Name: Hannah von Hübbenet of Field Kit (with John Gürtler)
Current Release: Field Kit on Nonostar Records
Recommendations: Der Gang vor die Hunde by Erich Kästner / Bauhaus architecture - go and visit the Bauhaus Dessau for example
If you enjoyed this interview with Hannah von Hübbenet, you can find out moreo n her website hannahvonhuebbenet.com
When did you start writing/producing film music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I first came up with the idea of composing music for moving images in my early twenties. Working in a studio I got to know a film composer. He was working on a very short film scene, using 4 or 5 different styles of music. I was fascinated by how the whole mood of the scene changed depending on the music he used. And that almost every style of music can work as film music, there are no stylistic restrictions. So, it was not one special sound, music or composer but only the fact that everything is possible, every sound can change so much, that brought me film composition.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Of course, working as a composer is something that requires a certain amount of musical education. Originally, I'm a classically trained musician, which is very much focused on technical perfection, like a kind of high-performance sport. But, I've always felt that didn’t correspond so well with my personality or talents. I’m more open to a casual type of creativity, not restricted by style or genre. Nevertheless, the training enabled me to find and use my inner voice and not to get stuck with technical problems immediately. Working on longer creative processes is more relaxing for me, in contrast to bringing a top performance in front of an audience.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Probably more than I like. The more you can shake off your pre-determined identity, the more freedom you'll have in your creativity – so I usually try not to be influenced by it too much.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I put too much pressure on myself. Even before I start the process of composing, I always want to know exactly how it will come out in the end. That’s a big mistake that often then leads to getting stuck.
I've learned not to evaluate initial ideas so quickly or classify them as “worthy” or “unworthy”. Rather, I just give it a try and see where it might lead. Also, to judge or orient oneself to others too much is restrictive. You'll probably never be able to avoid that completely, but you have to try to distance yourself from it.
What, to you, are the main functions and goals of soundtracks and film music and how would you rate their importance for the movie as a whole? How do you maintain a balance between, on the one hand, artistic integrity and sticking to your creative convictions and, on the other, meeting the expectations of the director?
The soundtrack as a whole must give the movie its appropriate “sound robe”. Whether this works with a lot of music or less, songs, source music, sound design or even with no music at all, depends on the project itself. The sound of a film is very important because it is perceived and ingested by the viewer every time it is seen, consciously or unconsciously. An ear doesn't close like an eye does as a reflex. You have to consciously close it with your hands.
Of course, I have an artistic claim to my work as a film composer that I would like to assert. At the same time, film is a collaborative medium and I have to accept some compromises. This isn't too bad if you feel you and the director want the same for the movie and you both follow the same vision. For this to happen, you have to find a common language, verbal or written communication about music is often a difficult but very important thing. The more experience I have, the better I can make the necessary compromises without harming my own musical integrity.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of film music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
In recent years the concept of “musical sound design” has risen to new levels. The individual layers of “sound design” and “music” are no longer always clearly separable and they can merge into each other to great effect. To decide which kind of music fits best for the film I also have to be familiar with the sound design concept. To deal with sounds as part of the music can be super interesting, as well as developing sounds into musical patterns, effects, etc.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with the other creatives involved in a film production?
During the composition process, I would typically have conversations with the director and sometimes even with the producer and the editor. Even though everyone involved in the project can have an interesting and valid impact on the timbre of the film, I really appreciate focusing on a musical vision without too much other input, or too many other minds and opinions colliding. But of course, I am often influenced by the work of the other departments such as Cinematography, Editing, Art direction, etc, and grateful for their input.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
As listening, playing and creating music is not only a job but a big part of my daily life, it’s almost impossible to separate “private” life from “working on a job”. Normally I start my day with coffee and some office work. I need the office and daily issues to be done before I can focus on creative processes. I also try to put aside all forms of conversation and discussion while I create (something that is really difficult during big projects). Often this is a big challenge while working on a film project – combining conversations, feedback, and staying up to date with the team, while staying focused on the creative process that requires a clear mind.
Can you talk about a breakthrough soundtrack in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Many soundtracks I composed have been special for me for a certain reason and brought new challenges with them. A singular breakthrough soundtrack is yet to come (also because one can define “breakthrough” in so many ways; creative, musical, career-defining). This is good because it keeps me motivated to keep working and keep learning.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
If I knew the answer it would be very helpful! As I already mentioned, I need a clear mind in order to create. I get confused and stressed pretty quickly handling too many issues at the same time – I need the feeling of “there is no other thing important right now”. Normally I won't start a creative process without having at least 2 hours to work and see an idea through.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of there? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I have always felt drawn to music, and to create it, because of the emotions that find their way in and out of me through listening or playing. Like a direct injection bringing fresh energy, or a release, a draining of unwanted issues. Music can unlock things that often can't be set free through other means. Of course, this can happen in both pleasant and painful ways - but in any case, it is always cleansing. Music transports you through space and time, brings back memories, times, moods, fears, joys, energy, serenity. Of course, you can make use of this in a healing way. But you should do it carefully, it may trigger more than you think.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
As soon as I have a clear answer for that I’ll write a book about it ;)
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I'm often fascinated by the way music brings me to move my fingertips. Without me realising, my fingers move like they want to play the notes I hear on an imaginary instrument. These are very tiny movements, you can hardly see them.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
My approach to being an artist and working as a film composer starts with carefully selecting the projects I work on. I love having the chance to compose for a wide variety of projects, thematically and stylistically. I particularly enjoy it when I'm asked to work on projects and films that carry an important message. For example, documentaries dealing with difficult and under-discussed themes like 'Schwarze Adler' and 'Behind The Headlines'.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I think it simply helps you to just feel and to accept. That everything is alright the way it is, even if it feels hard and not fair sometimes. That there are things that are simply bigger than your imagination and that's alright. That there is a deeper sense in everything even if we can't see it, we just deal with it.