Jaime introduces Hans
15 January 2020
Young Film Critics: Jaime Grijalba in conversation with composer Hans NieuwenhuijsenA new wave of film critics has been invited to IFFR’s Young Film Critics trainee project. During IFFR 2020, six promising writers will be producing critical festival coverage. For their first assignment, the critics spoke to the Dutch composers featured in the IFFR Pro x Buma programme.
Young Film Critics: Jaime Grijalba in conversation with composer Hans Nieuwenhuijsen
A new wave of film critics has been invited to IFFR’s Young Film Critics trainee project. During IFFR 2020, six promising writers will be producing critical festival coverage. For their first assignment, the critics spoke to the Dutch composers featured in the IFFR Pro x Buma programme.
Chile, where I am from, is in turmoil, as society is actively changing in front of everyone’s eyes. At this essential political and social moment of my country, coming from Chile feels like a mixture of carelessness and responsibility. I feel careless because I shouldn’t leave this moment behind and responsibility to be able to faithfully communicate what it’s happening to the rest of the world. Being part of the Young Film Critics programme is something I take humbly, because my intent was always to find a reason behind doing the things that we do, in the context in which the whole world is right now. What is the purpose of a film critic or programmer in a world that seems to be saying that those kinds of things won’t matter for much longer? My main goal during my first visit to IFFR is to search in what my colleagues do and what the institutions there are doing for us to continue to matter, to continue doing both what we love and what we think is essential to the film viewing experience: discussing and talking about it.
Speaking of discussing about the craft and sense of audiovisual media, I had the chance to exchange some words with Hans Nieuwenhuijsen, a Dutch composer who has been invited to be part of the IFFR Pro x Buma programme at CineMart, alongside other five composers of the same nationality. His work has been heard mostly in short film subjects (both fiction and documentary), but he’s also worked in art installations and most recently in television. In a world that seems to value music composers as titans of established style, the breadth of genres and lengths in which he has worked is inspiring. I was eager to speak to him about what he thinks about the current scoring scene and how he develops his work in that context.
There’s lots of variety of work you've done. Would you say that it's more of a necessity nowadays for composers to have a wide-varying array of sounds available for different kinds of genres and types of projects?
One of the most beautiful things about composing for media is that every project is different. One day you are writing for an orchestra, and the other day you are patching cables on a modular synthesizer. Instead of pursuing a constant musical style or genre, I prefer to investigate new interests and sounds. I do not think that composers need to work like this necessarily. Lots of composers I know are mastering a specific skill really well. I would say that it is not a necessity, but rather a possibility that comes with the time that we live in.
What about the personal sound or feel of a composer, how is that achievable in today's music work landscape?
Composers often get musical ideas just by reading the screenplay. The search for the musical identity for the film starts from that point. By sharing sounds and playlists, this feeling can be communicated to the director and producers. In my experience, there is space for the composer’s personal sound, though it should be functional for the film. Sometimes existing tracks are temporarily used during the film’s edit. These so-called temp-tracks are used as a blueprint of how the composition should sound, and it can be a challenge for the composer to create his own interpretation of the film from that point. Every composer has a different opinion about this. Best friend or worst enemy; this can be different for each composition.
Has colour, shapes, plots or even actors ever influenced the way that you've created music for specific pieces?
As a composer, every element of film can inspire me, just as much as external sources. Drawings from the art department, locations, actors, sounds or pictures. That is why I love staying connected with the crew as much as possible. Every piece of information connected to the film helps me to shape the score. But I noticed that it also works the other way around. For instance; a while ago I wrote the score before filming even started. None of it reached the film in the end, but it truly helped the director and the crew to shape their world, as the music was being played on set!
What do you expect to experience and achieve at IFFR 2020?
So many inspiring people to talk with! It is a place where our love for film comes together. I’m looking forward to the CineMart and connecting with other filmmakers, and to spend some time with the other 5 Buma Music In Motion composers. I’m curious to see their work and hear them talk, get inspired for coming projects. Besides attending the CineMart, you will probably find me in the cinema watching (short) films. Luckily the IFFR is 12 days, so plenty of time to get involved!
What are you working on right now?
At the moment you can visit the Bes, Small God in Ancient Egypt exhibition in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam. Together with Still, we created the sound and music for Mirjam Debets’ beautifully drawn animation that guides you through the exhibition. For the score, we mixed ancient instruments with modern digital sounds. This summer I finished the music of Tessa Pope’s documentary short Overtijd, which is out now, and we’re about to create music for her new series of portraits. Also, together with Jelle Verstraten and Chrisnanne Wiegel (as Musikpakt) we are writing the score for the tv series Fair Trade. Lots of stuff to come, but first let’s enjoy the IFFR!