Ian Arber, composer

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

When I was very young I watched a lot of Hitchcock movies. I think this was the first time I observed the power of the relationship between music and picture. Hearing Herrmann’s music, and at around the same time John Williams’ music for Spielberg’s movies, planted the seed that would lead to my pursuing a career in film music.

I also have to mention David Arnold. His Bond scores were some of my earliest soundtrack purchases. He came to my university to do a talk on film music while I was studying there and gave such great advice, which helped me plan a path forward. I actually remember emailing student filmmakers the day after the Arnold talk.

Who or what have been the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

As I began to study film music and become more aware of film composers, a few stand out now as huge influences on me. Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, John Barry, Ennio Morricone, to name a few. More recently I had the opportunity to assist a friend and mentor, Joe Kraemer, on his score for Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. I learnt a lot from Joe, and still do! So I would say that he’s been a very positive influence on my career.

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?

In the early days, it was a real challenge to gain experience and credits. It’s very hard to be taken seriously in the film industry with only a few short films to your name. It took me years of networking and scoring short and indie feature films to eventually be rewarded with opportunities later down the line. But still now I continue to try and work on the best projects possible to keep the credits growing and challenge myself further.

What are the special challenges and pleasures of working on film and tv scores?

One of the biggest challenges of working in film and television are the time constraints. Music is one of the last elements to complete a film or series, so the pressures on a project are highest about the time when composers are scoring. Of course this is also one of the essential skills of a composer for film & television, thriving creatively under pressure.

One of the many pleasures is being able to write music every day. Working with incredibly talented other creatives. Seeing months of hard work go out to the world. And from time to time having your music performed and recorded by live musicians.

Tell us how you came to be commissioned to write the TV theme tune for the 2019 Proms programmes?

I was a production assistant on the BBC Proms out of university in 2010. I loved my time there and hit it off with many people, and ended up being hired full time for a year working on BBC music shows. Fast forward nine years to 2019, and my old boss got back in touch to say she had been impressed with my career trajectory and would love to have me write the theme song for the BBC Proms. Within a couple of weeks we arranged a recording with the BBC Concert Orchestra and I began writing the theme! We recorded the theme a month later at Maida Vale Studios with a 60+ piece orchestra. A real surreal experience and one I’ll never forget.

Of which works are you most proud?

I have to put The BBC Proms Theme up there. I’m very proud to have played a part in the history of the iconic event. I scored a BBC comedy series called “Quacks” a few years ago, which I absolutely loved working on. And lastly I’m currently scoring a BBC One thriller called “The Capture” with Blur’s Dave Rowntree. I’m really excited about the music we’re creating and can’t wait to get it out there

How would you characterise your compositional language/musical style?

The first thing that comes to mind is – melody driven. Working in the film and television industry I get to experiment with a vast array of genres. But the one thing I always love to push is a melody. I feel most at home with melodic orchestral music, with a motif to develop and glue a score together.

How do you work? What methods do you use and how do ideas come to you?

It varies, but more often than not I will work straight into software on my Mac. I use Logic X as my sequencer and play straight into my piano-keyboard. I have a huge selection of sample libraries to choose from so I can “mock up” an orchestral sound quite easily, before getting to the live musicians. More recently on The Proms theme, I loved the challenge of writing the initial sketches of the piece with pencil and manuscript paper. The day after I was commissioned I jotted down a fanfare idea and developed some ideas further from there, which formed the basis of the final piece.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

A hard question to answer… I constantly feel like I’m on the line of success but I’m not sure I’ll ever actually cross it because I have very high ambitions which I’ll continue to pursue. 2019 has been a brilliant year for me so far and I’m very happy in my career, but I’m looking forward to continuing aiming higher and landing bigger and even more exciting projects.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians and composers?

To write music as much as possible, every day! You can never stop learning so I find the more I write the better I become. In film and television it’s quite cut-throat, so you have to have certain characteristics. I’ve always found being very positive and being able to pick yourself up and come back stronger after disappointments was my strongest attribute. That almost became a concept, I realised I got a kick out of pitching for projects which I probably never had the chance to get, but I learnt so much through the process and would meet editors, directors and/or music supervisors who liked my work, and something positive would always eventually come out of it.

What next? Where would you like to be in 10 years time?

The pinnacle for me would be working on major feature films and television shows that continue to challenge and push my abilities further. There’s still a lot I want to do, including working with bigger orchestras, and I’m also very keen to show what I can do on a big melody-driven drama or period piece.


Ian Arber is a film and television composer, known for his work on Netflix’s “Medici” (2018), BBC2 comedy-series “Quacks” (2017), “My Name Is Lenny” (2017) starring John Hurt, award-winning documentaries on Bros “After The Screaming Stops” & Usain Bolt “I Am Bolt” (2016), and “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015). Ian is an emerging talent in the film music world. With a growing portfolio of work across a variety of genres, Ian is bringing a fresh and unique compositional style to each project.

In 2019, Ian scored the theme for ‘The Proms’ on the BBC. It is the first time a composer has been officially commissioned to write the theme. It was recorded at Maida Vale Studios with the BBC Concert Orchestra. Ian also co-scored BBC One 6-part Thriller ‘The Capture’ with Blur’s Dave Rowntree, and the drama feature ‘Break’ starring Rutger Hauer and Jamie Foreman. Earlier in the year he scored an episode of the hit-series ‘Urban Myths’, ‘The Trial of Joan Collins’ written and starring David Walliams.

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