We found Damien through his work with our Friends at Canticle. Even though they had never met, Kelli reached out to him hoping to collaborate and he said yes! Kelli and Damien share a love of music for theater, dance, and film, and had already been working together when Kelli asked him to write a piece for Canticle. We love their connection and how Damien likes to personalize his compositions based on his project, medium, and most of all, performers.
Jessica:First let’s talk about how we became Friends. You have been working with Kelli, from Canticle Flutes, to develop new pieces. As an intro, can you tell us a little about the piece they will be performing, May 14, “Without Judgement?”
As a composer, I like to write scores that exhibit beauty and emotion. When Canticle came to me, I was very excited to write a flute quartet for them. Never did one before. Kelli gave me some small parameters to stick to and then let me on my own. I just hoped I gave her what she was looking for and what I wished for, [which is] mostly to make sure all the players had a moment to “shine” and not let one or two chairs take all the fun with the score. While listening to the score, you will hear and see how I spread the score out to make it fun and interesting for all the players.
While listening to “Without Judgement” there are a couple things to focus on. Visually, watch the players and see how certain “runs” happen with certain flutes. I tried to make the score visually entertaining, as well as audibly. Towards the end of the score, I took an idea from the band Rush and their song YYZ. I embedded Morse Code into the flutes and spread it out amongst them all.
When it comes to the rest of the melody, I generally just sit behind the piano and work it up. When writing a score for no specific medium, such as dance or film, I don’t focus on any specific emotion. I just write what comes out. When working with choreographers or directors, that’s when I really focus on the medium and the direction or emotional feeling my collaborators want. You always want to make yourself, as well the people you are working with happy.
Jessica: Where did the name come from?
My scores are titled about what is going on around me. Completely random. It might be something I see or hear that gives itself the title of the score. I write so many scores, that I didn’t want to put numbers on them. “Without Judgement” was titled, based on when I finished the score, I was watching news reports of people in the minority community being judged based on the way they look.
Jessica: How did you get involved in scoring music for theater, film, and dance?
I grew up in the 80”s, in the punk rock scene of Buffalo, NY. When I was 14, I started to play guitar in punk rock/hardcore bands moved on to the jazz band in high school then music conservatory at Purchase College. Through that development, when I was at Purchase, I started writing scores for the ballet dancers and theater people. Purchase is a great fine arts conservatory that helps you collaborate with many mediums and I took full advantage of that.
Jessica: Do you get to work with the performers in dramatized works? What have those collaborations been like? Does working with actors or dancers differ from working with musicians?
Working with dancers and musician is quite different. A musician reads the score, plays what’s on paper, while a dancer or choreographer may take the score and interpret it differently. The choreography of a score is set upon how the artistic director feels the score and what they want highlighted, whereas the musicians are guided by the score. Scores are written with notes that are to be specifically played. When working with dancers; their movement can be changed and manipulated many ways. A musician’s interpretation is more limited to what’s on paper.
Jessica: It can certainly be more obvious when other media choose to focus different aspects of a score. Does the medium affect your composition? Do you find there is a difference in the way you write when you think of theater vs film vs dance? Or a difference between the dramatized works and music that will stand alone in a performance?
Every score I write for a specific medium is done very carefully with the collaboration of the director/writer/artistic director. I am working for them, so the closest I am with those people, the better the project turns out. Every project is different and that’s how I have handle every project. Bringing out the best I can, musically, for every project is my goal.
I love working with other artists and types of media. Collaborating with others only enhances my scores. I have written for ballet/contemporary dance companies, tv/film, theater, animation and various orchestras. The key to working so much with other artists is to keep an open mind. Listening to other peoples’ ideas and thoughts. You never know when someone comes up with an idea you never thought of.
Jessica: Do you have any upcoming performances we should know about?
I am constantly playing live concerts and have scores being premiered. You can stay up with my work through my Facebook site.
Or to get to know my music better, check out my soundcloud or youtube channel
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