We talk to Screen Music Connect founder James Hannigan

We’re delighted to announce that Time+Space are official partners of Screen Music Connect 2018, partnered with the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA)!

Screen Music Connect is a new event series set to explore and celebrate the richly diverse world of Screen Music – from Film and Television through to Video Games and Virtual Reality.

Screen Music Connect is aimed at the music production communities of all media industries – from pro, semi-pro and amateur composers though to producers, engineers, music supervisors and audio directors – plus fans of soundtracks and anyone with an interest in the evolution of screen music.

Screen Music Connect‘s inaugural event will take place on Monday 24th September at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London.

In anticipation of this event we got in touch with founder James Hannigan to find out more and about his background as a composer.

Hi James, for those of our customers who aren’t familiar with you and your work, could you tell us a bit more about your background?

James HanniganI’m what you might call a media composer, if you define that as someone working with multiple media forms, but I’m not a huge fan of that catch-all description! I prefer to be seen as a screen composer, as I mostly write music to picture, or simply as a composer and musician.

A lot of my work has been in video games, and it’s an area I’ve been involved in for over two decades now, starting out as a composer for Electronic Arts Europe before moving on to being based at Pinewood Studios where I first set myself up as a freelance composer.

I’ve scored around fifty games, ranging from single or multiple entries in the Theme Park, Harry Potter, Transformers, The Lord of the Rings, Warhammer, EA Sports, Command and Conquer and Wing Commander franchises, through to titles such as Dead Space 3, RuneScape, Freelancer, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Reign of Fire and many others. I do some TV, too, now and again, and a lot of trailers and radio/audio drama – ranging from Primeval and Neverwhere to Audible’s ‘Alien’ Trilogy.Physco Score

When it comes to Screen Music Connect though, my role is not really one of industry practitioner, but more as curator and a simple fan of screen music. I’ve had a lifelong passion for it, ever since hearing Bernard Hermann’s terrifying score for Psycho at the tender age of twelve, and I’m profoundly interested in the many questions that arise around the application of music to picture, what motivates and informs it and essentially why composers do what they do.

I’m fascinated by the life stories of creative people in general, and these things interest me at least as much as tools and techniques – although technology and musical content clearly do go hand-in-hand, and tools have to be included in any account of the composer’s working environment.

 

You’re responsible for organising ‘Screen Music Connect’, what are the aims of the conference?

Screen Music Connect is aimed at the music production communities of all media industries – from pro, semi-pro and amateur composers through to producers, engineers, music supervisors and audio directors – plus fans of soundtracks and anyone with an interest in the evolution of screen music.

The event, and subsequent events, will look at all forms of screen music in some way but will try also to cover issues that universally affect all composers, regardless of background or specialism. I would say that the emphasis here is on music and aesthetics more than on technology, although primarily it’s about screen music related issues as seen through the lens of personal experience.


You were involved with ‘Game Music Connect’ – an annual conference that ran for a few years – what was the reason behind the switch to ‘Screen Music Connect?

Game Music ConnectTo be clear, it isn’t a switch – it’s more of an off-shoot. Screen Music Connect is a pet project of mine as I felt there was the possibility to take Game Music Connect’s original format and to create something new with that, expanding it to include all forms of screen music. I think this allows Game Music Connect itself to adapt to a newer format, double-down on games and also to add in-game sound and audio in general in future, under the watchful eye of co-founder, John Broomhall.

Screen Music Connect is very much about music, although the eternal question of where sound ends and music begins is, of course, one always worth asking, even at a music-based event.

James HanniganI tend to think today’s media industries and forms are more closely interconnected and interrelated than ever before, too, and we see a lot of composers gliding from one industry to another. In this sense, for better or for worse (there are arguments for and against, I imagine) I believe we are in an era seeing more cross-industry fertilization, multi-disciplinary and multi-industry activity among composers than ever before.

In fact, in some contexts, even the word ‘composer’ no longer seems adequate for what many of us are often asked to do. It’s becoming harder and harder to actually define what a composer is, especially as many composers working today are actually producers and mixers of their own work or musician/composers in the sense that they often ‘perform’ their own compositions in some way. Despite this, however, I feel there are still big differences between media forms that need talking about, too.

James HanniganNone of this is to belittle the great work of traditional composers, musicians, engineers, orchestrators and so on though, who are dedicated to their crafts or one media form or another, of course. Or to suggest that a ‘conventional’ approach is in any way bad. But I do feel there is an interesting conversation to be had now about how we define composing in the 21st Century, and about the musical and industrial landscape we composers find ourselves in – and to look at the many motivating factors that help shape us and our industries.

For instance, an extreme example of some of the changes many of us face as ‘media composers’ could be when we observe bands or recording artists scoring films, games and television instead of those who are dedicated to composing music to picture or for a particular medium. Is this a good or a bad thing? That’s a question worth asking because some of these changes and paradigm shifts are possibly here to stay in some sectors. Some people are very passionate about these issues and I think it’s helpful having another forum to discuss them in.


What can attendees expect to get it out of it and is it geared towards a particular skill/career level (ie pros vs hobbyists)?

Games Music Connect

I’d like to think it’s aimed at composers working in, or aspiring to work in, screen music – or simply anyone taking an interest in screen music, from soundtrack fans to journalists, musicians and viewers. Of course, in one short day, we can only cover so many bases initially, but I’m hoping that the first Screen Music Connect will at least set the tone for future events and deliver its manifesto, you might say. There will be more, firstly in the form of evening-based events.


You’re going to be taking part in the “The Story of Interactive Music – Past, Present and Future” session on the day. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

John BroomhallIf there’s anywhere in the schedule where Screen Music Connect and Game Music Connect intersect, it’s here, not least because we have the amazing John Broomhall – co-founder and host of Game Music Connect – chairing it.

This panel I hope will interest people both already familiar with music in games and those who aren’t, by means of presenting a short history of ‘interactive music’ – with examples of techniques from several eras of gaming by the composers involved up to the present day, with a look ahead to the future and the ways in which music can become increasingly integral to game design.


At the time of this interview, there are more sessions and special guests to be announced, are you able to give us any tip-offs about these?

You can see the schedule, which will be updated in the coming weeks, over at https://www.screenmusicconnect.com/#schedule

Jessica CurryAlong with the announced panels on Classical Music & Soundtracks with Darrell Alexander of COOL, Jessica Curry, Jenny Nelson, Philip Sheppard (who will be performing “Kara’s Theme” from DETROIT: Being Human) and James Williams (Managing Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) and the aforementioned interactive music panel with Olivier Deriviere, Richard Jacques, John Broomhall and me, we’ve just announced a talk on AI Music and Creativity from Composer, Founder and CEO of Jukedeck, Ed Newton-Rex, and an interview with celebrated film and television composer, Debbie Wiseman OBE – to be conducted by the brilliant Andrew Collins – Presenter of Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies and Film Editor of Radio Times.

In other sessions, we will be talking about the role of music in VR and the importance of creative partnerships, working relationships and collaboration generally in film and tv.


What would you say to anyone who’s still on the fence as to whether or not they should get a ticket?

Screen Music Connect

 

I hear a lot of people bemoan the lack of talk events centred on film, tv and games, and if you happen to feel the same way about that, please do come along and support us so that we can continue to explore screen music in all its wonderful diversity in future. Hopefully, you will have a good time in the process and may make a few new friends!


Tickets for Screen Music Connect are available to buy now. For a limited time use code TIMESPACE2018 to save £15!! 
Click here for ticket details

Posted by Harry Peak

Since getting my first guitar at age 7 I’ve been obsessed with music. Although I grew up on a diet of ACDC, The Rolling Stones, and Status Quo (courtesy of my Dad) my music taste has grown massively since then. I’m currently working on my first album which I’m hoping to release sometime in 2018.

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