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  • Writer's pictureDrew Schnee

Chris DuBrock - Hybrid Orchestral Expert

In this Creator Magazine, we interviewed composers of the Audio Cartel team where they share their perspectives on composing music for films and TV, and talk in-depth about their careers and the production music industry.

We hope that these interviews will give you insight and advice about the library music industry, especially the business side and how to get involved with this fascinating industry.

Sit back and enjoy the ride!

Tell us about yourself and your musical specialty. “My name is Chris Dubrock. I'm located in Los Angeles, CA. I specialize in hybrid orchestral as well as electronic and world music fusion. I like combining barricaded elements to hopefully create something new and interesting.”

How did you find yourself in the library music industry? “Being here in LA, you meet a lot of people that do many different kinds of things in media and music. I met some people who were composing for production music libraries, and it sounded like an interesting endeavor. I met other composers who talked about how fun it was, so that is how I got into it.” What do you like the most about the library music industry? “I like the fact that you’re able to work within very specific parameters, but still create something new. It gives you a lot of freedom because you have the formula, but there are infinite variations that you can create out of those structures. It helps my craft as a composer because anytime you work within restrictions, which you're pretty much always doing as a media composer, you gain discipline of creating two specific guidelines. I think that helps across the board for all composing. I also like being able to step back from the actual visual media itself, for example. If I'm doing a score for a film or a TV show, the actual musical structure of the composition is determined by the picture cut. Whereas with library music, you can utilize more of a song format like you would in Top 40 Music and other popular genres, while still having a creative cinematic core. I think of it as kind of a marriage between film scoring and pop music in the sense that the form is more like pop music, but a lot of times the orchestration and the instrumentation is more like big orchestral dramatic scoring.”

What do you like the most about working with Audio Cartel? “They have creative approaches. I started working with Oded first in different libraries, and at that time he was asking for Middle Eastern flavored tracks. I also saw that Audio Cartel was very open to having exotic flavors without it being categorized as music from a particular region or locale. I think they're very open to creativity if it serves the purpose of enhancing the picture, ultimately. Of course, they're aware of all the kinds of the rules of library music, one of which is that you need to fill in sonically, with regard to the human voice. The first thing you must make sure you're not doing is stepping on a dialogue, so dialogue always must be let through. They're aware of all these very specific parameters of library music, but within those parameters they really allow the composers to try new ideas and experiment to hopefully come up with ideas and sounds that haven't been used in exactly that way yet. They also have some drastically innovative ideas, which make our work uniquely interesting. Their approach forces you as a creator to think differently, from beginning to end, which is quite challenging and thrilling, regarding your mission and calculating it, which ultimately produces some interesting and unexpected results. Straightaway, I was very impressed with Audio Cartel’s innovative attitude. Amit is such an accomplished classical pianist and composer, I really like working with someone who has a classical background of that nature and ability. It's rare to come across someone who's an actual concert pianist who is also doing this type of music. Oded is equally talented, but in different areas.”

What is something that you would suggest to an early on early on composer? “I would suggest making it a habit to work on composing every single day, even if it's only for five minutes. The discipline of sitting down and getting your brain engaged every day is crucial. It's a lot like exercising, where it's better to do five push-ups every day than it is to do 25 push-ups one day a week. The daily discipline of composing and the process of continual learning is important too. There's always room to grow. Even the most accomplished composers including Hans Zimmer and John Williams are always studying new scores. They're still students even at their level. You must have the mentality of trying to soak up as much as you can to perfect the craft and to foster relationships. It is important to be able to work with others and to be able to view it as more of a craft than an art, because a lot of times people are going to take what you've written and chop it up or they'll want something that's seemingly simple that a kindergartener could have done it. They're the boss and if they're writing the check, you've got to have that humility to just say OK. If that's the way you want it, that's the way we'll do it. I think it is part of the composer's first responsibility to try to steer them in the best direction for the project, but if they just won't accept that, then you must have that humility to just recognize your place in the food chain and act accordingly.”

Who are some of your favorite composers or composers that inspired you to get into this work? “As I mentioned, John Williams and Hans Zimmer. John Powell has also always been a favorite of mine. He's kind of a model for me because he's able to do electronic composition such as The Bourne Identity and orchestral music like in How to Train Your Dragon. He's one that I look up to as kind of a model for myself. I also think that with people like Has Zimmer and John Williams, they have kind of redefined the sound of film music. If I was to try and imitate either one of them, I'm just going to sound like a cheaper version of them. I would rather have someone like John Powell, who I think is equally great, but maybe not as much of a household name, to use as a model. Danny Elfman is also one of my favorites. He has a very distinct sound and he studied African drumming and Indonesian gamelan music, so he has this incredible sense of percussion as well as a great harmonic sense that is very distinguishable. It always somehow sounds dramatic and filmic. Those four are among my top favorites, but I also do like a lot of the younger composers as well, like Ludwig Goransson. I always keep my ears open because there are a lot of very talented composers of course, at all ages and stages.”

Is there a specific composition from a movie or TV show that made you say, “this is what I want to do”? “I think it was probably when I went back and listened to the Jaws soundtrack. I had seen the movie a long time ago, but that was when I was more of a performing musician. I wasn't really focused on film music, and I remember thinking, wow, that's a cool score. I eventually bought the soundtrack and it’s just amazing, especially the famous shark music. There's so much other great music, Americana music, that is inspired by Aaron Copeland and then I also see music that reminds me of Claude Debussy. It’s just so rich of a musical tapestry and it rides the emotions from high to low. I think it was that score, the Jaws soundtrack, If I had to narrow it down to one, that really inspired me.”

When you're sitting down and you're doing your daily discipline to create a new work or composition, what are the challenges, routines, or specific mindsets that you put yourself into to get into a creative flow? “I like to start with pencil and paper if possible. I like to write everything out, play it in, have it sound great, and have it all conceived before I get to the computer. That's kind of the old school way. John Williams doesn't even have a computer; he hears it all in his head or on the piano. Most of the time, I write things out and when I go to the computer, it doesn't work exactly the way that it should based on the sounds that I have as well as misjudgment and timing. I really like being able to work with a computer to get that immediate feedback so that I can correct whatever doesn't work. I think starting with pencil and paper gives you the advantage of being able to plot out a form. Typically, I'll start by figuring out what the tempo needs to be, then I'll calculate what the duration of the track needs to be, and then I'll figure out how many bars that is. I'll plot it all out on score paper, and then try to draw in the main themes and harmonies according to that scheme so that the overall structure of the piece can work. Many times, when I actually go to the computer, I end up changing things around quite a bit, and then there are times where I might get an idea and start playing with it and then get going and just do it all on the computer.” What are your personal goals within the library music industry? “I'm relatively new to library music so I would say I definitely haven't achieved my goals, but I'd like to get some big placements. I'd love to have music placed in great TV shows. I think the quality of TV has potentially gotten a lot higher with incredible shows like Breaking Bad. If I could get a track in something of that quality, I would be really gratified. Whatever function. it can serve well, though, I think it’s also gratifying too. If you're able to really bring out the humor in a dramedy or a reality show, then you've accomplished your goal. We want to make people feel things, so if I can do that, of course I want to make money with this too, so those would be my goals.” What are your goals here on Earth? “This is very personal and I don't expect this to make it onto the site, and I have no problem if it doesn't, but I I believe in God, so I believe that my first purpose is to glorify God and serve God. And love my neighbor as myself, so that's my first goal. My second goal would be to give my best effort as consistently as possible and to do it with a good attitude. My ability is in the field of music so, I would think of that as the arena primarily, but it also would extend to anything that I’m called to do.” Is there anything else that you think that the audiences of audio cartel should know about you as an artist? As a composer about your music or any stories that you want to share? “I was thrilled to be able to work on a project with Walter Koenig, who was in the original Star Trek. He played Chekov in the original Star Trek. So that was great, just to get to meet him and exciting to be able to score something with an actor of that level. You just meet so many incredible people here in LA that I just feel really blessed to be here and part of this whole thing, but it's also a worldwide scene. I think that's one of the beauties of the digital revolution and just the fact that we can do this interview over Zoom. I've never met Oded or Amit in person, but I feel like I know them well just from interactions over zoom e-mail. so. I think we're blessed in many ways.”

Thank you for sharing your story. “Thank you.”

Thank you for reading!

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