Everyone could use a quiet moment once in awhile -- a time to relax, zone out, or just fade into the background without any distractions. That’s where these artists come in -- they compose serene soundscapes, finely balancing interesting textures with unobtrusive, mellow tones.
From the cinematic synth notes of Dropa's pensive song, “Sleeper," to the hazy guitar riffs of “Neverender,” by LA-based band, XOLO, learn more about some of the ambient artists on our roster below and let these calming vibes accompany chilled out moments (or delicate, atmospheric scenes). Sit back, press play, and enjoy.
Here at Marmoset, our Music Supervisors are superheroes of song -- selecting just the right tunes for any project in need of music. We asked longtime Music Supervisor, David Katz, to put together a mixtape using his music guru magic. As a musician himself under the moniker Altadore, you know this is going to be good.
David provided us with a wide variety of some of his favorites songs -- the reflective indie rock of Hajk, big house beats and hip hop from Black Caviar, vintage blues of Freddy Fender and more. Whatever it may be that catches your ear, enjoy these specially curated picks.
It’s safe to say that not many 7-year-olds grow up with the idea of making music for picture in mind for their career -- but Georgia-based composer, Matthew Morgan, did. Collaborating with his filmmaker brother from a young age, Morgan found himself inspired by the scores to films like To Kill a Mockingbird and Rudy, discovering his passion for crafting scores that not only elevate the films they accompany, but that tell stories themselves. While he pursues this passion, we see the talented pianist, songwriter, sound designer (the list goes on), compose music for a variety of different projects, from indie movies to brand campaigns and more.
As a soloist, Morgan produces ethereal instrumentals featuring piano and string accompaniment. His orchestral songography provides for pensive moments of beauty that build in energy for intense conclusions, as exemplifed in his breath-taking composition “Sun Through the Clouds.” Morgan’s collaboration projects -- the dreamy indie pop of Planets and the nostalgic folk rock of Stella Stagecoach -- also highlight his ability to create dynamic music with other musicians, even remotely.
We met with Morgan to learn more about his creative ambitions, the challenges of music licensing, and how the right music can impact film.
Marmoset: When did you realize you wanted to make music as your job?
Matthew Morgan: I mean, I wanted to do it from a young age, but I didn't actually think I would do it until my late teens, maybe early 20s, because I didn't really have a plan of how I would monetize. My brother is a filmmaker, so even from a young age, we'd make movies. I guess I was more like a music supervisor, because I didn't really have the tools to make the music myself back then. So I'd just find all these soundtracks and put them in. We'd go through them, and we'd pick the best ones that fit the project. I wasn't just into music from a young age, but into music for film from a young age. In some ways, that side almost excites me more. I haven't really been in the band scene -- I've played live before, but it's always more like a one off. I never really thought of doing a tour because I've always thought of the film world. I want to do music for film and be more involved with film in general, even beyond music. With film, I think I just love story and emotion, and conveying that.
Is there a certain film that you can remember that really stuck out to you from a young age?
I guess one film where the music really stuck was probably To Kill A Mockingbird, Elmer Bernstein's music in that. There's just some really, really cool moments...certain melodic moments in there that I just really, really love. Him and the guy that did Rudy. I remember watching that when I was young. In that era, everything was just real. Real instruments, real orchestras. It's almost classical in a way, but a lot of that is what got me excited. Early James Horner, and James Newton Howard -- those guys, the older era.
On your website, you talk about wanting to tell stories through music. What does that mean to you, and how do you do it?
Going back to film, we think so much in imagery and sound. Recently I was walking through a local town wearing earbuds, and you realize so much changes just by inserting the music into it. It takes something that's pretty normal, pretty mundane, and the music almost pulls out the story elements. It always has some sort of arc, some sort of tension. It's that human element that just kind of pulls you in. I think the best songs you write, or the best art you create, comes from really personal projects -- not necessarily emotional, but whether it was a tough time or a really joyful time, it was an arc in your own life that came across through the song you wrote.
What is something you wish all artists or composers knew about music licensing?
I feel like a lot of artists and composers don't know about it at all. Everyone gets in a band or starts doing music, they assume it's all in digital sales. Like, "Okay, I gotta sell this CD,” or whatever. They don't realize you can probably make more licensing them to companies, because they're willing to pay more. I feel like most composers and artists should learn about that method of monetizing their music and also, learning to compromise a bit. There's nothing wrong with learning to customize or tweak your music to better suit someone's needs, to serve another cause.
On the flip side, what's something you wish all filmmakers or agency producers knew about creating music for picture?
Oh man, so many things. I wish they knew you couldn't just click and drag the length of a song. It's not like an Apple loop, where you just click and drag whatever length you need. But I guess in a broader sense, I would say maybe don't be afraid to let the composer be a bigger team player in the overall project. Sometimes the custom music is just an afterthought, and if you make the composer a team player from the beginning, you're going to get so much better results. Because they're going to have input in the story, they're going to actually care about the overall story, the visuals, everything that's being told. With the directors that I've worked with that actually give me that input, I feel like I give them a much better result.
What's your favorite part of composing?
Say I'm given a project that I'm really excited about, or I'm really captivated by this idea that they're trying to capture. That stage -- when there's nothing, when I have nothing, and I have to capture this beautiful moment that they're trying to capture. I already have a story, I already have a visual or something to inspire me. So you have the starting point, but it's like, "Okay, I've got this, but I've gotta take the audience to here, with this." And the pressure with that, but there’s also the reward of, "Man, if I can accomplish this..." The thing is, so much of creating music is listening. For me, it's experimenting until I feel it or hear what I know it's supposed to be. Okay, is that taking me to here yet, and if not, what can I do? And you just keep experimenting until you hit that high note.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
I would say probably twofold. You know the saying "If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life"? Basically that same idea. If you start off your life with that mentality, where instead of having money as a goal, or success, or whatever, your goal is just, "I'm going to do what I'm passionate about." And especially if I can affect others, I think that's something that excites me, inspiring others. If I can write something that I feel is inspiring, hopefully it can inspire others, too. But back to that idea of, "Do something you truly are passionate about, that truly inspires you, then you're not going to work a day in your life."
The other prong to that is learn to work hard. It's one thing to have the idea, but usually you actually reach it by some level of commitment. And maybe “work” is a bad word, but you're still committing time to accomplishing whatever. It doesn't have to be this grueling, terrible thing. You may love it. In fact, I think a lot of the people that are the best at what they do, the reason they're best is they put so much time because they love it so much. I'd say do what you love, but also the second part of that is just do it a lot. Do it even when you don't feel like doing it.
Field Notes: Filmmakers Brandon Semenuk and Rupert Walker of Revel Co.
"It's just finding the right track that brings out the right mood, and then also matches the pace of the riding and the location of the terrain." — Brandon Semenuk
Filmmakers Brandon Semenuk and Rupert Walker like to push their creative boundaries. Semenuk has spent much of his life building a reputation as one of the world’s most acclaimed and inventive professional mountain bikers. Meanwhile, Walker, a friend and self-taught filmmaker, has been collaborating with Semenuk to capture profiles in the moments away from the competitions and the camera flashes — the stuff that happens off of known trails and in new places. Together, the two Vancouver B.C.-based filmmakers founded Revel Co., a production company that allows them to showcase not only Semenuk's incredible riding, but the work they want to make on their own terms.
Blown away by their recent film, Simplicity, we caught up with the two friends to learn more about their unique filmmaking style and making tricks look easy (we know they aren’t).
Marmoset: Can you guys tell us a bit about yourselves and kind of how you got into making the films you're making today?
Rupert Walker: Basically, I was working a video editing job in California, and I didn't like my job, and me Brandon had been working on a video together while I was employed to this company. Pretty much, we decided to start our own company. I quit my job, and we have been working together ever since.
Brandon Semenuk: I was also in a similar situation at the time. I was working with some other production companies, but I didn't really have as much creative control over my content as I had hoped. Me and Rupert had been working together to try to express ourselves creatively.
You mentioned this company that you started together, Revel Co. Can you tell us a bit about it, and the kinds of videos you make. What's your goal with it?
RW: Yeah. Revel Co...basically, we do a handful of commercial work, but most of the stuff that we do is focused around showcasing Brandon's riding. Brandon's on top of the game. He's such a talented and creative mountain biker, and so we're taking these unique and outlandish concepts that usually wouldn't be applied to mountain biking and applying it to Brandon's skill and then developing these really interesting and visually appealing mountain biking videos that really no one else is making.
You're talking about this unique way of showcasing riding, but it seems like the music also plays a big part in your videos. Can you talk a little bit about your process of choosing music to go along with the films?
RW: The thing about trying to find music for that is there always tends to be a pacing to the movement. I think it's just trying to find the right song that has the right pacing to match the riding, and then also just trying to make sure that we basically capture the mood, showcase the mood the best way possible. Brandon, do you want to touch on anything? You found that song for the last video, and it totally changed the video, you know?
BS: Yeah, for sure. Every video has to have a certain flow. Then obviously there's an energy to the riding. If the riding is really aggressive, you kind of want something that's hitting hard, and if the riding is more flowy, you can have more of a mellow track that makes it look more dreamy. Like Rupert said, it's just finding the right track that brings out the right mood, and then also matches the pace of the riding, the location of the terrain. Once we get it all on the timeline, you kind of start to see that flow, and then you can start looking for, "Okay, I think this is going to be more an upbeat song, or something slower, or something electronic," and then you get a better idea once you start seeing the footage altogether. Most of the time, music's a really, really big part of what we're building out in the end, and the right songs really bring it to life.
What's something you learned when filming Simplicity?
RW: One thing we learned is that sometimes it's better to just keep things simple -- you don't need to overcomplicate stuff. The only thing about Simplicity that Brandon wanted to do is basically just do the most stylish and simple trick, but make them look perfect -- that's "simple" in Brandon's terms, right? In terms of the riding, it was just about being simple. The film itself is black and white. There was this whole simple vibe to it, but at the end of the day, it turned out...we didn't try to over-complicate it, and it turned out really good, we think.
BS: Even the locations were like a single jump and a field, not a lot of distractions, all that kind of stuff. It's easy to clutter shots sometimes to try to make them look more exciting. But just to take that really "simplicity" approach to the whole video, I think, was something we learned. Just making things look neat, nice and visually appealing.
Cool. What would you say was the biggest challenge of filming Simplicity?
RW: I think we were in New Zealand filming that and we live in Canada. So just our timeline was kind of tight, and we were only there for a certain amount of time, so we really had to make sure we got everything with the time we were there. That's was the difficult part of us.
BS: Yeah. I had a friend in New Zealand build a lot of that track. So we were showing up to a bunch of jumps and mountain bike trail I hadn't even seen. We were showing up and going into shooting it right away, hoping that it works, and we've only got a handful of days, and we're dealing with wind and rain and all that stuff. Yeah, just emphasize being halfway across the world trying to make that go smoothly.
What is something others would be surprised to know about you?
RW: Actually, this goes along with the video concept of Simplicity, but when we film, the gear and our set up that we like to use, it's actually very simple, we roll with a small kit. We don't roll with a bunch of huge cameras and boxes and boxes of gear. We're actually a really kind of small production. I think that sometimes people don't really understand that when they see some of our videos in the end. Yeah, that's one thing that I would say. That probably would apply to both of us, eh, Brandon?
BS: Yeah, I think so. We like to keep it tight.
What is something that inspires you?
BS: I mean, a lot of things for me. Obviously I look at a lot of other sports, action sports, in particular. That inspires me, as far as my riding. But then in a creative sense, pretty much anything I see that is visually appealing, that makes you think, or just seeing people go out and just trying to be different and do something fresh, that alone is really inspiring to me. I think that's a lot of motivation for me, just trying to keep pushing my creative outlets, too.
RW: Yeah. You can apply that also to me, as well.
Great. Last question here. What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
RW: The best piece of advice I've ever been given is to not take any.
A new month, a new chance to see talented artists in a city near you. Marmoset artists are filling August with all kinds of music for whatever mood you’re in -- smooth jazz, dreamy indie rock, international pop anthems, warbling country hits. Keep your eyes peeled for the next show coming your way!
New York City
Wednesday, August 30th at Barboza
8pm, $12-$15, 21+
Thursday, August 31st at Lola's Room
8pm, $10-$12, all ages