Both Dom and Vanessa have incredibly impressive musical backgrounds. At the tender age of 18, Vanessa found her start in music, recording her own songs for EMI. Dom was also one of the very few people who arranged the classic theme tune to the world-renowned ‘Doctor Who’. He has since worked on film scores including ‘You’ve Been Trumped Too’, ‘A Dangerous Game’ and ‘Geoffrey’s Belt’. Join me in conversation with the duo below as they reflect on their latest release with CPM.
Congratulations on the release of ‘Degrees of Separation’! Can you talk me through the creative journey from inception to recording?
Dom: The idea for the album came originally from just one composition from Vanessa. “Gathering Hope” was such an inspiring piece written on the piano, which was then adapted and arranged by me. We then both began to come up with other tracks that had a similar emotional appeal. As we continued writing it became clear we were taking things in quite a cinematic direction, but at the same time, keeping the scale deliberately quite small. Roberto, the producer, widened the concept from the original neo-classical template and fine-tuned the writing process for us both.
The greatest help has come from working with a team that believes in what we’re doing, and an incredible producer in Roberto, who goes above and beyond in helping us to achieve the desired end result. The advice from the sales team was invaluable in helping us to understand what end-users may be looking for in the music. Hopefully the upshot of all that has been to fine -tune and improve our overall writing skills.
Having worked on a variety of TV Shows and film scores Dom, how have these experiences impacted your writing process?
Dom: Working to picture really rams home the importance of not over-writing. It’s vital to leave space, and in a project like this, it is so important to work as hard on the underscores as the main title tracks. As often as not, it’s those scaled-down versions that will often enhance the narrative in a dramatic context.
When you write to picture, there are defining parameters in place to consider (i.e. the visual image, character gestures and pacing), what was it like working without a moving image?
Dom: Having written to picture for years, your brain gets used to seeing images in every note! As a result we tend to have a mental image when writing. If we can’t imagine a visual element that the music could be enhancing, then we know the composition isn’t working.
‘Degrees of Separation’ transitions from hopeful and charming to enigmatic and sombre. With the range of concept tracks on this album, how did you find the composition process moving between these emotive themes?
Dom: All the tracks were planned to be evocative and to enhance the storytelling, but we didn’t feel we had to be limited to just one kind of emotion. Again, using our imagination in the writing process we felt all the tracks could easily belong in one film. Where they sat on the enigmatic/sombre scale was less important than an overall sense of unity in the compositions.
What is your favourite standout track on the album?
Vanessa: ‘Gathering Hope’ – it’s the first track and the inspiration for rest of album.
Dom: ‘Temporal Shift’ – my sister track to Gathering Hope with a similar feel. Together these two pieces helped set up the template for where we wanted go.
How would you describe the album to someone who hasn’t yet listened to it?
Dom: It’s an album of emotions. Each track is evocative, but in different ways. The piano plays a large part, with the orchestra used in a very contemporary way. Accessible, listenable without being intrusive.
Dom – you’ve held a wealth of experience as a solo writer, what was it like collaborating and writing alongside Vanessa?
We share an understanding of music to picture. We both love film music and tend to create the same imagery in our minds with a composition. Vanessa writes on piano and it is wonderful to have the full structure and melody already formed before I add my elements to the final composition.
Vanessa – having had your music showcased across the world, where is the most unusual place you’ve heard your tracks?
I don’t know how unusual it was, but having an orchestral track I wrote a few years ago used as the theme for the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures was always something I was proud of!