My Interview

  • "Lion King" Singer and Composer Lebo M

Which book lies on your bedside cabinet?

Actually I’m reading Lehman Engel’s “Words with music – creating the broadcast musical libretto”. It is a huge and honest book and every composer who has intentions writing a musical should read the wise words of this man!


What do you do, if there is a low-budget production and there is almost no money left for the music?

You know, you can’t hinge a good film on budget. There are many low-budget films which are brilliant! So if these films can’t pay an orchestra, there are many opportunities left:

We can take a smaller group of musicians for example! Even some films don’t need this huge mass of sound. For “Wormholes” I decided to record with a string quartette, a vibraphone and a piano, because otherwise a whole orchestra might overload the beautiful, delightful picture! If the film needs to have a large sound, but there is no money left for a whole orchestra, there is a way to record great music with some good sound libraries. The film “Oceanmaker” was made this way, merely the singer was a real musician.

So there are always opportunities to create good music.


Where do you record your music?

Proudly I can say; in my own recording studio! For some impressions please have a look at the website.

There is also an opportunity to hire a whole orchestra and record in their usual place.


How is the process when you get a film to compose for?

The first thing I do is, in most cases, meet the director, watch the rough film (with sound effects and voices) and talk about important scenes and details.

The first days I sit at my piano and write down some ideas like a theme, some cool twists of harmony or rhythms and collect the first ideas of instrumentation. In some cases this process needs the most time. All the next steps are really fast: I send some ideas to the director, write down the notes, do all the orchestration, call the studio to get some possible dates of recording (for an orchestra, otherwise we record in my own studio), call some of my musicians, bake some cupcakes for the practicing day (for my diligent artists), practice with them, record the music, do the mixing and the mastering, send or give it in person to the director and be proud of my new opus.

You are not the biggest fan of playing an instrument in front of an audience, anyway you had to play some concerts during your music studies. Is there a concert of yours you remember the most?

Yes, there was this one concert which I very enjoyed! Is was my second last exam and my professor Ewa Kupiec allowed me to play a “Mickey Mousing Film Concert”. So I played some wonderful pieces from the “Motion Picture Moods” to some old silent films, a “Mickey Mouse” Cartoon, where Mickey Mouse himself is playing the piano in a really crazy way (practice to play like a Mouse who drunk to many energy drinks isn’t so easy!) and an own composition for Piano and Violine I made for one of my first short films. It was a great time and an amazing concert!


Are there any (film) composers who inspire your work? Maybe some composers you already met?

Absolutely! Classical composers shaped my childhood; for example Brahms with his “Rhapsody op. 79 no. 2”, almost each etude from Chopin and especially the “nocturne op. 9 no. 2” my mother loved so much (so I think I’m able to play it backwards) or Debussy’s wonderful “Passepied” from “Suite Bergamasque”, my favorite piece  for piano! I loved to play it and think I should learn it again by the way J

But there are also great film composers like James Newton Howard, who showed me how the film music can emerge during the film shoots. We discussed the negative part of recomposing every scene repeatedly but also the positive fact that actors and the whole film crew can use the film music during the shoots, so their acting gets a total different character.

Patrick Doyle, a wonderful composer I met at a silent film concert for “It” (1927).   He has this gift of writing music which capture yours imagination immediately.

And I still think about my meeting with Alexandre Desplat, an enormous talented and charming composer, who gave me the feeling of being on the same wavelength with him. He gave me the opportunity to think about what I’m doing and why I’m doing film music. Well his answer was: “Because I love the cinema”, well I think he hits the bull’s eye with these simple words.

This year I was allowed to meet film composer Danny Elfman. I’m not sure how to begin to tell you how amazing this guy is! He spoke hours about his work form “Alice in wonderland”, “Batman”, “Edward with the scissorhands”, “Beetlejuice”, “The nightmare before christmas”… and I was sitting like a child who was seeing Santa Claus the first time. I definitely learned thousand things from Danny! From now on, I will chance some operations of my composing process!

But there are many other composers I didn’t meet, but who touched me with their music. For example Hans Zimmer and his “Gladiator”, Michael Giacchino with “Ratatouille”, Justin Hurwitz with “La La Land”, Richard Rodgers with “The sound of music” or Disney’s early composers Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith, Frank Churchill and Oliver Wallace (I still have the chance to meet some of these amazing artists). The list of composers who inspired me could fill many pages, so I want to mention this one special composer I really adore:

He is an artist in painting music for film and musical, developed his works during the years to sophistication (in my bachelor thesis I analyzed some of his compositions) and established the “Golden Ages” for the Disney Company with his musical partner Howard Ashman. He gave us “Little shop of horror”, “The little mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Newsies”, “Aladdin”, “Pocahontas”, “The hunchback of notre dame”, “Hercules”, “Tangled” and many more…

So thank you, Alan Menken! If I ever get the opportunity to shake hands with you, even if I wouldn’t notice anything because of my unconsciou sness, I will never ever wash my hands again!

“Beauty and the Beast” Orchestrator and Conducter James Shearman. Look! I already touched the hand which touched Alan Menken! 😀