This week, we have a very special edition of Synch Song of the Week. We have done a handful of interviews in the past, but we are particularly excited about this one, as we have never done a Q&A with a composer who focuses specifically on scoring.
From his home all the way in Orvieto, Italy, Alex Liberatore answered a handful of questions for us to share with all of you music and film aficionados out there. The London, ON native is a Summa Cum Laude graduate from Berklee College of Music, in Film and Scoring for Contemporary Writing & Production. Upon graduating, Liberatore moved to Orvieto, a small town just outside of Rome so that he could perfect his craft and hone his skills. When he's not creating beautiful music, he can be found in the kitchen baking delectable pastries.
The talented artist scores for a variety of projects ranging from video games to full-length films and everywhere in between. His music has a distinct, dream-like quality about it that is undoubtably destined to be placed against visual media. Without further adieu, we introduce you to Alex Liberatore. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for a sample of some of Liberatore's work, and be sure to check out his personal website.
What is your process for sharing your work and making it known?
I enjoy meeting people face-to-face, so to make myself known I'll go to events, film festivals, conferences or any place that I can meet new people! After that I send people to my website and have them listen to my work there. Referrals are also a great way to meet people.
When you get a script for a project, do you immediately start humming melodies to underscore picture, or do you wait until you have the visual?
I like to start working right away as it gives me plenty of time to experiment and start sending things to the director/producer and get their first thoughts and feedback. Many people have initial ideas about what they want their film to sound like, and if they hear something the definitely don't want, that's also very useful feedback.
A lot of artists talk about their love/hate relationship with writing. Where do you fall on the spectrum, and how does it affect what you write?
I love what I do, but I've learned not to become overly attached to the music I write, so I'm not afraid to throw it away and start again. So when I sit down to write, I don't wait for inspiration, I just write. Then throw away what doesn't work, and then rewrite and then throw away. Repeat the process until I have a song!
What instruments do you play, and do you have a favorite?
Piano, guitar, bass and saxophone. I love them all, but I definitely play piano most, so I'll pick that one as my favorite.
Do you play all of the instruments on your tracks?
95% of the instruments on my tracks are all done with MIDI. The remaining 5% are guitar and bass which I play live.
Who is your musical inspiration?
So many! I will limit it to a few for this interview. On the film side, I'd have to say Thomas Newman and Bernard Herrmann. For personal study I've been pouring over "Carman" by Georges Bizet, which is absolutely beautiful and almost mind-boggling how one person can write 5 hours of music this amazing. In terms of modern music, my two favorites would have to be Miike Snow and BT.
What is your favorite scene that you scored?
I wrote the music for a film Sleepwalkers. I have many scenes from that, but the opening track is one of my favorites.
You've written for video games as well as films. Can you talk a little bit about what it's like to write for a video game?
In terms of what I deliver, when scoring a film I need to make sure the music lines up with the scene and that it doesn't interfere with the dialogue. Because video games are non-linear, I need to deliver looping music tracks. I'll also be asked to hand over the music as individual instrument tracks so the game engine can fade in/out additional layers of music depending on what the player does in the game.
In terms of how I write, the biggest difference musically is the kind of storytelling you do in games vs film, which has a very strong effect on the music direction. When I score a film, I tend to focus on characters, and their personal development/story.
With video games, because the player is controlling the main character, there is a more of a blank slate for who the character is and how the audience relates to them. Hence why you can have a video game with a non-speaking main character, but you can't really do that in film. So musically speaking, I tend to score the environment. Where are we? What kind of mysterious land are we in?How does this influence the main character? And tell the story that way.
Obviously there are times in film where you score the environment and times in games when you score the characters, but that's my general approach.
Being a composer, you have to see a project through the eyes of so many different people. What is your motto for still creating authentic work that is true to your personal vision?
Trust the team. Trust yourself. Keep going.
What is your favorite music/motion picture moment?
Again, there are many. The flying scene from "How to Train Your Dragon" definitely stands out (Test Drive on the soundtrack) by John Powell. Also, Scene D'Amour from "Vertigo" written by Bernard Herrmann is absolutely brilliant.
Do you have any advice for aspiring composers?
1) Get a hobby. Having music as both your job and hobby will only lead to trouble, burn out and misery. I think it's probably the biggest challenge for anybody trying to turn their passion into a profession. It's important to have something that you do just because you like it with no pressure to earn an income from it. It also makes you a more interesting person and, if you can, make your hobby social than it'll help you meet more people.
2) Read. Read lots and lots of books. Not just about music, about anything: business, self improvement, fiction, non-fiction, whatever. As Dr. Seuss said: "The more you read, the more things that you'll know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go"
Thank you so much for hanging out and answering these questions for us! We can't wait to see where things lead you next.
Thank you! :)