GlobalFest is coming up fast (August 14-23) and we’re excited that our Assistant Concertmaster, Donovan Seidle, is the Resident Composer! We chatted with Donovan about what his role is all about.
Q: What does being a Resident Composer for GlobalFest involve?
A: Well, the show has a producer and a fireworks director. In naming me as Resident Composer, GlobalFest wants me to bring ‘my voice’ to the project. My task is to write the ‘required work’ that all the international teams must incorporate into their fireworks shows, which happen nightly throughout the festival – but that said, GlobalFest makes the call on the piece that is approved. This is consistent with work in TV, film, or video games. So this requires hearing their vision of the piece (extra-musical, or musical inspiration), and trying to encapsulate that with my own voice into a 3-4 minute piece. Invariably, this takes a number of ‘tries’ before we start to go down the right path. I prefer to write copiously, and then to see what sticks with the producers and Canadian Team fireworks director – from there, it’s a matter of refining!
I must write, do the synth programming, hire live players, make readable parts for them, bounce out stems, record the session, and mix the track to the specifications of GlobalFest’s experienced team before it goes out to the international teams (sometimes preliminary versions are sent, and from then on, timing of the track does not change).
Q: How did you come to being in this role?
A: I’ve worked with GlobalFest in the past, when I wrote the finale music for their wonderful 10th Anniversary show. This involved, among other things, an arrangement of “Amazing Grace” using a full complement of strings (comprised of the Kensington Sinfonia, which I direct), a choir (comprised of members of the Calgary Philharmonic Chorus, plus members of Voicescapes as soloists), and the Calgary Police Service Pipe and Drum Band. Having such a vast live ensemble to play perfectly synchronized with fireworks (which depend on strict timecode) was not an easy task!
Dealing with live players with the need to synchronize elements tightly is a skill that I’ve developed over the years, which has been put to good use in my writing for film and TV, my work with Dave Pierce and the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show, and of course our work together on the Emmy Award-winning Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games Ceremonies.
After the success of that 10th Anniversary show, I was approached by GlobalFest to take the role of Resident Composer, which I was more than happy to assume!
Q: What is the most challenging part of this role?
A: As with any music production job, one of the big challenges is to balance your musical preferences with other parties. Sometimes you must ‘throw out’ music because it isn’t appropriate, doesn’t ‘jive’, isn’t glitzy, isn’t heart-pounding, or just ‘doesn’t work’ (incidentally, I always save all of my sketch drafts for use on later projects). The challenge of ‘not being married to your music’ is a big one to overcome: the cutting-room floor is brutal, and littered with scattered remains of great ideas. But on the flip side, if you hold onto the vision that is given to you by the producers and directors, which you must meet (or lose the job, in many cases!), it eases the pain of having to rewrite and replace: you’re left with a top-notch piece of music that you’ve written in your own voice that fulfills the needs of a larger project.
Q: What are you most excited about?
A: It’s exciting to be part of a larger project. That’s what I love about playing in the CPO (the music of the whole ensemble is elevated above the sum of its individual parts, somehow), working on projects (tv, film, etc.), or live production shows (the Olympics, sporting events, etc.). It’s the whole idea that Richard Wagner was after in his pursuit of Gesamtkunstwerk; a “total artwork” involving all senses and manners of design, all working in ensemble. Seeing your contribution as part of a magical whole is really something; and to have written an orchestral (hybrid live/synth) track that all these different international teams will incorporate in their own way into their presentation… that’s really going to be something to see and hear. I’m looking forward to the crowd’s reaction – everyone gets stage-fright, and I’m excited and nervous to see if they react well!
Q: What was your vision for the music in GlobalFest?
A: We needed something exciting. I like to write in a film-soundtrack orchestral aesthetic. With that broad, vague set of rules, each one of my submitted sketches to GlobalFest was quite different! But within the 3-4 minutes, there had to be an arch: starting strong, then establishing character, developing the ideas, contrasting the ideas, a short relaxation, and then a tremendous build to the climax. But as with my music in the Olympics, I wanted the music to be tuneful and hummable!
Q: What do you hope people will experience from the music?
A: Every composer wants to have people say “WOW” (And not in a sarcastic way!). I hope that my music brings them breathless excitement on its own – but in this context, it is only part of a whole presentation; the international fireworks teams are working hard to create their fiery dance in the sky that my music will contribute to.
Q: Any fun facts about the music you can share?
A: I had the pleasure of directing a few of my CPO colleagues in the recording studio. There’s a wonderful french horn solo by Jennifer Frank that is featured!
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: It’s rare that an organization will make it a priority to have new music created. GlobalFest has shown this commitment by having me involved as Resident Composer. I hope they are applauded for this, and that other organizations take their lead, because it’s something really really special. They’ve sourced a composer locally, I’ve found players locally, it was recorded locally – this was a Calgarian venture headed by an amazing organization.
I hope all of our readers get a chance to come out and see GlobalFest – it’s truly something else. If you see me around the grounds, say hello!