Krakower Group Composer Spotlight: Jonathan Beard

Jonathan Beard

What’s your composing method? (a) sitting at a piano (b) computer (c) pencil on manuscript paper (d) improvisation with musicians (e) other

All of the above at different points! That said, I have three primary ways that I love to compose: pencil and paper (whether at an instrument or away from them all), at my sequencing rig, and specifically “at my cello” – which may be improvisatory or analytical.  I find that composing at my cello opens up a different pathway than I get from writing at a piano or at my rig, and it can yield inspiring results.

In an ideal world, all three of these methods are available to me simultaneously, so I can turn to whichever is speaking to me most at a given moment.  That’s not always possible given varying projects or situations, but each method has its definite strengths.

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

It began to crystallize for me somewhere near the end of middle school.  I had already fallen in love with the music of John Barry and John Williams+Herb Spencer, but the unexpected final ingredient that ignited my imagination was Mark Mancina’s score for Speed.  Some time in high school, I blissfully decided that I wanted to pursue the world of film music, while having no practical idea whatsoever how to do it.

But I knew two things: I wanted to help tell stories, and I had a passion for both electronic pop and orchestral genres.  Composing and orchestrating film music – already at that time – had become apparent to me as the arena in which these forces could coexist and mesh in glorious ways. Since college I have also continued to pursue bringing these coexisting forces into my concert music as well, stemming from a passion that began for me when I was quite young and carefree!

What makes your sound unique?

I have one foot firmly rooted in a “traditional” music education, but the other often seems to dance its way into a more experimental world of electronic sound design – particularly when it incorporates vintage elements.  My mother is a music teacher and I started classical studies young.  At the same time, I discovered 80’s pop and New Wave from my older brothers while I was really little.  From a compositional and arranging perspective, having played in orchestras since the age of 9 was a great benefit to me in eventually developing my craft of finessing orchestral instrumentation and arranging, which has been hugely valuable to my work as an orchestrator.

Yet while my favorite musical entity is probably the orchestra (the best coloring book in the world in my opinion!), my versatility as a composer certainly gets a boost from the addition of those electronic and electroacoustic sound-design tendencies that are always bubbling off to the side.  I get geeky and passionate about that stuff too, often in sort of idiosyncratic ways. And I love to combine those worlds whenever appropriate opportunities arise.

What do you do to get away from it all?  What do you like doing outside of the studio?

I love to travel when I can, and I love to cook.  (If I can travel and cook, well then that’s heaven!)

What is your favorite song that you would rather not admit? 

That will just have to be my little secret.  And maybe my wife’s?  But that’s as far as it goes!