It is starting to feel like we are back into the grind at Columbia College Chicago. Our weeks as graduate film composers look very similar, so it is easy to not realize the days passing by. Since my last blog, a lot has happened in our day-to-day classes, but not in terms of stand-out events. I figured this week would be a good opportunity to share the specifics of our schedules and describe the life of Columbia College Chicago’s Composition for the Screen students.
We spend our Monday mornings with recording engineer Matt Prock, working on understanding recording techniques, best practices, signal flow, ProTools, hardware, etc. In the afternoon, we join the first year students for the forum class led by composer and orchestrator Kaz Boyle. In forum, we cover topics ranging from who we should get to know in the composing world, to how we can make money passively with music we have already written. It is an invaluable class that sometimes features guest speakers, and it is a great chance to catch up with our counterparts in the first year.
On Tuesday mornings, we can be found in Allen Tinkham’s conducting class. Allen is the best. In a field and program where everything we do has to meet strict deadlines and weather constant critiques, it is a nice change of pace to physically make music, in an encouraging, not overly-serious environment. Allen constructs a perfect balance between setting goals for us to meet and allowing us time to simply practice conducting with our peers. I came into this class with no knowledge of conducting. I never thought I would do it. With Allen’s help, I found conducting a rewarding and exciting experience, and I think most of my peers agree. On Tuesdays afternoons, we spend our time with video game composer Joel Corelitz. This is a great class where we compose tracks for all different types of video games, ranging from Nintendo classics to modern AAA games. As someone who spends a good chunk of free time gaming, it is really a dream come true to be in this class.
Over the next two days we have “time off” from classes, but it is hardly time off. A majority of that break is typically spent on work for Scoring IV, a course taught by our fearless leader and program director, Kubilay Uner. Every Friday (split into two sections, a morning and afternoon class), we work on scoring our pick of two feature-length films. We spend the morning section of the class “spotting” (deciding what type of music needs to go where in a film) the cues we are going to write for next week. In the second half of class, we go over and critique everyone’s cues from the past week. The process simulates the rigors of scoring a feature film in a short amount of time. We score the whole film in ten weeks and have the final two weeks of the semester to revise our cues based on the feedback from the critique sessions. It is a process that instills great work ethic along with the confidence to tackle any large project.
We do not have class over the weekend, but typically students will spend a good amount of that time getting ready for the next week—whether that’s working on video game music, practicing conducting, or getting a leg up on scoring.
I hope this was a good look into what it is like being a student in this program. It is challenging, but I really love the way my weeks look during the semester. There is a great balance between learning new skills and implementing them in my composing.
This week, I want to feature Shireen Ghosh, who went above and beyond for an assignment we had in our video games class. We were assigned to simply mess around with a software new to us called Pure Data, which essentially blurs the lines between computer programming and music/modular synthesis. It can be used to compose music with a mindset different from the traditional linear approach of DAWs. Here is the patch she made!