Interview with Bill Brown

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Answers by Bill Brown / Questions by Troels Folmann. December 2012.

Introduction

Known for his work on the hit CBS television series CSI:NY, Bill Brown began his career composing powerful scores for more than 50 triple-A game titles, including Tom Clancy’s ‘Rainbow Six’ and ‘Ghost Recon’, Clive Barker’s ‘Undying’, ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein’, ‘Lineage 2′, ‘Command and Conquer: Generals’, and most recently ‘Captain America: Super Soldier’. Bill’s scores have been nominated by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, L.A. Weekly, and G.A.N.G., and have won awards from the ITVA and BMI as well as the Music4Games Editor’s Choice award. Bill is a great friend and one of our most cherished 8Dio Demo Composers. He took the time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.

Hope you enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about your musical background and influences.

I’ve been playing and writing most of my life and was trained as a musician and composer at Berklee College of Music. My influences range from 20th century modern and minimalist composers including film composers like Bernard Herrmann on the dark side of things to romantic and impressionistic composers including those film composers inspired by the masters like John Barry, Tom Newman, etc.

You have done music for games, movies (including animated movies) and TV now. Which is your personal favorite? What would you like to do more of?

The amazing thing about working in all of these mediums is that I feel like I’m approaching each one with new perspective and new tools every time I start a new project. That’s the beauty of being a composer is that there are these opportunities to expand and grow. I’d like to do more of all of them. The projects themselves are rewarding in different ways, and it keeps things interesting writing in different styles.

What changes do you foresee in the world of Movie/TV/Game/Trailer Music within the next 10 years? Where are we going stylistically?

It’s interesting to watch what becomes popular in “temp music” while working on projects. Right now there’s a tendency in temp music leaning towards organic electronic and orchestral scores and the hybrid of modern ‘rock’ and orchestral elements. The use of songs and source music has become more pervasive and with the onslaught of cable shows, library music has become the standard as opposed to the exception in many styles of programming. I think the style of program dictates the style of score and some scores stand out because of their unique nature. Someone (i.e. a director or producer) takes a chance and ventures away from the “temp” of the month, and a new standard is created. As an artist, that is something I’m very interested in.

 

What’s it like to work on the same TV show for so many years? Do you feel your themes have become more refined and how difficult is it to introduce new motifs and themes into the music?I’ve never taken for granted that it is a pretty amazing thing to have this opportunity to work on CSI:NY. I approach every episode with a lot of care and try to bring something fresh to every one of them. My basic procedure is to write new thematic material for every episode right out of the gate, and there’s a certain sound I try to incorporate (using certain instruments in certain ways) as I go. The sound has evolved continually over the 9 seasons I’ve been writing for the show, and continues to evolve as I grow as a composer.How do you normally go about scoring a project? Do you normally have a sketch pad of melody ideas or chord progressions that are readily available or is it generally on the fly writing?

It’s generally on the fly, but I do have a folder of ideas that I reference when I need an idea fast. Those ideas usually come to me when I’m away from the studio or working on something and have an idea that doesn’t fit that scene or level perfectly. I’m always recording ideas and they do come in handy.

Midi orchestration generally requires a lot of resources. What is your DAW rig made of?

Metal, plastic, and coffee.  I use a Mac Pro and a few Windows machines tethered via VEP, with Logic Pro with an all-Avalon analog front end in the control room.

How important is it to get the live players into your studio, to interact with them and allow for some “happenstance” to occur? What’s your most notable memory there?

Very, very important! Live instruments add air to a mix like nothing else can. Working with creative musicians one on one in the studio is something I really enjoy. Not only is it a lot of fun, inevitably something totally unique comes out of every session – and that’s a great thing for any score.

What are your most used 8DIO instruments and why? How did you integrate 8DIO samples into the work?

There are so many great 8Dio instruments that are on the front line of my scoring rig all the time. Right now I’m using the Hybrid series along with Adagio Violins a lot. You can hear both in CSI:NY.

What are you currently working on? What’s next? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’m currently working on season 9 of CSI:NY and a documentary film with Gary Sinise called “High Flight” about his experiences since Forest Gump – basically what inspired him to create the Gary Sinise Foundation, with a special focus on a 70,000 foot flight he took on a U2 military jet. As far as where I see myself in the next 10 years, I want to continue to be productive and having fun in my work and my life. I recently heard some advice which I think is good – which is basically not to set long term goals, but rather to enjoy where you are and really make the most of it. So instead of being in a constant struggle for the next best thing, or comparing yourself to others, you can actually enjoy today.

I think some of the greatest artists and business people are unique and find their own path, not by setting a long-term goal, but by really focusing in and taking full advantage of whatever opportunity is in front of them and creating from their passion, not from a template put in front of them. It’s not a bad thing to know what you want to do, but not at the expense of your peace of mind.

What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?

Vacation or just hang out with my family, go to see films, exercise.

What do you think of the fact that Disney will continue the Star Wars legacy with new movies in the upcoming future?

I was very happy to hear that news! I personally really enjoy Disney and Star Wars … so, it’s basically awesome.

Any last words of wisdom you would like to share with upcoming composers and musicians?

Work really hard writing all of the time and you’ll be all set ;)

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Click here for more information and music by Bill Brown

Bill Brown uses the following 8Dio products:
1928 Legacy Scoring Piano, Adagio Cellos Vol.1, Adagio Violins Vol.1, Alien Drum, Ambient Guitar, Basstard, Bazantar, Bulbul Tarang, Didgeridoo, Epic Guitar Vol.1, Epic Taiko Ensemble, Hybrid Tools Vol.1, Hybrid Tools Vol. 2, Hybrid Rhythms, Mini, Music Box, Polyphon, Post-Apocalyptic Guitar, Progressive Metal Guitar, Requiem Professional, Rhythmic Aura Vol.1, Rhythmic Aura Vol.2, Solo Taiko Drums, Steel String Guitar, Strummer Guitar