A Q&A with East-Coaster & Composer Carolyn Koch

  1. Hi Carolyn, thank you for chatting with us!  I’d love to start with an introductory question to get to know more about your background and how you got to where you are now.  What is your origin story?

    My roots are in the classical music world. Although I was always drawn to movie soundtracks, and I loved Danny Elfman and John Williams and Thomas Newman when I was a kid, I didn’t yet have the sense of how you make the jump to scoring for the screen. It wasn’t a career path that I realized was a concrete possibility. I was obsessed with video game music at a young age, too (the original ‘Halo’ score is a core memory for me), and I always loved the cinematic potential of writing music for games.

    After college, I continued in the classical world, and then started working with rock bands as a keyboard player and singer. I knew that I loved instrumental writing and collaborating with other people’s work. But it wasn’t until I fully committed to a home studio that I realized I could devote myself to writing scores.

    The absolute key was getting myself to a place where I was a self-sufficient producer and engineer of my own music. I think that was probably the peak of the origin story: where the music theory girl learned what a DAW was. The rest went from there.

  2. You are a classically trained pianist!  How do you feel this training has affected your compositions, or has it?

    My first love will always be the piano, and that has driven so much of the music I’ve grown up loving. I’ve always been drawn to keyboard-centric scores, like Thomas Newman’s, and even as a kid I was a total 80s synth freak, where I would deep-dive all the keyboards that the Police and Peter Gabriel were using on their albums.

    This influences my writing now, in that I focus on integrating synthesizers at the core of my sound, to get that hybrid blend. I think hybrid scoring brings out the best possibilities from all instrumentation. I love a purely orchestral score as much as anyone else, but when left to my own devices, there’ll be a Roland riff in there somewhere.

  3. Your work spans many areas – film, TV, video games, and media.  Can you tell us about your processes for scoring different things?  Are there things in common with some, or is every format different?

    All formats definitely hit differently, and that variety keeps it interesting. With TV spots or advertising work, for example, it tends to need a certain approach: you need to lean into capturing the right vibe in two seconds, and selling it immediately. You don’t have a feature-length run time to express an idea there.

    Video games are an entirely different beast, and though I’ve only just started getting into writing for them, I’ve been playing them my whole life. The best way to understand the structure of how to compose for video games is to sit down and play through an RPG yourself.

  4. Can you tell us more about your collaborations with Sonixinema and Spitfire Audio? I think this is so cool!

    One of the ways I try to give back to fellow composers is to support the software companies that equip us to do what we do. I love to share a look at some of the tools that I’m using at any given time, and that’s also one of the best ways to shop what’s out there as well, and to see what other composers are vibing with. Spitfire was amazing by offering to showcase my score from ‘Ente’ last year on their platform, since I used their libraries for it. And I’ve been working a lot on social media with Sonixinema, as well, who’s creating beautiful instruments right now. When there’s good stuff out there, people should know about it. I’m humbled that they let me give shout-outs.

  5. I love your score for the feature film “Ente”.  Very haunting and beautiful.  Can you tell us about your collaboration with Oscar Moreno, and how you decided on the sound for the film?

    Thanks so much – we’re really proud of this film. Oscar’s a great friend, and this was one of the most harmonious collaborations I could have hoped for. I had a very clear idea of how to express the sound we wanted for this film, and he just let me go for it. We knew we wanted a fractured, hybrid emphasis on three things: organic textures (like piano and acoustic guitar), VHS tape feedback effects, and distorted female vocals. We also knew that this was a haunted story, but ultimately a sad story, and a human story – and the score gets to express that. It’s folk horror, but it’s a family tragedy first and foremost.

    The result is something very special to all of us who worked on it. I’m so glad I got to be involved with this project.

  6. What are your favorite types of projects to work on, and what gets you excited about this career?

    I don’t think there’s one type of project I get most excited about; I think what keeps me excited about the composing world is how different each project can be from the last one. I think the versatility of moving between composing for an indie film and then composing for an advertising brief is the best education there is.

  7. Are you working on anything currently (or recently) that you’d like to share with our readers?

    Looking forward to a handful of short films in the first half of 2024. Also very excited to share about an upcoming synthesizer project. More soon! Thanks so much for the chat, AWFC.

    Interview by Connor Cook

    Check out the AWFC Directory for Carolyn Koch

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