An Interview with Joseph Metcalfe
When did you start writing music?
From about 4 years old I had started to hear songs and then work out how to play them on the piano. I was 11 when I started to hear music in my head and actually compose my own songs. In the innocent thinking of childhood I thought that if people were asleep they wouldn’t notice a piano being played. Much to the credit of my family they tolerated me playing well after midnight without complaint which gave me freedom to experiment with writing music. After writing a couple of mini-musicals I completed my first full-length musical when I was 16 which was performed in the UK. A year later I was recording my first TV music at Abbey Road which, if I’m honest, at that age I didn’t realize how big a deal that was.
What made you decide to get into film scoring?
The movie Amadeus was the film that triggered it for me. I watched Mozart write for the stage and I recognized in that movie that the modern stage is the screen and I felt compelled to aim in that direction.
Who were your biggest influencers?
The music of the 80’s was magnificent, not just in pop but also in the film world. You had John Williams whose music you could sing back after just one hearing, composers like John Barry who scored Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves was both melodically memorable and evocative, Danny Elfman’s daring melodies produced unforgettable emotions and of course Alan Silvestri’s scores to films like Back to The Future, Forest Gump and What Lies Beneath were simply genius.
How did you transition from theater to screen?
I had been writing jingles during my late teens and early 20s when I saw a film scoring program start up at my local university. Having been largely self-taught the director of the program arranged for a crash course before starting the program. I’d been doing that course for 3 months before a musician from the USA took me to California to introduce me to a few scoring programs over there. It was on that trip that I met Buddy Baker, a Disney legend, who headed up the film scoring program at USC. He took a look at just three pages of music I’d written and offered me a place right there and then. It was a magnificent experience to be mentored by Buddy as well as the likes of Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, Chris Young, Ron Jones… among other very talented people.
What are your favorite types of productions to score?
I’m a big kid at heart with a twist of sensitivity. I love to explore different styles, particularly those that open up imagination and fantasy. I love to compose for and conduct orchestras as well as augment the sounds with palettes only available on computers. My kids are still relatively young and sometimes a piece of mine will come on randomly during the drive to school and, as I’ve written thousands of pieces that they’ve probably not heard, if they compliment it, then I couldn’t be happier, especially when they tell me what scenes are playing out in their minds when listening to it. The great thing with film music is that in the same score you’re going to be touching on all different feelings and emotions as the story of the movie evolves.