Today we highlight the work of Steve London, composer of Academy Award-nominated documentary short ‘Chau, beyond the lines.’
- Influences (Past) – My first ever composition lesson was from the prolific composer, Dr. John Burge. He is a wonderful composer and he is also a wonderful teacher. I learned so much about composing from him and I’m extremely grateful. The first lesson he ever taught me, I come back to over and over again whenever I find I’m struggling with composing a cue.
The assignment he gave was to write a short piece using only one interval of your choice and you could use it in any fashion (chords, lines, arpeggios, etc.) as long it remained intact as that interval. I chose the minor 6th . As I started the assignment later that week, I remember thinking, “Well, this is going to be a short, boring piece.”, only to discover that I was almost late submitting the piece days later because I keep coming up with new ideas, new developments and new themes that made the piece more and more interesting.
It was a brilliant lesson. Dr. Burge wanted his students to absorb one of the most important lessons an artist can learn: by placing a guideline or rule around your creativity, you will actually be more creative within those guidelines than simply trying to create whatever comes to mind with no guidelines at all.
- Biggest non-musical influence – I would say my biggest non-musical influence would be chefs like David Chang, René Redzepi, Anthony Bourdain and my friend, Rodney Bowers. In so many ways, chefs are, in my mind, the composers of food world. Their medium may be more tangible but being a successful chef is the same being a successful composer; skill balanced with art, a little ingenuity and years of practice. And I’m fascinated to watch shows like “Mind of a Chef” or “No Reservations” where you can see the inspiration and skill behind these amazing dishes, often just using the same staples that you and I use in our home kitchen but then prepared in a slightly different way by a person with a slightly different concept of how to utilize the ingredients.
- Best concert or musical appearance you’ve ever seen? – In 2011, Prince did twenty-one shows over several weeks at The Forum in Los Angeles and I was fortunate enough to get front row-tickets to one show. It was just spectacular! Esperanza Spalding opened the show and blew the roof off the place before Prince even hit the stage and he was soon joined by Sheila-E. Between the amazing players, the amazing guest performers, Prince’s unbelievable musicianship and the FOUR encores, it was easily the best concert I’ve ever seen.
- What written work would you most like to compose music for? – There are actually two written works I would love to compose music for. The first work would be for Haruki Murakami’s, “Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World”. I love Haruki Murakami’s writing and it’s one of my favorite novels of his. I would love to delve into both of the novel’s parallel worlds musically and find a way to unite the two, just as they subtly unite in the end in the novel.
The second work I would love to compose for would be a stage setting of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. I loved this poem in university and the dark imagery of it always made me want to write musical interpretations of it. And of course, you’d need a fantastic orator – someone like Sir Patrick Stewart or Sir Ian McKellan. – to recite the poem over the musical setting.