A look back on GlobalFest with the Resident Composer…the CPO’s own Assistant Concertmaster, Donovan Seidle! This year, Donovan composed the required piece for all the international teams to use in their fireworks displays. He tells us more about the piece – titled “OneWorld Fanfare” – in our Q&A. Click here to listen to the composition.
Q: What did you enjoy the most about being the Resident Composer?
A: It’s thrilling to be part of a larger project. It’s one of the things I love about playing in the orchestra – contributing to the overall (almost larger-than-life) performance. It’s the same thing with GlobalFest – my piece is part of the thrilling whole experience of the fireworks and culture festival that is GlobalFest.
I wondered if Handel could have envisioned perfectly synchronized fireworks with music (maybe he did!) when he wrote his Music for the Royal Fireworks (HWV 351); but I was struck with that history when I was writing. How cool! But to answer your question, I just enjoyed the whole process: it was neat to have to write and pitch so many tracks, and then to go further with a few of them. It’s the same sort of process you might have in film, TV or videogame soundtrack producing in the interaction with directors and producers, but just a different medium.
Q: Do you have a favourite memory from working with GlobalFest?
A: I sent my tracks around to several close friends and colleagues (some within the CPO), and I loved hearing their thoughts on the music! It was neat to have to write so quickly with the singular purpose of setting the music to fireworks.
It was also amazing to realize how precise these explosions can be. From designing with digital simulations, and launching with SMPTE timecode, with precise heights, timings and distances until the explosion(s) and semi-explosions: It’s amazing what these pyrotechs can do!
Q: Tell us about the required piece of music you composed, “OneWorld Fanfare.”
A: There was only one official piece needed from me; the 3.5 minute required piece that all the international teams had to incorporate into their show. That said, I particularly liked 3 of the dozen or so sketches I wrote (and of those 3, OneWorld Fanfare was selected as GlobalFest 2014’s required piece) – I’m sure I’ll use them for other projects!
Q: What was your vision for “OneWorld Fanfare?”
A: I really wanted the music to embody the feeling that you might get if you were seeing fireworks for the first time. I find fireworks shows (particularly when they’re paired with music) so epic and energetic, and that’s the feel I was going for: energetic, epic and anthemic.
Q: How many musicians were involved in “OneWorld Fanfare?”
A: We had a sextet of musicians (all CPO members) involved in the recording of this. When writing for film, TV, or live production show, I like to do a hybrid live/synth recording; it’s efficient and cost effective, and still sounds great. We overdubbed the musicians as much as we had time for to make the track really huge, and layered it with the synth for the remaining parts.
Q: Which CPO musicians were involved?
A: Jennifer Frank (with that great French Horn theme), Richard Scholz (crazy trumpet licks and fanfare material), and then myself, Laura Reid, Arthur Bachamnn and Rafael Hoekman as our kickass string section. Spencer Cheyne of “The Station” recording studio engineered, and Mélanie Léonard (our former Associate Conductor) co-produced. My wonderful colleague and friend Warren Tse also mastered the track. I really put them all through their paces – it wasn’t an easy piece!
Q: How long did it take to compose OneWorld Fanfare?
A: Hard to say. I started by pitching a handful of tracks that were just synth – it took a few days to get the idea out, and then came the revising. The producers and main fireworks designer narrowed it down, and then I revised and filled it out from there. Once the track was to all of our likings, it was released to the fireworks teams and timing was locked (meaning the mix and sounds could possibly change, but the timing could not!). From that point, prepping for the recording session happened: writing the sheet music out, bouncing out the stems, bouncing click track, and then recording, mixing and mastering.
Q: Were you happy with the outcome of “OneWorld Fanfare?”
A: It’s always a challenge with many ‘cooks in the kitchen’; you need your art to appeal to a director, producer, fireworks designers, the listening audience, etc. That said, it has been a very synergetic partnership, and I produced several tracks this year that I really, really like. It’s my hope that other fireworks companies will use them in the future, and to establish myself as a go-to solution for custom fireworks music! And as I said, a huge hand must go to GlobalFest who got behind the idea of locally created music content for this show! I’m looking forward to creating next year’s track!
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is composing music?
A: Write your music down. Have people play it, audiences listen to it, and record it. It’s great to look back on, and to potentially use for other projects in the future.
Also, stretch your ears and learn interesting compositional techniques, but always write music that you would find interesting and enjoy listening to!
Q: What did you learn about yourself as a musician through this experience?
A: I can write quickly. It’s a good skill to have. If my piano skills were less rudimentary, I’d be even faster! Also, it’s nice to come to realizations about what processes work for you as a composer or producer.
Donovan will serve as Resident Composer for GlobalFest again next year, where he will compose another original piece of music!