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My Life in Music: Composer Sandy Herrault

Some of the most important moments in my life have been when someone asked me a question. When I was 7 years old, a teacher in the Philadelphia public school system queried, “What instrument would you like to play?”  I answered with the only name of an instrument I knew, “violin.”  This started a pursuit of perfection on the instrument and an involvement in area-wide student and adult orchestras in Philly.  After graduating high school, I attended West Virginia University as a violin major.

Years later when I joined a Celtic Rock band, one of my band-mates asked me, “Can you write parts for these pieces?” “Yes,” I answered though I really had no experience at the time.  The next 12 years were filled with writing fiddle parts and solos for various types of bands.  The genres I became familiar with kept expanding.  I currently perform with a modern Celtic Americana band, The Merrows, www.myspace.com/themerrowsband

When I developed an interest in making music for film, I had no idea how to start.  One day I was jamming with a guitarist outside an office building, when I met Composer Marcus Brown.  We discussed music composition for film and Marcus asked me, “Can you write for multiple instruments?”   “Yes,” I replied, thinking, well, I’ve actually never done that, but I should try.  That led to a discovery; if I can envision what I want around a melody line, I can create it.  I went home and immediately started using my composing program to write for up to three instruments.  Then I expanded it, up to seven individual harmony parts.  Yes!

I came to another crossroads when my husband posed a question while I was writing my fourth book of music for violinists. I decided it should have piano accompaniment.  My husband asked me, “Can’t you write your own piano parts?”  I contemplated and responded, “I don’t know, it won’t be easy.”   I should know by now to listen carefully when I hear those life changing questions!  I tried and I am happy to say I wrote the piano parts for Smart Violin Method Book Four, which is going to print in early March 2011.  Details coming soon on www.smartviolin.com

I recently met Filmmaker Steve Gibson, Jr., and was inspired to write music for the Fall of the Hunter’s Moon trailer. Now Steve has asked Marcus and me, “Can you compose the score for the film?”

My Life in Music: Composer Marcus Brown

My background in music began with the piano at age six.  Like many, I found myself in love with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and “Für Elise”.  I couldn’t get enough of beautiful piano pieces, despite a host of strict piano teachers. I continued playing however, attempting to wrap my mind around how composers created.  At age 11, I begged my dad to buy me my first trumpet and from then on, my musical world opened up to other genres. I commenced interpreting and writing parts for music around the age of 12, influenced by the sounds of the big band composers and bandleaders ranging from Duke Ellington to Glen Miller.  Since childhood and thereon, I have retained the pursuit of developing and composing music, namely original music.

I have recently been slated as composer for Fall of the Hunter’s Moon, along with Sandy Herrault, arising from a fortuitous encounter with filmmaker Stephen Gibson. Gibson, who listened to the budding elements of my upcoming album, offered me an opportunity to explore my first foray in composition for a feature-length film.

I am currently developing the leitmotif for FOTHM by studying the background of the characters and the music that would seem to fit them. Despite the medium, I approach composing through the eyes of my musical influences, likely to be best described as “engaging a virtual musical avatar”.  In this case, I am attracted to the works of composers and arrangers like Quincy Jones and Ennio Morricone as well as those who faithfully write for film such as Alan Silvestri, Hans Zimmer, and John Williams. Their music spans generations and has transformed how film is perceived. I listen to and study their compositions and ask myself ‘How would they do this?’

Recurring themes are probably my strongest skill as a writer of music. I love the notion of arpeggiation that disappears into a composition, but yet continues to guide or even direct the composition. I am attracted to FOTHM because of the varying thematic elements where I can utilize my musical abilities. The film contains protagonist internal and external conflict, mystery, myth, life and death, and even fantasy. Although each character will have their own musical identity, Gibson’s vision is to bring together all the musical themes at a point during the film. This is excitingly challenging and elaborate.

Film represents an opportunity to reach across borders and boundaries. I have traveled to places in the world to include Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia. I have watched many films, without subtitles, in a completely different language that I did not speak. Where language or barriers otherwise exist, the music within a film has the tendency to explain. The music brought me closer to the characters and I was led as a result to understand what the director intended.

I absolutely adore the art of filmmaking and of course am inextricably attached to music. I am honored to have been asked to compose for Fall of the Hunter’s Moon.