A Q&A with Peruvian Composer Karin Zielinski

  1. You have a non-traditional path to becoming a composer. You initially studied audiovisuals in college, and not film composition, until later. Could you tell us what you gained from audiovisual studies training? How did that complement your later film composition work?

    I studied and made music since I was a little, but not in an academic way. I always felt that not having studied a composition career put me at a disadvantage. But I later realized that a film composer is a musical narrator, and that my career in film and audiovisuals was a great communication tool, not only within the process of creating the music, but also with my ability to communicate with the directors and producers. They often do not have a musical language and a lot of times, they find it very difficult to explain to the composer what they have in mind for their projects.

  2. Is there a project that you are particularly proud of? How did it contribute to your professional development?

    A short film called Human (HUMANO, 2017), for which I won the Best Original Score award at the TMFF in June 2018. It was the first project in which I had the opportunity to record music with a symphony orchestra, and that experience prompted me to propose the use of that sound for certain projects in Peruvian cinema later on, and that, as a film composer, I believed required them.

  3. You have worked with the Bratislava Symphony on several varied projects. Is it common for Peruvian films to use symphonic music, and how did you find yourself working with an Eastern European orchestra?

    I come from a country that has not explored film music very much; there is no consumer culture and budgets are very tight. It is very difficult to make films, and obviously that affects the soundtracks, as well. However, these difficulties are also an opportunity to be trained as a film composer and to find creativity in those shortcomings, to carry out projects. The idea of recording soundtracks here in Peru with a symphony orchestra is almost unheard of, but somehow in the last 4 years, I have had the opportunity (and the budgets) to record 5 soundtracks with some symphony orchestras from Eastern Europe. I have been able to raise the idea here in Perú also because I was lucky enough to come across directors and producers who considered this to be important for their films. And that has seemed to be an important step to begin to break that mentality that drives us to believe here that things cannot be done. However, this aspect does not limit me to believing that this is the only way to get the music out of a project. My path in film music began in a much more intuitive and electronic way, precisely dealing with these shortcomings. Today my decision to fight for the idea with the producers to use the sound of a symphony orchestra for a film depends solely and exclusively on if that fits the real needs of that project.

  4. Could you tell us about your scoring process? 

    My scoring process is the same: I talk a lot with the director about what he or she has in mind. We have a spotting session, and then I immerse myself in the story for a few weeks until the first ideas begin to take shape, in order to begin to raise the sounds, motives and general aesthetics of the music the film needs. Then as I work on each reel of the film, I have regular meetings with the director, in which I show him or her the progress and we discuss whether there are things to adjust to get to the final demos of the soundtrack. Once we have the approved demos, I move forward to the orchestration process and recording sessions, in order to be able to have everything ready for the musical mixing process which may take a few more days or weeks (if we have the time). Last year I worked on two films that included an orchestration process. One was an independent Peruvian film called El Corazón de la Luna. It took me almost 9 months to finish the music, partly because we had to stop for a few months due to the Covid quarantines, but above all, because it was a difficult and a personal project of the director (it had no dialogue) and we had the time to spend on artistic decisions. The other film was a psychological Spanish thriller called La Casa del Caracol, with a very tight schedule, in which I was only given one month to compose, orchestrate and produce the music. In both cases, the scoring process was the same, but I had less time, because, except for the mixing process, I worked alone. The budgets don’t allow me to hire assistants, so it was insane, but ultimately the experience was empowering.

  5. What advice would you give a younger Karin?

    Stop dreaming and do it! Life is short, do not miss any opportunity, because each project puts you a step further to learn something new, to open a new door, to inspire others, and for someone to find out about your talent. My personal philosophy when I take on a new project is, the more difficult the challenge, the more I will learn from the process and what I am capable of achieving.

    Interview by Valerie Manahan

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