Composer Spotlight: Jesse Voccia

Jesse Voccia

Today, we spotlight the work of composer Jesse Voccia, whose current projects include the popular new Amazon Prime crime series ‘Bosch.’

What influences has music had on your family?

One of the luckiest breaks in my life was being born into two families that treasure music.  From my earliest memories music has always been a big part of our family.  On my father’s side, music was held in very high regard, particularly classical music and formal music education. My grandfather was the church organist and pianist. He wrote music, too, and his hymnals were even recorded by Liberace! It was a serious business and there was a slight air of competition between all of my aunts and uncles. Birthdays and holidays turned into mini recitals. There were so many of us it kind of immunized us against stage fright from an early age and also kept you on your toes about developing new material. You would never want to play the same thing twice.

On my mother’s side things were the complete opposite, music was an organic part of daily life. At any sized visit or gathering first we would eat and then the instruments came out and the singing and dancing started. It was communal, and everyone participated regardless of skill level. My maternal grandfather is a sort of musical wizard. From the time he was 4 years old he and his brother would support the family as a singing and dancing duo. To us subsequent generations, he passed on the art of accompanying others and knowing how to make everyone else sound good. It seemed he could play any instrument. He played guitar, violin, piano, drums and bass effortlessly.  In his basement there was an ancient battered upright piano that was hopelessly out of tune. If anyone tried to play it it was murder on the ears, but when he played it, magically everything sounded perfect. From my mother’s side I learned about knowing your audience, improvisation and how music draws people together.

If you could travel to any period based on the music, when would you visit?

I often think about what it would have been like to have been some sort of court musician in northern India a thousand years ago. I imagine being the only source of music and playing acoustic instruments in those incredible temples and palaces. The most appealing aspect would be experiencing the deep connection classical Indian music has to nature, the seasons and expanding and elevating consciousness. Everything would be so intense and pure without the relentless distraction of all of our electronic devices and gizmos. The ability to focus and have that degree of connection to the music sounds incredible.

If you are giving me the keys to the time machine, I would have to stop in London in 1967. To be able to witness Jimi Hendrix, The Cream, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Pink Floyd and the rest of the scene face to face at the height of their power would be my first choice. It  seemed like the perfect balance of musical technology and the height of significance that pop music held in the culture. There were just so many incredible artists that emerged during that era.

When did you discover that you wanted to pursue film music?

I think really it was when I was about 11 or 12. I was watching “Friday Night Videos,” it was a special episode about Miami Vice. There was an interview section with Jan Hammer and he was in what appeared to be a beautiful home studio with a window out into a green yard with palm trees. He looked very happy and slightly like he was in a spaceship. A lightbulb went off above my head and I thought “I could be happy doing that!”.

What do you do in your limited free time?

In the last few years I started playing golf, which is actually very relaxing and is a great way to be outside and spend quality time with friends. I am also a huge MotoGP fan. It is the most exciting competition you could imagine. It is a yearly 7-month campaign involving super high-tech motorcycles racing on a twisting track at speeds up to 220mph. There is so much drama, science, political intrigue, action and danger. There are relentless developments and tons of telemetry data and statistics. The whole thing really appeals to both my emotional side and my analytical side. Most of the races occur in Europe so with the time difference it aligns perfectly with my composer lifestyle. It’s the perfect way to wind down after a long day in the studio since the races often start around 4am our time.

Inside the studio I love to tinker and experiment with instruments and recording equipment. It is something that is essential to continuing to develop as an artist but is almost impossible to do while you are under the pressure of a project deadline. In between films, it is much easier to relax and proceed with a joyful open-minded playful approach to music making and sonic exploration.  I am always looking at ways to create happy accidents sonically.  Relentlessly combining unconventional devices and instruments always eventually yields useful colors and techniques.