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Day at Work: Film Composer

Day at Work: Film Composer


My name is Shohan Cagle and I’m a film composer. As a musician I get to work with people who are completely non-musical to create some
of the most emotionally intense and inspiring music that you know ever heard. So, you know
someone that says one thing that’s completely unmusical like, “I want it to sound like somebody
walking on grass.” I have to turn that into like a chello and a violin and this and that.
It’s just a lot of fun. Then, one day a friend of mine asked me if I would write some music for her documentary… and I said, “Okay.” And I had a lot of fun doing it and ever since then I’ve been hooked. Um, most people never actually hear the sound track, I have to point it out and they’re like, “Woah I love that soundtrack!” Cause it usually goes… dialog, sound effects,
music way at the bottom. I watch the whole piece of footage sometimes it comes in chunks
to me, but I watch the whole film through and I just I get like a tempo of how the actors
are moving and speaking and emoting. And once I get a tempo, usually it writes itself. I
start thinking about not even instruments so much just the feelings of the scene and
just what the actors and the director is trying to convey and then I try to you know mold
that into musical speak. When I watch “Poor Clementine” it felt really easy to write for that film. She was feeling depressed and she didn’t really like herself and she wanted
to just change something about herself. And those basic concepts were pretty easy to turn into a musical form. This is my mixer. This is what I use to control the different um… live instruments that I use. I use this chord for guitars and other keyboards. And this chord is for um microphones. I use virtual instruments, um, which take up a lot of memory and hard drive space. Um, those include orchestral instruments, um, ethic instruments from all over the world and, um, I use Logic Pro Studio 9 for my recording sequencer. Challenges? Short deadlines. Cause someone will call me up for like say um, a commerical jingle, but it has
to be at least five minutes long, high-quality, and at least use thirty different instruments.
And that would have to be finished in a matter of hours. So, I have to do that and sit and
focus, and just get in the right mindset, but that’s pretty tough. “Rebecca told me…” (singing)
I started playing music in my early teens and acting, doing theater, always loved movies
and music so, I’m primarily a self-taught musician. But, I also did a full course of
piano at the community college. So I learned the basics of music theory and keyboards,
which has helped me a lot in film composing. If you don’t know how to play piano, you can’t
really film compose. Just learn as much as you can about the industry – not just the
musical side but um, the business side, the technological side, just all the things that come together with film and music. Just learn as much as you can because it moves very quickly, so the more you can learn about technology, um, the better off you’ll be.

Comments (3)

  1. Wooo! Shohan! <3
    -Julie 🙂

  2. do you have one piece with different tempo changes for a scene or a cue in logic?

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