Enrolled at the mdw since: 2018

Area(s) of study: Composition & Media Composition

Favourite place at the mdw and why: The Future Art Lab has everything: cool architecture, amazing studios, great performance spaces, and stylish places to relax. The only thing it still needs is to be open 24/7. 🙂

Favourite place in Vienna: The Museumsquartier

© Stephan Polzer

What I wish I’d known back when I began my studies: that it’s okay to take things slow and refrain from piling on too many things at once.

When I compose, then it’s aways a tightrope act between rational and emotional decisions as to what a piece could be and where it should go, which always feels like a roller coaster ride that hopefully also allows the musical result to feel a bit like a journey into the unknown.

A question or topic with which I’m currently or generally preoccupied is the question of which listening habits and expectations of music are culturally based and which ones are more universal or present in people with differing cultural backgrounds.

My greatest success so far has probably, in an objective sense, been winning a prize at the “Sphere of a Genius” competition. Subjectively, though, the composition I’ve most recently completed is always my greatest success, since each one represents yet another honest step on my musical journey; at the moment, it’s the music theatre work that got premièred at the KlangTheater in June.

What’s your approach to working on a composing commission, like for a film? I try to get the best possible understanding I can of the film’s subtext and of what exactly the music should add to it all. Then, if there’s time, I’ll compile a list of musical ideas to discuss with the director, so that we can decide what direction to go in. After that come the easier steps in the overall process: the actual composing, producing/recording, and mixing/mastering. What all this is finished, you hope that there won’t be a need for any drastic reworking—but that normally depends on the quality of the initial conversation with the director.

© Stephan Polzer

What’s especially important to you in working together with filmmakers? Communication, communication, communication. Hearing each other out. Having realistic expectations. Having fun.

From what point should a composer be involved in the filmmaking process? As early as possible, so that the musical ideas will have gotten up to a good simmer by the time they’re needed—and it can sometimes be of huge benefit to the entire production if you compose the music purely on the basis of the screenplay and its characters. After all, the director will have already figured out some details about the movie’s atmosphere, and for the composer, I think that the focus on the message to be conveyed will be more abstract in this phase, since it won’t yet have been influenced by any visual images, and that can give rise to some pretty interesting outcomes.

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