Review Fix chats with composer S. Peace Nistades, who discusses his creative process and goals for 2018.
Review Fix: How did this project come together?
S. Peace Nistades: This project really started several years ago, wanting to put together a little collection of pieces I’d written during my adventures in film scoring, some of which were for different films and fashion campaigns, but all of which haven’t been released before. As often happens, work, films and life have kept me busy so this got relegated to being in the back of my mind until last year as I approached my tenth year since I moved here to Los Angeles. It started to feel like the right time to work on this again and together with my co-producer Gerhard Westphalen (who also mixed and mastered the album), we slowly but surely began to assemble the pieces which range from some of the very first I’ve written here to much more recent work.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Nistades: Generally it always starts from a story. Story is always the first seed for me and my first discoveries of music as a child were through music coupled with drama; ballet (Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker), film music (James Horner’s The Land Before Time), opera (Mozart’s The Magic Flute). I love the marriage between these two and for me, character, emotion and story have always propelled my music. It determines what the colors should be — solo piano, string quartet, full orchestra or a merging of orchestra and contemporary sounds, it determines the grammar of the music — would it be jazzy, classical, pop. It determines of course the structure of the music through the narrative of the film, play, fashion campaign, ballet etc. For the most part I work with other storytellers and it always starts with a discussion of their story, what the point of view of the piece would be and what the arc of it is. From there I’ll almost immediately start getting ideas for colors and thematic ideas which I’ll then start developing into a suite, a long piece of music that generally begins at the beginning of the story and essentially tells the story through to the end. This is a very important part of the process for me as well as for my filmmakers because it essentially establishes a blueprint for the tone and arc of the music for that particular project, much like a five or six page treatment for a script. In long form work such as feature films or video games, it’s very easy to get lost working (and obsessing as we all do) on a short scene somewhere in the middle and lose sight of where in the greater narrative arc we’re at. This initial suite is a great reference point for us to come back to. The other reason it’s important for me is because it documents my very first impressions of a project, and sometimes, the journey it took to get to where we’ve locked in the themes and ideas. First impressions are always very valuable and often times we’ll find going back to that, or sticking to elements of it, to be the right way to go.
Review Fix: What’s your standout song? How was it written?
Nistades: The Adventures of Iris Lily (Overture) is probably one of my personal favorites and it was written for my good friend, director Andre Hedetoft’s daughter. We’d worked together numerous times alongside his co-director Andreas Climent on several short films, promos and a feature film, and when his first daughter was born, he asked if I could write her a little piece for her introductory ceremony. Andre and I have developed over the years a musical understanding of what excites him and myself creatively and so this was a really fun (and very fast) project to really paint something freely for her, my own little contribution. It really all happened incredibly quickly. I think it was two or two and a half days from when he first asked and when he needed it, so it was very much a free flow-of-consciousness that I wrote in probably a day or day and a half, then we recorded the live musicians and mixed and that was that. Since then, I’ve always looked back very fondly on this piece and it seems fitting to open the album with it.
Review Fix: What are your goals for 2018?
Nistades: There are certain projects that have always been on my list of stories to explore, new colors to paint in. For instance, I’ve always loved Poe and have always wanted to approach him from the standpoint of music and ballet. It’s something I’d love to explore further this year. I think one grows into finding one’s voice over a long period of exploration and life experience and recently it’s never been clearer to me the things I want to explore further, my obsessions, colors and textures I want to pursue. It’s this marriage between the organic and the inorganic I’m most interested in. Taking elements of a musical ensemble such as a string quartet but not treating it as purely a concert piece. Bringing the recording studio to it. Recording and manipulating sounds that can be created on those instruments but not in the contemporary sense; pencils on strings, creating a drum kit from hitting different parts of a piano, etc. To me, it’s what seems to reflect our times the most, this blending of humans and technology and our constant search for emotion underneath this merging, that underlying romanticism most of us have.
Review Fix: How do you want your music to affect people?
Nistades: Music has always been one of the most direct of the arts, not in specificity, but in emotional directness. It cuts through language and other modes of communication to a more hidden inner part of us and I feel that a lot of my music embodies that part of myself, the inner child. At the same time, I hope to be able to explore and convey the various shades of complexity that is all of us, the colorful vibrancy of human nature. That would be my ultimate goal. I’m still searching for that perfect project in which to explore (and hopefully achieve) that but that’s my green light across the bay.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Nistades: Well currently I’m working on three different upcoming albums: an album collaboration with concert pianist Christopher McKiggan where we explore a different approach to the ‘solo piano album concept’, a collection of the four Emily Daccarett fashion collections I’ve written music for over the years, and an album of music from a new collaboration with director Andre Hedetoft that lives in the world of his upcoming film, Finns Här Några Snälla Barn. There is also a film or two down the line so I’m excited for that.