot of things are justified, some things are not justified and I sometimes take unjustified criticism too personally. It helps to see the music you write not as a fixed product of yourself but simply as what it is - music, and a possible option that has come to you.
Lukas likes to make use of his trumpet skills in his compositions.
Do you have any advice for composers who are looking to develop their career?
This is by far the toughest question. I don’t know if I am experienced enough to give any career advices as I myself am just starting my career and don’t have the amount of experience and knowledge that other, already established composers have. I can, however, say what — with composing as an art itself — is important to me. If you are looking for just a practical advice, I would say: Ear Training. But, what I guess is something really important and that a lot of people including me are struggling with: Finding your own compositional voice. A lot of compositions, especially in film music, sound very similar to each other. While there, of course, are also valid reasons like specific client requests, temp tracks or genre cliches, I think it is still possible to write scores with an individual voice. I wanted to know how to sound like me. I wanted to find out how I can build or find my own compositional voice and had a lot of trouble with it, until Manfred Knaak, who is a huge mentor figure to me, gave me the task to write a piece for just one solo instrument — just one big single-voice melody. This is the advice I would pass on but I would add to it: Don’t use a computer to write the melody. Choose an instrument you can play by yourself and write a one-voice melody for it, no harmonies whatsoever. No accompaniment, nothing. I could not fall back to the sounds my computer plays for me each time I input a note in notation software, or play a sample library in my DAW (which indirectly influences the choice of the next note by the quality and way the sounds are sampled/programmed). It forced me to not just quickly throw in a known chord progression here and copy paste this bar over there. Instead, it forced me to really think about each individual tiny note. And then, you think more about each little decision you have to make. And the way you truly decide adds up over time and determines how you sound. I realised that I have decision patterns that reappear every now and then. If you keep composing while truly listening and pay attention to the notes you are writing, your own voice will develop on its own over time. This is my second piece of advice: I know it is hard but things need time. There are no shortcuts. If your mind wants to quickly be able to compose music like that score you heard in cinema last week but your mind want’s to jump ahead to that step as quickly as possible and is not eager to learn and pay attention to every detail, then I think the mindset is wrong. Experiment, and have fun experimenting. Don’t think of the composer you want to be but rather of the music you are writing now and the meaning behind the notes. That concludes this edition of composer spotlight. If you want to hear more from Lukas then you can follow him via the links below: https://www.lukaslindnermusic.com
https://www.instagram.com/lukaslindner_music/ We hope you enjoyed checking out this article!
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