A Q&A with British Film Composer based in London and New York Aurélie Webb

  1. Your music shows a wide range of emotions; it’s eclectic and refreshing, but very memorable and touching. How did your background shape your musical style, and why do you often choose to feature the sounds of Cello and Viola?

    Thank you! Well, I grew up in a household where music was always playing and car journeys meant singing along to an album, a soundtrack or a musical. I suppose my background is eclectic, equal parts classical and non-classical music. I think that’s what brought me to film scoring. Summers spent listening to David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, Muppet Treasure Island and the Spongebob Squarepants movie soundtrack all helped me into story-telling. Playing in orchestras introduced me to more of the language of classical music. That certainly shaped my style, but so did growing up with the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and the Kinks, then discovering bands like Arcade Fire who have been a big influence. Cello and viola are so emotionally resonant. I think I tend to have a sense of melancholy in most of my music and to me these instruments really voice that melancholy. They’re dark and expressive, with so much range. There’s really no limit to what they can do so I always feel they give me more emotive possibilities when I bring them into a score.

  2. How do you approach a new film score? Tell us about your creative process.

    When a director has a clear idea of what they want, that’s an opportunity to explore a new musical direction, so research and expanding my listening is a big part of the creative process. I also find an open and ongoing dialogue with the director and the rest of the creative team is central. It’s invaluable to brainstorm, reflect and to lead each other in new directions. It’s a collaborative process. Reading the script before seeing anything visual is useful as well. It’s good to let the imagination run that way first. Then I watch and re-watch the film so I know it back to front. Different perspectives develop and my response evolves. Once I’ve moved through all those steps and taken in the visuals everything starts fitting into place and the music starts flowing. At the end of each project I hope I’m a better composer and better collaborator for the process, research and experimentation that it’s led me through.

  3. What were some of the highlights of your career so far?

    It was wonderful to be able to remotely record Nova (coming soon) with the orchestra at Trackdown Studios in Sydney. I never thought I’d be recording with musicians in Australia at 2am from my kitchen in the UK! Another memorable opportunity was collaborating with a brilliant choreographer, Chaery Moon, in New York and taking our performance,Consonance, to some incredible festivals and performance spaces. It was wonderful to see it performed in the great space that is Loew’s Jersey Theater (as seen in Joker!). Hearing that Today We Are, an animation I scored, was a finalist at the Dublin International Film Festival and other festivals in the US was wonderful and a testament to the great skill of the animator, Jillian Ostrander, who created such a charming film.

  4. Alongside film scoring, you’ve also worked on theatre productions with The National Theatre and The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. How did you get involved with live performances, and what challenges did they present for you?

    Live performance has always attracted me. I like to challenge myself to get outside my comfort zone and learn more about the entirety of production. My experience at the National Theatre and NYT was in a ‘previous life’ as a theatre tech which just naturally evolved out of childhood involvement. For a while I worked as a set constructer, then briefly in the sound tech team, which immersed me in a world of live performance which I always knew I wanted to continue musically. The melding of different disciplines to create a whole is in some ways not so different to film. But in theatre you can completely immerse an audience in a sound world, and play on the reaction in a different way. There are certainly challenges, the restrictions of a venue or kind of stage for example, but there are also possibilities for expression in the physicality of the stage. It was intriguing to be able to explore this for Consonance, to think about how the music occupies the space, and experience how it could be performed in vastly different settings when we took it to festivals.

  5. What are you working on these days, and what’s next for you?

    I’m working on a few short films, and a fictional ‘true crime’ podcast; there are plans for a couple of feature films which are currently on hold until we see where the pandemic takes us. They’re all completely different in style and genre which is really invigorating; I’m enjoying having such different narratives to work on. I’ve done sci-fi and animation, and right now I’m working on fantasy, drama and a thriller. We’ve got some experimental elements planned and I’m excited to see where they might go musically. I’ve just had a track released on Sister Music’s Isolation Textures, and I’m also currently participating in the BMI Composing for the Screen Workshop which is a great chance to connect and collaborate with fellow composers. I’m looking forward to seeing what grows out of that, and I’m making preparations for film projects and standalone music releases scheduled for 2021. Thank you for asking!

    Interview by Nami Melumad

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