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A Muse's Muse Interview with successful composer, Bill Brown
conducted by: Jodi Krangle

Question: What's your background in music? How did you get started? Was your family musical?
I was raised with music around me all the time. My father was (and is still) a DJ in NYC and had a huge record collection that he had gathered from being in radio. I just picked out something that looked interesting and played it. Music was like a toy for me growing up. Listening to a song I loved was like playing with a favorite toy, I just couldn't get enough. I also started playing piano when I was about 4 years old, which was something I just needed to do for some reason.

Music was something I utilized to express myself and help me get through those pre-teen and teen years. I think I got into song writing because I needed to express the deeper, more meaningful stuff going on inside of me then. It helped connect me to my feelings. Music in general is really great when it can do that. I just kept writing and honing my skills, played in a few bands and began learning about production and gear just through trial and error over a lot of years. Getting my degree in Filmscoring and Songwriting from Berklee (officially Filmscoring - but I finished the entire Songwriting curriculum) was really a humbling experience, and a great one. I learned that I needed to learn a whole lot more, even after I graduated. So I interned in New York for a few years, worked out of my apartment for a year or so and then picked up and moved to LA. Everything that has happened has come at the right time for me, even if at that time I didn't think so. I started in Sound Design here in LA for a couple years, then moved over to Soundelux which at that time was doing only sound design in LA, and started writing music for Games and commercials. More than four years later I am the Director of Music here and we are writing original music for Film, TV and Electronic Entertainment.
Question: What were your musical influences? Who are your favorite songwriter/composers and why?
I think the first big impression on me musically might have been John Williams' score for "Star Wars". I saw that in the theatres about 26 times I think and bought the 2-album set as soon as it came out. I also remember listening to the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, The Doobie Brothers, and some other stuff. I think I was very picky about what I wanted to listen to. I listened to Frank Sinatra and those incredible big band arrangements a lot. Of course, I kept track of everything John Williams was doing, and gained a focused interest in film music through the 80's in general. Berklee (College of Music, Boston, MA) was like a Pandora's Box for me. I was jazz / R&B junkie the entire time I was there. Contemporary classical music was pretty new to me then - as soon as I heard this entire incredible new musical vocabulary I was hooked. It was like I was hearing a language that I already knew deep inside of me that had been waiting to get out. It was really an exciting time.

As far as my favorite composers and songwriters go, I've since branched out into enjoying almost every style of music possible. As far as influences go - There are so many composers and writers that have inspired me, the list is just too long now - it's too hard to pick just a handful.
Question: How did you get started actually getting *paid* for composing? Where did you go to get your music heard and did you need to put in "dues" before you could go where you wanted to go?
After graduating, I worked in a studio in Manhattan for about two years, for food, literally. I was composing, helping design a new studio, doing construction, whatever I could do. As I was doing that, I did some work for music libraries and some documentary work. That was enough to help me work freelance for a while out of my apartment. Then I visited LA and had 3 job offers in 3 days - it was time to move. A couple years later, I was being paid to compose music full-time - and here I am.
Question: What do you think the difference is between writing a song and composing? a score? Do you think there *are* any? (It's perfectly alright if you don't think so :-))
Sometimes they can be the same things, as we have all experienced. Songs, used with care in a film can be truly transforming. I love the idea of the score bridging the gap between a song and the film, making that deeper connection that the song alone might not make. With the score it is always a transparent, visceral kind of thing. It's mostly coming in 'under the radar' of the audience. A song is more immediate, and can really connect the audience on another level with a lyric. Then you have poetry, working with music, working with cinema - it really is amazing the story-telling power that this medium holds.
Question: What is the difference between composing a score for a movie, for a video game or a score for a TV show?
The music for a film is composed to (for the most part) a finished cut of the film. That makes the scoring process linear. The same goes for TV, with mostly tighter schedules. With Games, the music is composed to be used in a non-linear way, so new techniques for creating music that works interactively come into play. Thematically, there are similarities between the two. Where a theme can help the audience connect with a character or place in a film, the same can happen in a game. Where the overall arch of a film can be supported by thematic development, the same theory can be applied to the overall arch of game play.
Question: What composition of yours has been the most "successful" (however you define the word) - and is there a difference between your most successful work and your own personal favorite work? Are they one and the same or are they different?
I guess it depends on how I define success. What I work toward is supporting the project musically in the best possible way that I can. The other part of that is being able to really pour my heart into that project - it just makes it like "play" instead of like "work" for me. I am fortunate in that I have experienced that in almost everything I've created, some more than others, but I'm thankful for them all, for what they have taught me, and what I have brought to them.
Question: What are your opinions about the current state of Internet music - Napster and the like? Do you think it's beneficial or harmful to creators of music?
I have actually never used Napster - really, I'm not just saying that. So I don't really have a big opinion on it. It seems to be a thorn in the paw of the big record companies and their artists from what I've seen. I heard that as soon as Napster is shut down completely, 20 others would pop up. I don't know if that's true, but personally, I still enjoy going to the record store and finding the CD or CD collection, with liner notes, lyrics, photos and all that. I guess I'm old fashioned in that way. I actually post full-length samples of my music on my site, and still get requests every day for compilation soundtrack CDs - that says something I think.

Question: What do you have planned for the future? What projects are you currently working on (that you can talk about) and what are you hoping to accomplish in the new year?
I would love to continue on the path that I am on. I feel blessed to be doing what I am doing, and this is my dream - or at least part of it. :-) I just finished up a film for USA cable with Deran Sarafian (dir.-Terminal Velocity) that will premiere on July 24th on USA. Deran is a great director, and the film is wall to wall thriller / action / suspense music, which was a lot of fun for me. I wrote music for the next Microsoft Windows O/S (to be announced soon) and I'm currently composing music for a big Microsoft X-Box launch title that was just announced at E3 called "Ghost Recon". It has been a very exciting year so far!
Some of Bill Brown's recent composing and arranging highlights include director Oliver Stone's feature film 'Any Given Sunday', Deran Sarafian's 'Trapped', Gus Van Sant's 'Finding Forrester', Clive Barker's 'Undying', Michael Crichton's 'Timeline', Jim Sonzero's film 'War of the Angels', Tom Clancy's 'Rainbow Six' and 'Rogue Spear', and Steven Spielberg's 'The Lost World: Trespasser'. Bill is currently Director of Music at Soundelux Design Music Group, in Hollywood, CA. His official website is at
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