Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?
Overall, the composers I listened to as a child and the vibrations I felt through their work prompted me very early on to express myself through composition. My piano, arrangement and orchestration teachers also encouraged me to express myself in this way, as did the director of the music school I grew up in, who trusted me and gave me the conductor’s baton at the age of 14, and who has always encouraged me to continue in this direction. Obviously, my parents also trusted me and always supported me, which is essential. Without all these people and meetings, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.
Who or what have been the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?
I grew up with the orchestrations of John Williams, having noticed his name in the film credits to films whose music so impressed me, aged 11. It was in 1991 with the movie Hook, directed by Steven Spielberg. It made me curious to go and dig through the scores to understand the music I was hearing, which made me shiver with joy. I had the opportunity in 2008 to tell him this and to thank him for all of it. Without realising it, he gave me wings when I was 12 years old to do my first orchestrations with the city band and to conduct it a little later. I later studied music and learned orchestration through Bach, Mozart, Brahms and Stravinsky. The colours of Debussy and Faure also brought me a lot, as did those of the Russian school, with Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky. Film music in general inspired me, especially composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Alan Menken, Alan Silvestri, Ennio Morriconne, Danny Elfman, James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer – and for France, Michel Legrand and Vladimir Cosma. This list is obviously not exhaustive and I’m sorry for anyone I left out inadvertently. I should also mention John Neufeld, Danny Troob and Conrad Pope, who are genius orchestrators.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
The Lim Fantasy of Companionship for Piano and Orchestra, so far! It was the first time that I had met the London Symphony Orchestra and that I had composed for it. I have listened to a lot of film music over the years that has been recorded with this orchestra. It is such an exciting project and I thank Susan Lim, the creator and initiator of it all, for trusting me together with executive producer, Deepak Sharma and Matthieu Eymard, manager and friend, who made it possible for me, always with kindness.
What are the special challenges and pleasures of working on a production?
The blank sheet of paper! Everything has to be done, and everything is allowed, even if in the order there are certain specifications or problems to be solved, but all of this is exciting and fascinating. Writing for a medium, whether it is a musical, a play, a film, a documentary, is not a musical piece that stands alone, but an emotional contribution to the already existing story, sometimes only on a piece of paper. I like all the preparatory work with the creators and the directors, because it’s all in the exchange and the intentions. We have a puzzle that we have to solve together and we are all happy when we find the solution!
Of which works are you most proud?
Once again, the project being so crazy, I’d have to say the Lim Fantasy of Companionship for Piano and Orchestra. I love this emulation that Susan Lim, Christina Teenz Tan and Deepak Sharma create as a team. I also recently worked in France with Florent Pagny, a very famous singer, on the composition of 6 tracks from his album and was so happy when it went Platinum. I’m also very proud to be a complete musician and composer, whatever the musical style, as long as it is a combination of music and emotion.
How would you characterise your compositional/musical language?
I love the colours and the emotion of music. Film music for me has been such a part of my journey that I sometimes imagine images, like a music video, to put myself in a state of mind when I’m composing, even if the piece I am creating is not intended to be a visual. I like to tell a story with music that arouses emotion. The Impressionist period in art made a big impact on me because it is about colours. Defining yourself is an extremely hard thing to do and I believe it is more the listeners who put on these labels. We are a clever mix of all of our influences and sometimes we find nuggets of gold.
How do you work?
I do a lot of computer work, as my studio is functional for music as well as for video and production. I work with Cubase 11, ProTools Ultimate and Sibelius Ultimate. These tools are so awesome! I obviously have sound banks too that allow me to listen to the pre-productions of my clients before going into the studio to record them. I first compose with my piano, then enter the ideas into the software. Once the model is validated, I create the score. It’s not necessarily conventional. Even if I could work the other way around, first on paper, I prefer to work on sound as a raw material and the score then becomes a way to find this sound. Even if I hear it inside, playing it on the computer allows me to look for more simple backings, melodies or parts that will be sensitive and not theoretical, on paper. I’m not trying to prove to myself that I can do it. What matters to me is the result.
Tell us more about your new album ‘The Lim Fantasy of Companionship for Piano & Orchestra’…..
This new work is a musical tale for Piano and Orchestra, performed by Tedd Joselson as Piano solo, with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fagen, and created by Susan Lim and Christina Teenz Tan. The 21 tracks that make up the piece tell the story of the relationship between humans and inanimates. In a few years, these scientific advances will be part of our daily lives. Susan Lim is a medical doctor and researcher and knows the subject very well. The idea was to allow the popularization of the idea of these medical and scientific advances through a story, and through music.
The basis of the music I have created exists in the form of songs, originally composed by Joi Barua, Ron Danziger and Matthieu Eymard to which Susan Lim and Christina Teenz Tan wrote the lyrics. My role was to create a 33-minutes orchestral piece which is also intended to go alongside a short film. This is very close to writing music for film, because it is in essence cinematic. There are so many things going on in this story. The complexity was to give a leading role to the solo pianist, Tedd Joselson, while respecting the original songs.
Composing the music first forced me to think of images that I hadn’t seen before which was a big challenge! It’s really a team effort, with all the musicians, including drums, bass, guitar and vocals. We are a musical family and we all complement each other really well.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
I don’t really like to talk about success, as it‘s a question of fashion and time and by essence transient. I prefer the word recognition: when someone comes to you to tell you that your music touches them, to me that is ‘success‘. Having respect for the public, for those with whom you work, to respect people, to have friends, to know how to marvel at simple things, that is real success.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Meetings don’t always happen when you imagine them to happen and the straightest path isn’t the most obvious. Meetings in general, not only in music, happen when you don’t expect it, by the very essence of the word ‘“meeting‘… Staying open to what makes you vibrate will allow you to fuel your speech and your experience and sometimes lead you into the unknown. Stay yourself, whatever the circumstances. Don’t be afraid to take risks and go where you don’t expect it because no matter how people look, you only have one life. My journey is not a seed I planted but a whole garden, seed after seed.
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
In Hollywood as a composer in the music for film industry.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
To wake up in the morning and tell myself that I am lucky, to be alive and to have one more day to marvel again.
What is your most treasured possession?
Even though it’s a bit of a cliché, the ability to love.
What do you enjoy doing most?
What is your present state of mind?
I can’t wait for this COVID 19 crisis to end to allow us all to finally find each other again…
The ‘Lim Fantasy of Companionship’ for Piano & Orchestra is composed by Manu Martin and was released on 23rd April 2021 on Signum Records. Recorded in November 2019 at Abbey Rd Studios, the Lim Fantasy draws its inspiration from fifteen original songs composed for a proposed musical, ‘ALAN’. It unfolds the story of an inanimate, ‘ALAN’ and the journey of its soul, twice teleported, from an animate to inanimate and ultimately into a human being. The Fantasy is brought to life through the performance of acclaimed pianist, Tedd Joselson alongside the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fagen, together with solo electric guitar, solo voices and choral ensemble, London Voices.
It is hoped that the Lim Fantasy will inspire a discussion about what is life and what is non-life, a topic which no longer belongs just to the confines of medicine, but which invites the participation of artists, musicians, psychologists, philosophers, engineers, politicians and more.
A pioneer in the field of transplantation, robotics and stem cell research, Dr Susan Lim first introduced the concept of enabling inanimates to be companions of the future at the ‘Road to the US – India Global Entrepreneurship Summit’ in partnership with INK 2017, in Hyderabad, India, in the session ‘Giant Leaps: Thrilling Potential of AI and Robotics’. Dr Lim has concerned herself with the very real problems of both an ageing global population and loneliness on one hand and disruptive new science and technologies on the other. Dr Christina Tan, a neuroscience researcher at Stanford University, California has been fascinated by the possibility of enabling inanimates with artificial intelligence. In the ‘Fantasy’, both jointly explore through music the potential of inanimate life and how these factors may influence new concepts of companionship. They see that the bio-engineering of inanimate objects has started to blur the line between life and non-life and feel passionate about opening this up as a global conversation through a creative medium of communication, namely their project ‘ALAN the Musical’, from which the ‘Fantasy of Companionship’ for Piano and Orchestra draws inspiration.
Manu Martin graduated at the age of 16 from the Conservatory of Bordeaux with a jury ‘Special Mention’. He then joined the Faculty of Musicology of Toulouse and Bordeaux, where he completed a Masters in Musicology. He moved to Paris to pursue a career as a pianist and composer, composing music for television and radio. Mr Martin has worked alongside acclaimed French artists and most recently composed six of the tracks from Florent Pagny’s chart-topping album ‘Aime La Vie’. In 2017, Manu Martin joined Dr Susan Lim’s ALAN project both as a musician and as music arranger for the ‘ALAN the Musical’, together with Matthieu Eymard, Music Director for the ALAN project. Recognising Martin’s musical talents and creativity, Dr Lim commissioned him to compose the Lim Fantasy of Companionship for Piano and Orchestra.