Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?
I grew up listening to composers such as Michael Nyman, Philip Glass, Bjork, Tori Amos, Aavo Paert, Chopin, Erik Satie and although I had played the piano since the age of 5, I only really started writing my own music when I was about 16. For me, it seemed like such a romantic thing to do. I loved the way that through melodies, you could express your emotions without words. I then just kept writing and have never stopped!
Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?
My obsession with film music as I was growing up really cemented my desire to want to both compose my own music but also to work in film. The music of composers such as Nino Rota, Zbigniew Preisner, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman and Gabriel Yared – they were all just so inspiring.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
When composing for film, it’s a challenge because you are writing music that has to satisfy both yourself, but most importantly the film director. The music needs to tell the story and the film is so dependent on the music to do this. There is a lot of pressure to make sure it’s good and that you can succeed and that your music in the end is better than any of the temp tracks that are in the edit before you start!
What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?
The pleasure when composing for a film is to work closely with the director, and to try and write the music that they have in mind. To see and hear your music making a scene of a film work well is very satisfying.
What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?
It was the biggest thrill for me to have an orchestra perform live in the studio (to a projection) my film scores for Genova & The Killer Inside Me (both directed by Michael Winterbottom). Finally getting to replace all the temporary computer generated strings with real strings is a real thrill and the music finally comes to life!
Of which works are you most proud?
I am most proud of my EP ‘Scandinavia’ which has recently come out on Globe Soundtrack & Score.
How do you work?
I always compose first on the piano. When I start, I often love playing a series of random notes, random chords, and then suddenly, almost by accident they turn in to something. I hear a progression, or a chord change that I like… and then I start to develop it…
You are also a pianist. How does this impact on your composing, and vice versa?
I always start on the piano and then decide if I want to add other instruments, or sounds.
Who are your favourite musicians/composers?
So many! I love The Beatles and I love Serge Gainsbourg, Elbow, Radiohead, Bjork, Kasabian. In terms of classical music, my list is pretty endless, from the incredible woman composer Hildegard Von Bingen to Bach, Chopin, Nyman, Glass…. and I love world music too – Ali Akbar Khan, for example, was an incredible musician.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
As I have mostly been composing for the big screen, I haven’t done any real concerts of my own yet but it’s something I would very much like to do. I will be playing at Daylight Music at Union Chapel on 17th June though!.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
I think with composing, don’t be afraid to just experiment with your instrument, explore its sound and perhaps try to forget for a moment everything you have learned so you can be free to explore and find your own voice.
Melissa Parmenter performs at Daylight Music at Union Chapel, London N1 on Saturday 17th June. Further information here
Melissa’s new EP ‘Scandinavia’ is available now on the Globe Soundtrack & Score label