by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
This is Part 1 of 2 blogs featuring my interview with UK Composer, Kezia Tomsett. Watch this space for Part 2 posting August 25.
LISTEN TO THIS ON YourCreativeChord Podcast, “How Do We Progress Women Composers? Talk About It!” featuring UK Composer Kezia Tomsett in two episodes.
After connecting through the Women Composers Collective Facebook group last fall, I spoke with a young, female, British composer of Reading, England. Kezia Tomsett had just finished her BA Music degree at The University of Leeds.
I was interested in hearing from her as a recent graduate and upcoming young female composer. I was especially intrigued that she’d done her dissertation on why there aren’t many women film composers. Let’s dive in to our conversation with Reading, England-based composer Kezia Tomsett…
LISTEN to the PODCAST:
Tell me about your musical background.
I went to a local comprehensive where music was much more of a hobby. I performed at many school assemblies, but found that I really excelled and, moreover, enjoyed composing music.
I was always a nervous performer but much less so with my own work and got more satisfaction from this! I did all the piano grades before my A Levels and it was after this that I really found my joy and passion in music, in messing about on the piano and writing my own music.
My Dad was and is my inspiration. He just loves music! He taught me piano for my first couple of grades and then I got a teacher from grade 3.
I’m only beginning to make money from music, having just finished my degree. I’ve previously worked on projects as part of my degree or to gain experience. I have recently earned money through collaborating with writing on an advertisement pitch and through singing on a pitch.
Tell me two things that were pivotal for the opening of your professional path.
My university offered a ‘year-in-industry’ year, a sandwich year between second and third year. This gave us the opportunity to find any placement (so long as it had something to do with music!) for the year. I spent that year with WMP studios in Leeds where they welcomed me as part of their team. I collaborated with them and wrote music for film - specifically TV advertisements, sound design, and library tracks.
The other pivotal project for me was my dissertation. I decided to investigate women writing to film. During my year-in-industry, having attended several events and conferences, I realized there was a distinct lack of women at these events.
There was also a significant lack of published literature researching this area. During my dissertation, I conducted my own research, reaching out to composers in the industry, and interviewed eight women writing to film.
Through this, I was welcomed into the Women Composers’ Forum of London and have had opportunities through this group to become more involved in the industry.
How do you obtain clients?
So far, not how I anticipated! I’ve obtained clients through conversations at music conferences (such as Manchester’s Tune Up and Leeds’ The Yorkshire Music Forum). The friends I‘ve made in the industry have also begun to offer me work.
I plan to attend more networking events, but for me, thus far, work has come through the relationships I have developed.
What technology or music gear or skillsets do you feel are essential to your music-making?
Having software like Logic (or whatever it may be) is pretty essential as you need to be able to mock up a demo that sounds professional, rather than sending over voice memos!
Once you have the software however, you also need to have the skillset to really enter a client’s head in response to what they are asking from the composer. You need to be able to understand their point of view so you can deliver what they want. This perhaps entails good communication skills and empathy.
What advice would you give someone who wants to make a living as a composer?
I had a conversation with one of my role models in the industry in my dissertation and she said ‘passion’. It may sound cliche but you really have to love your job.
Another theme that seems to keep coming up is being able to cope with rejection because there is a lot in the industry. I’m sure I’m only just at the start of it!
Be persistent, work hard and love what you do.
What are the best and worst aspects of being a semi-professional composer?
As a recent university graduate, for me the best aspects are;
Describe your strengths as a creator.
I love starting new ideas. I love being creative! I love thinking outside the box, using the resources I’ve got to illustrate what I’ve got in my head in a session. I’m also determined and persistent, which are strengths I feel anyone needs in the industry. I also really appreciate collaborations with other composers - I enjoy working with others.
Do you have resources (besides gear) that you regularly as a creator?
I have just finished an EP and used my voice! Using the resources you have can be an asset. As a pianist, I also use my piano regularly to sketch out ideas (even to get a sense of the harmony progression in a piece) or to take a step back and mess around on the piano. Playing the piano is like my diary, it enables me to get my thoughts out.
What influences your creativity positively?
Weirdly, I tend to find that I am most creative when I’m a little tired!
When writing my own music, I often find influence from stories, basing my tracks from the viewpoint of a character (existing or not), whether the piece has lyrics or not. This is so I can enter the character’s mind and experience their state of being.
I also appreciate feedback from other composers and find this really encouraging.
What hinders your creative flow?
Uprooting myself tends to throw my routine a bit - I have just moved location and am having to settle back into my routine!
Spending too much time by myself can really hinder my creativity. I make sure to spend time with people, taking breaks from my work so I can go back with fresh ears, fresh inspiration and determination!
Take us into your creative process to describe a snapshot scenario of how you would approach composing a new musical project. Or give an example of how you created one of your musical compositions.
It changes on every project but here’s a typical overview - I first make notes on the brief and research any other relevant reference tracks. I map out what the director is asking for and write a snapshot of how I think the project will go forward.
I sketch out a rough idea on the piano (even if there is no piano in the piece) to get an idea of the structure of the piece.
I import sounds into a Logic file (digital audio workstation) that I feel would suit the project and begin writing!
I think planning is an essential ingredient. Especially in terms of structure and being influenced or inspired by the reference track (if there is one).
WATCH THIS SPACE FOR PART 2 OF OUR DIALOGUE AS WE CONTINUE WITH THE QUESTION,
"Why do you think there aren’t many women film composers?"
Find Kezia Tomsett and her music on Twitter or Instagram, and at her SoundCloud Page Here.
Where to find Kezia Tomsett:
If you enjoyed this blog--Please SHARE &/OR LEAVE A COMMENT here!
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
[My interview with creator Kristen Baum posts in four 30-minute YourCreativeChord Podcast episodes.]
I had the ease and joy of interviewing LA-based composer, writer and poet, Kristen Baum. We had a 2-hour conversation that felt like we'd only just started. Baum is highly energetic, articulate and on-point, and evidently a mover-and-shaker in the creative worlds of film composing, poetry, and writing.
Baum is a (Composers Lab) Sundance Fellow who frequently collaborates on diverse film and live theater projects. She “creates custom scores for films in genres including fantasy, character-driven drama and thriller.”
Baum has “composed music for many projects, from award-winning features and short films to music for studio motion pictures.”
Working With Hollywood Great Film Composer Christopher Young
In addition to orchestrating her own projects Baum has also orchestrated for Hollywood-established Film Composer, Christopher Young. For those who may not be familiar, Young’s film scores include those for: Priest (2011), Rum Diary (2011, starring Johnny Depp), Spiderman 3 (2007, starring Tobey Maguire), The Uninvited (2009), Entrapment (1999), Hellraiser (1987), Nightmare On Elm Street (1985).
Baum “has worked closely with Christopher Young and carries his influence forward in her composing and collaborative approach. She wrote additional music (source) for Book of Eli and orchestrated on Priest and When in Rome. Kristen wrote the score for the dramedy As High as the Sky, which won several audience choice awards on the festival circuit in addition to winning Juror’s Choice for Best North American Feature at Sonoma International Film Festival.
Multiple Creative Outlets From Music to Poetry to Fiction
She also composes and records art songs. Her musical works have premiered in Hollywood, Nashville, Tennessee and Marquette, Michigan. She is a frequent contributor of articles about film composing for HD Pro Guide Magazine and Student Filmmakers Magazine.”
Earning Awards As A Film Composer
Baum also has received Awards and Recognition, including:
2013 BMI Conducting Lab
2011 Sundance Composers Lab Fellow, Feature Films Lab
2011 Park City Film Music Festival, Gold Medal for Excellence in Original Music for the score for The Things You Lose In The Ocean.
I spoke with Baum just after she’d returned from a 2-week writing retreat near the Oregon rainforests, where she and her writing partner began outlining a new novel.
We talked about her creative background and training, and her many creative projects, ranging from music to poetry to writing a fiction novel. She shared how she took the passionate leap to move from Arizona to L.A. to pursue film composing, and then took advantage of being in the right place at the right time to absorb all things film scoring from established Hollywood film composer, Christopher Young.
We also dove into her experience as a Sundance Fellow. Baum shares what that workshop learning process was like, working alongside 5 other Sundance Fellow composers, with guidance from mentor composers Christopher Young, Harry Gregson Williams, George S Clinton, Ed Shearmer, and Alan Silvestri.
Moving The Needle Toward Positive Creative Women Role Models
We discussed the relatively newly-formed group, Alliance For Women Film Composers, addressed the issue for more women composers to emerge, and how women creators of all varieties may proactively move the needle toward more positive creative women role models.
On Collaboration And That Little Inner Critic
We discussed Baum’s approach for collaboration with a director on a film project, both technically and through her personal creative process. She shared what empowers her creativity as well as how she actively deals with that little inner critic or voice of ‘resistance’ (in a nod to author Stephen Pressfield) to keep her creativity flowing.
Baum shared how the variety of her creative outlets is pivotal to tapping inspiration for her work. Her creative works range from composing and orchestrating film scores, art songs, poetry, and fantasy fiction.
Her poetry has been published in several literary journals, and those links are below. I asked Baum to share one of her poems, and she obliged me with her recitation of her beautiful poem, “And No One Hears It.”
But I assure you, you will hear Baum’s powerful creative voice throughout this amazing interview, and if you checkout her music or writings. You’ll find those links below.
I love featuring women creators like Kristen Baum because her powerfully passionate energy, coupled with her ability to articulate her impressive intellect and her pure intentions are a compelling voice for the joy of exploring creative life.
My interview with creator Kristen Baum will post in four 30-minute YourCreativeChord Podcast episodes.
1. Baum was selected to participate as a 2011 Sundance Composers Lab Fellow, with mentorship from Hollywood film composers Christopher Young, Harry Gregson Williams, George S Clinton, Ed Shearmer, and Alan Silvestri.
2. Baum took the leap from Arizona to L.A. to pursue film scoring, springboarding her film composing career from the fortune of working with film composer Christopher Young.
3. Baum shares how her multi-outlet creative works, from orchestrations, film scores, art songs, to poetry, and a fantasy novel work-in-progress, thrive on ebb and flow.
4. We dive deep into a look at Baum's technical and creative process for a collaborative film project.
5. Baum shared how she addresses the inevitable inner critic that creators must encounter.
6. Baum shares her understanding of how Alliance For Women Film Composers originated and the role women creators have toward increasing the number of creative women professionals.
7. Baum recites one of her short poems.
Where to find Kristen Baum’s creative work:
Kristen Baum’s Composer Website
Listen to Kristen Baum's Music on Soundcloud
Director Mike Bonomo’s YouTube Channel
Kristen Baum’s poetry is available here:
Contrary Magazine, Issue Winter 2020
Voice of Eve, Issue 15
Blue Heron Review, Issue 8
Other Resources From This Interview:
Alliance For Women Film Composers
War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Walking In This World by Julia Cameron
Possibilities by Herbie Hancock
Film Scores by Christopher Young
If you loved this blog don't forget to show your awesome support by Liking the link, Subscribing for more updates and adding your comment below!