A Q&A with Composer Arhynn Descy

  1. Congratulations on your recently released thriller, Crypto Shadows, where a mysterious message embedded in a cryptocurrency algorithm turns into a fight for the protagonist’s life. Very intriguing! Could you tell us about your score and your creative process while working on such a futuristic project?

    Thank you! This film was such fun to score and working with the director was a total pleasure. Even though the film is a sci-fi thriller, it is set up in such a way that the viewer isn’t sure whether the main protagonist is imagining things or not. I wanted to make the entire score binary to reflect the binary language of computer code. So the music in the sections about the crypto currency is 2 notes in a specific pattern. (There’s actually an Easter Egg buried in there) and then the rest of the score is either over the root note C or the root note D (my way of doing binary). The D sections are for the main character and are essentially D minor. It has all the humanity in it and we recorded live oboe and English horn for these parts and then the C sections represent the ‘baddies’ and I play with having the sections come together and clash in the climax of the film. Other than the oboe and English horn, everything else is samples because this was quite a low budget film.

  2. What were some of your first steps in the music and film music world?

    I have played the piano since about the age of 12 and went on to do a BMus with the idea of becoming a concert pianist. After many years of teaching and performing I found myself gravitating towards composing and my love of films led me to go that route. I went back to school and did my MMus, after which I scored lots of short films and eventually (after much networking) I landed my first feature. Everyone has their own route in and for me it has been learning as I do this on my own, rather than being an assistant etc.

  3. We know that you love creating unique sound worlds for each project you take on! What was the most challenging one you’ve ever had to create? How did you overcome the challenge?

    This is such a good question. They are each challenging in their own way….until you hit on the sound you are looking for. I think one of the biggest challenges was the score for Nine Nights, which had a lot of elements that needed to come together. The film is about the Caribbean tradition of mourning for 9 nights. Musically I needed to straddle the real world of grief and then aspects of afterlife, for which I used extended techniques on the flute as well as some synth sounds. I had to convince the director about the flute because it wasn’t an obvious choice! I also needed to write a song that gets performed in the film and then returns a few times ‘going wrong’ (glitchy, out of tune, etc). Getting the sound world of the different parts to all work together was quite tricky on this.

  4. How do you integrate your identity as an artist into your work as a media composer?

    This is a really deep question. My quick answer is that I believe if you’re writing authentic music, your identity will come through without trying – no matter what you write it will be there. I’m blessed with not being very good at imitation, which was a problem when doing assignments at university, but is proving to be a real plus now. A compliment I received from a director once when he was introducing me to someone else was “She did everything I asked her to do….in her own way”.

  5. You are a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In what ways did joining the Academy impact your career?

    It was a real honour to be invited into the Academy. It happened during the pandemic, so for a couple of years I really didn’t understand the impact. Since then, however, I’ve realised that it’s about being in the right rooms. There is a saying that you should surround yourself with people that are further on the path than you are because you rise to their level. And I am finding this to be the case. It is also slowly starting to open doors that weren’t open before.

  6. You are a very experienced educator and mentor who helps other composers through organizations like Women in Media, Thinkspace Education, AWFC and many more. What do you think are the biggest things that composers earlier in their careers lack these days and how can they better prepare for a successful career in your opinion?

    The industry is very tough these days, with many, many more people being able to enter the industry, with or without musical qualifications. One just needs a DAW and the knowledge on how to use it. So the competition is fierce and I think it can be very daunting for new composers coming. So I’d say working on your own resilience; how you deal with rejection and obstacles, perseverance, developing your own voice, how to deal with being stuck earning no or little money and being able to clearly set goals and work towards them. These are the skills that are needed and I do talk about these aspects a lot with students.

  7. What does the rest of 2024 hold for you? Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

    As I’m writing this, I am in the middle of scoring a sci-fi thriller podcast. It’s my first podcast and I’m really enjoying it. After that I’ll be scoring a horror feature, which is currently being edited. There are a couple of other film projects coming up too, which don’t have filming dates yet. And then I have my own production company called Fugitive Flamingo Films and I’m developing a few projects through that.

    Interview by Esin Aydingoz

    Check out the AWFC Directory for Arhynn Descy

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