Say a few words about your music to a first-time listener...
Rooted in classical music with a strong sense of catchy themes and melodies and, as I’m told, quite visual.
What are the experiences, emotions, and beats that motivate Sebastian Oswald?
Let me start with a sentimental story: my parents started to play music to me from a very early age to help me fall asleep. It was mainly Mozart. And for some unknown reason I reacted very strongly to it. To me, Mozart was the most beautiful, fascinating, mystical thing in the world. His music touched me so deeply that I wanted to do the same. I had to make music. I wanted that more than anything. I was maybe three years old, lying in my bed, sending a prayer to Mr. M.: “How did you do this? I want to create something just as beautiful. How does this work?" I’m still searching for the answer.
That’s the basics. As for the practical part, there are three sections to my motivation:
Playing around with musical questions, e.g. how to derive a fugue from the song of a blackbird and write a piece that constantly drifts between that song and a fugue?
Contributing to a project e.g. working for film and theatre. I really love working in a team looking for the best way to express with music what words can’t say.
Restituting the power of music by delivering it from sheer entertainment but combining it with a social context (I am currently work on a piece that’s based on the backgrounds of the refuges in the refugee camp of Moria, Greece) or reframing it (concert music in the style of film music).
Who are the main contemporary composers in your playlist right now?
György Ligeti. Thomas Adès. Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Andrew Norman. Spotify’s Composer Weekly Playlists.
In one of his last interviews, Ennio Morricone confessed that he was annoyed with Hollywood movie directors trying to downplay the role film music. Given your involvement in TV and film music, tell us about your attitude towards film music projects?
I love writing film music. It can be highly rewarding and it offers ample creative opportunities. Also, I love the process of conceptualizing the music with the director/producer to make it absolutely unique and fit like a glove to the respective project.
This leads us straight to the other side of the medal: I haven’t done film music in a while because I found that too many producers and directors are rather disinterested in music. (Which seems weird for people working in a medium that is labeled audiovisual.) Of course, they all want and love great film music (so I don’t quite agree with Morricone here) but too many of them don’t contribute their share necessary to achieve great scores. The result of that disinterest is a mass of exchangeable scores. It’s really a waste of work and opportunity. To come back to your question: I love doing it but it needs to be an actual collaboration.
Do you watch a film or a TV show just for the music? What are the best films or TV shows with impeccable music as far as you are concerned?
Sometimes I skip through series’ to check whether they’ve come up with a strong music concept. But I don’t really watch stuff just for the music except for films scored by John Williams. I think his ability of combining the requirements of film music with the craft of composition and his gift for catchy themes and colorful orchestration is absolutely intimidating. A giant really - from every point of view.
Apart from Mr. W. and all the great masters of the genre, I was actually blown away by the music of the Amazon Series “Homecoming”. It’s all compiled as far as I can see but those music editors did an amazing job. The Italian Netflix Series “Suburra” is another example. Also, a compilation of only a few tracks. Which is something I really love if it’s done well: minimalism.
As for film, I recommend checking out the soundtrack of “Mr. Turner” a 2014 British production. The score is by Gary Yershon and it is fantastic. Oh, and do you know who gets way too less recognition? Alf Clausen for scoring “The Simpsons”. He is such a master of the trade. He can establish a mood in 2 seconds and change it in 1. I have the highest respect for him.
Do you listen to other genres of music when you are not writing your own? If yes, what? Any new discoveries in recent weeks? I follow Spotify’s Classical New Releases Playlist and listen to some radio stations for new input. But to be honest I rarely discover something that catches my attention. Latest discoveries were all recommendations by friends: Dictaphone, Henry Greenleaf, Phillip Solllmann, Jon Hopkins, all electronic stuff. Oh yeah, and “Sola” via your website.
In terms of genres, I’m rather open. I like strong melodies, strong moods. I like simplicity, music that flows like water. I yearn for a strong impact. I don’t care about genres as long as I get that. Many collaborators have pointed out that you have a good sense of humor and it’s always fun to work with you. What or who do you credit with your easy going nature and great sense of humor? I think it’s a combination of modesty aka not taking yourself too seriously and being in control of what you do.
Most people I met who were not very easy going mainly seemed to be insecure about their abilities. So, commanding your craft may help in being pleasant company.
The other thing is modesty. For example, when I’m on a film music job I’ll take it dead serious. Otherwise, I can’t get the best result possible. However, at the same time there’s a part of me that steps aside and says, "This is only entertainment. It’s music. I’m not feeding the poor or curing cancer here.”
And I think it’s this slightly schizophrenic combination of closeness and distance. I approach the actual work seriously while maintaining a relaxed attitude so the big picture has room for humor and lightness when interacting with others. We have an ongoing campaign titled #BeatTheBlues on ways to prioritize mental health. It would be great to hear your proven methods that help you #BeatTheBlues? I can offer five: 1- A walk in nature, ideally into the woods. Do it until your mind starts to clear up. If it takes five hours, walk five hours. I once walked eight. 2- If you have close friends who are willing to listen to you without trying to help, to provide room for your mind to unwind, then speak to them. 3- Get your headphones, go to a silent place and listen to music. 4- Quit all social media. 5- If you feel it’s something severe: never be too proud to get professional help. If there is one thing you have learned about yourself as an artist in recent month, it’s that…?
There’s a limit to creative output if you pinch off the natural input of life for too long. Today’s goal is… because…
Sooner or later I should move my lazy ass and clean up my apartment because a friend is coming over for dinner tonight.