Part 1

Name: Morgan Kibby

Nationality: American

Current Release: Mothering Sunday
Recommendations: I am currently obsessed with GaHee Park’s paintings. There is something incredible about the way she sees the world, and I hope to meet her one day, see her paintings in person / I am also always in awe of Genesis Belanger’s sculptures. They are full of humor and whimsy…She is incredibly inspiring.

If you enjoyed this interview with Morgan Kibby, visit her website to find out more www.morgankibby.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?

Though I remember distinctly seeing a special screening of “There Will be Blood” and being completely thunderstruck by the music, it wasn’t until I hit a wall as a touring artist - wanting expansion, new engagement, a break from musical stagnation- that I pivoted from songwriter/performer to composer. I have always loved putting movies on in the studio (on mute) as I wrote songs and collected images to spark lyrical metaphors, so I think it was a natural left turn on my career path. My first original soundtrack was composed for French director Eva Husson’s 2015 film “Bang Gang” during this period of career re-assessment and it was a revelation. All of a sudden, melodies held new weight and I could make music that felt fresh to my own ears, breaking away from the structure I knew previously.

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?

 Every iteration of my 100,000 plus house of artistic fumbling have ultimately culminated in the realization that I am a late bloomer. As a theater rat, a classical and jazz player, an electronic and alternative writer, performer, vocalist etc.  I have been, up until recently to myself at least, the definition of malleable and quite frankly a bit lost. However, with almost a decade and a half of searching I gratefully occupy that space. Meaning specifically that I knew what I loved throughout many, many years of creating, but not necessarily what I had to say that was wasn’t a taste reflection versus unique statement. It has taken me a long time to comfortably say I have some kind of handle on my sonic and lyrical home base. There is far too little spotlight shone on failing, experimenting, letting taste develop and find its way into one’s work. I am deeply grateful for my missed shots. They have honed my desire and need for musical and lyrical specificity, and more to the point, the ownership of said perspective. In a nutshell, I love a lot of disparate types of music, and I’ve never hindered myself from exploring even when I was terrible at it and didn’t quite have anything to say.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

I know that musical zeitgeist- which for me tends to be melodic or word-based lightning strikes- is core to my voice, regardless of orchestration or genre.  The older I get, the stronger my instinct gets, the more I trust the stuff that bubbles up.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

I felt like an utter and abject fraud when I began composing.  I remember my first day at the Sundance Lab, surrounded by BRILLIANT peers, mentors, professionals…. And I thought to myself “my God.. one of these things is not the like the other”. Yes, I had studied classical piano and cello growing up, but I felt like an idiot in comparison to these seasoned, educated and talented alumni. I had no higher education, no degree. My tool box was quite empty in comparison to those I was suddenly surrounded with. It may sound a bit corny, but my evolution was pure cliché: I stayed fiercely curious. I continue to educate myself. I’ve put in the overtime, the sweat equity. All to say, it was truly only the last couple projects, particularly “Mothering Sunday” - where I felt I had finally found a sense pride in the work I do. The challenges became less about basic tech or musical hurdles, and more about tapping into what resonates inside me musically, and making sure I can stand by the work despite how it is received.

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 role of music for film is, just like any other artistic endeavor, open to interpretation. Some directors feel the music should stay completely out of the way, whilst others believe it should be almost act as a witness, an additional character even within the film. I work my best in collaboration which is part of why I love this medium.  I find the exchange, between the right director and composer, absolutely thrilling.  I also believe that, as I’ve entered a season of “no” more than “yes” - meaning I now try to specifically work on things I know I can bring my unique musical perspective to and have it received with openness - the moments of friction don’t happen as often.  I’m fully aware I have a specific way of writing now, and so I tend to get hired on projects where that specificity is exactly what is desired. It makes for a much happier collaboration. I’m not right for everything, and I have no desire to be.  Once again: specificity.

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?

Sonic frequencies and palette are so crucial, especially today as film soundtracks expand to include so much more than traditional orchestration. With synth based scores, I love to explore scope, chord progressions and era as a general starting off point. With more organic scores, Mothering Sunday for example, we wanted warmth, sensuality and femininity, so our palette landed on a chamber orchestra weighted heavily with cellos and violas, alto flute as opposed to tenor…. The hot or cold, intimate or distant nature of a synthesizer or an instrument can really help as an aural metaphor or reflection of the story, and immediately ushers in certain compositional ideas as a result.

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?

It’s fairly obvious, but I think it is my job to be as fluid as possible in collaboration as a composer; to assess the needs of a director and adjust accordingly, whether that be sharing playlists to determine moods or textures, studio visits, or long chats to get comfortable with a shared cinematic / musical language. I love to explore, throw as much spaghetti at the wall as possible, then chisel. But if the base is there, having been determined in collaboration with the director, the world becomes a wonderful box to work in.

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