The Inception Podcast

Not Enough Pandemic?... A Composer's Story

June 08, 2021 Genevieve Vincent / Akira Nakano Season 1 Episode 3
The Inception Podcast
Not Enough Pandemic?... A Composer's Story
Show Notes Transcript

Film & concert composer, Genevieve Vincent, joined us initially on the very first day of our Covid-mandated virtual cohort in March 2020. She shares with us her music journey from Suzuki violin to the Royal Conservatory of Music to Berklee College and onto a brilliant music career.

She found success during the shut-down, scoring her first studio film, The Broken Hearts Gallery and, more recently, Safer At Home coming out on Hulu on June 27, 2021.

Today she shares her music and insights into composing.

+ + + + +

Instagram - @youarecanadian
Website - genevievevincent.com
darkDARK Instagram - darkdarkmusic

Broken Hearts Gallery - Natalie Krinsky, Director - Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV 

Safer At Home - Will Wernick, Director - Hulu June 27. 2021 

Moving Art: Hokkaido - Louie Schwartzberg, Director  - Netflix 



Inception Podcast – Episode 3
Genevieve Vincent & Akira Nakano
Recorded June 1, 2021
 

Akira Nakano
Welcome to The Inception Podcast. Join us weekly as we explore the young composers mentoring program of the Los Angeles Inception orchestra. Today, we are going to speak with film and concert composer and music producer, Genevieve, Vincent. We will discuss her music journey from Suzuki violin, to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Vancouver, through Berklee College and onto a successful music career.

 Our composers met her on the very first day of this cohort in March of 2020, when the pandemic forced us to go virtual. You will discover how she set the tone for the over 50 mentors who followed.

 And Genevieve, it is great to speak to you this evening.  

Genevieve Vincent
Thanks so much for having me.

Akira
You were a mentor with Inception more than a year ago. You were one of the first to come  in. So super exciting to speak to you a year later.

Genevieve
Right. What a year it was. 

Akira
Yes, but it seems like Covid treated you pretty well. Because after you mentored with us, you went on to score a feature or two. You seem to always be actively working every time I saw your social media posts.

Genevieve
Yeah, I feel very lucky. I'm just a hustler. What can I say?

Akira
You are an incredible composer. You were great with the kids. You're a singer and that's how you got your music start. So tell us how you dove into music at the beginning and got yourself into composing and your music education and all that.

Genevieve
Yeah. So I've been making music for as long as I can remember. I think I was just a very vocal baby. My mom tells me stories of me just making all kinds of weird singing noises when I was a little baby. When I was three, that’s when I started Suzuki violin method. I didn't love violin. It was actually the first sort of musical instrument I ever played, but I would, you know, sing all the time when I was in taking lessons. I didn't love it. I took a few years of that, but I begged my mom to let me just take singing lessons. So she gave in and at first she made me continue with the violin and also told me that if I was going to study singing it would have to be, you know, in air quotes, real singing. So opera and classical music lessons, which is what she thought was real music. So much to my chagrin. 

Akira
Did you have to sing lollipop and popcorn when you started taking…

Genevieve
No, I've never heard of that. What is that? You know what I remember playing from Suzuki is “Lightly Row”, and I just remember like scratching my way through it. And then I remember a very angry music teacher telling me that I needed to practice more. It's so funny in hindsight, I think about yelling at a three-year-old. What kind of a monster would be like that? Good times. 

Akira
I'm glad you did not stay with the violin because you were a very accomplished singer and composer. 

Genevieve
We all find our place. We all figure out what our fortes are eventually.

 Akira
So tell us more about your singing career. 

 Genevieve
I took the classical scene lessons with Royal Conservatory of Music (in Vancouver). It's a program that you get graded by and you do harmony as well. So you do music theory tests as well as memorized repertoire tests. So that started officially when I was five, I did that for about 10 years. And so that was just a regular singing lesson. And the idea behind it was to become an accredited, Royal Conservatory of Music teacher, which I never did. But that was sort of the idea behind it that you were sort of building up to do something with that education. When I was in high school, I started a band. I used to write a ton of songs. And this was based on doing covers of grunge tracks. I used to really like Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana and Alice in Chains, just like anything depressing and heavy. I mean, even like Linkin Park. And so we would do covers of that stuff, but I would sing it. And so I had that band and then I also like loved jazz. I just deeply love jazz. I used to memorize the solos that Ella Fitzgerald would sing and try to sing them exactly how she's sang them. And of course I could never do that, but you try to emulate your heroes. You know, I just sort of really idolized these old jazz and musical theater type vocalists. And I just fell in love with their conviction, you know, how they would like tell these stories. And I also really loved instrumental jazz too. It was always these really big variety of genres. I just loved music all the time. So many different kinds of music. 

Akira
So you went to the Berklee College of Music, but did you go in as a singer?

Genevieve
I went in as a singer thinking in my head that the songs that I used to write when I was in high school… And I didn't really think of it as composing. I just thought of it as writing a song. It didn't mean anything to me. When I went to Berklee, I had never really put any value on that particular thing. So when I went in, I just thought I'll be a singer; I'll be like a jazz singer or something; and I'll get a music degree; and I'll find a band to play with or something like that. 

Akira
How was that Berklee experience? Did you convert to composing at Berklee? 

Genevieve
It was that I met a teacher who made me understand that I have been composing the whole time. It was the teacher that reframed my song writing, to me as composing. I was empowered by that because I didn't realize that I had that ability. I just did those things or that improvisation I used to sing, and I would make up all these really elaborate improvisations when I was singing. And I just never thought that that was composing. When I thought of composing, I thought of Beethoven. Someone with like a powdered wig and a, and a man, an old man, in fact. And it's bizarre, you know, it's a weird thing when you literally see, just a picture of someone and just think, well, I'm not like that, so I'm not. I can't. It's so simplistic, I think, in a child's mind. And so when I met this teacher, Berklee, Alla Elena Cohen, I started creating these compositions for her based on some assignments. And I really liked some of the assignments, and so I would write extra music. And she was this incredible piano player, so I would just write her this music, and I would bring it to her after class. She just made that a part of what we did. So it wasn't just, okay, we're going to do this regular harmony class and write and do something else, too, for after class. I really developed that at Berklee under her guidance. 

Akira
Well, I think that's so important that you mentioned that because for us, our young composers, we really have had several students come in who maybe weren't the best instrumentalists, but were beautiful singers. And so we really got them activated around composing with their voice. So these kids, and we're really having other kids do it where they're just coming in and singing their lines. Which I think is important also for other instruments. If you can hear a certain instrument and you can sing it, right, it doesn't necessarily relate on the piano for example. But I think especially to get out of this piano type of figures that you start composing, I'm guilty of that a little bit, to be able to sing that line helps you hear different instruments better.

Genevieve
Absolutely. I think the other thing that's kind of interesting about it. I find that I naturally write in mixed meter a lot of the time. It's just because when I went to Berklee, I did major in film scoring and composition. So I was, I did have to actually do everything in the conventional way at some point, because that's just necessary for accreditation as like a Bachelor of Music or whatever. But I've found that writing in the way that I was taught to write, which was vertically like chords and then melody on top, I found it like really my best ideas were not coming out that way. And when I would write stuff that I thought, oh, this I'm really proud of this, this is really what I want to say and this is me. I was always writing like how you mentioned horizontally. And so when I really fully embraced writing things in, in almost like a choral way, line by line. And that's also how you would compose a fugue… Or how people composed Gregorian chant. When I really embraced that, I found that I really allowed me to be my most authentic self as an artist. You have to be sensitive to your fortes and the things that you're not so good at. 

Akira
We got a mentor, actually, Kim Richmond, who came in, who's a big band arranger. And in my brain, big band is all about, because I don't have a jazz background… I'm going, what chord and what chord? And the first thing he says is you have to do this horizontally. And it just changed everything about big band arranging. 

Genevieve
So interesting. Yeah. I find it makes sense when I'm writing for strings. I write a lot for strings. I try to sing through all the lines. I mean, I write for all the instruments. That I've done, orchestration classes, and I even have touched up my orchestration with private lessons on the side. Writing for orchestra is, I mean, it's certainly challenging, but I think it also agrees with that sort of view. Every instrument wants to sing its own line. It's a good way to check and see if you're writing well for the instrument. Certainly not for instruments like the piano where you're, there's really just a chord to chord to chord to chord type thing. Maybe that would make as much sense, but with a lot of the other instruments woodwinds and strings and brass. You want to be able to sing through the line because you're trying to be considerate of that player. That player needs phrasing. 

Akira
I completely agree. And I also think one thing we see with our kids’ orchestration sometimes is that they're not letting the individual instruments shine. Like orchestration isn't throwing every instrument in at a time. And I think if you don't sing through these lines, then you don't really understand the beauty of each instrument or just what they are with one other instrument or two others.

Genevieve
I can relate. It's hard to pair it down sometimes. I think, especially when we're all working in DAWs. We're hearing fake instruments. We have to commit the sound of real instruments to our memories when we're writing. The sound of a solo oboe, the sound of a real solo oboe playing is beautiful, but the sound of a MIDI oboe is awful. 

Akira
Yeah. And what I love about your work. I remember that you said you really tried to get studio musicians to record as much as you can live. And I think that's such a great strategy. Some of the kids who are not necessarily tapping back to check… We make play lists of the instruments on YouTube, and then we've all had the benefit of having lectures. We went through every single instrument of the orchestra, because I think some of them are orchestrating to MIDI, which is not what we do.

Genevieve
It's not just having your music played live as in an instrument is playing itself. It's not just that you're getting the tamber of a real instrument. You're getting the sum of all of the life experience of that player in that moment, adding to the performance. It's not even just like how they're going to play it in that moment. It's all the hours in their life that they have ever spent playing those scales, doing all that work… becoming a master. And here they are interpreting your work. And that's something that's intangible amount of production value added, and I try so much to get that. I think that's a hard concept sometimes for people, especially on the executive side, to kind of wrap their heads around because I know it's sort of, oh, sometimes we don't have the money for a live player or… It's so much more than just the cello is going to be a little deeper sounding or whatever.

Akira
100%. One of our students… I know that we saw the moment we changed that student's life when she had this guitar melody that she wrote. And then it was played on cello by Jeness Johnson. And you could just see that moment, it changed the trajectory of her music.

 Music: “Secret Identity” by Jayleen Montoya. Performed by Jeness Johnson. [11:49]

Jayleen Montoya
What the heck?

Jeness Johnson
You wrote that.

Jayleen
It sounds more better on the cello than on the guitar.  

Akira [12:25]
The other example I have is I had to come up with this quick little, actually a podcast opening, and I had to just spit it out really quickly. And I can't stand it because it's, it's all MIDI. So I'm like, I gotta record that.

Genevieve
Uh, I know it's so hard, but I think the other thing that's super hard too is I think we're meant to provide such realistic mock-ups now. Absolutely so essential to be able to do that, to be able to show those to a film studio or to your production company or whatever, before you spend all their money on live players, you just have to kind of do the best you can in those situations. But nothing can replace the real thing. 

Akira
I remember that when you came in, you had played a clip of Hokkaido, I think it was. And you had talked about how you researched Japanese instruments. 

Genevieve
I had actually started researching Japanese instruments quite a long time ago because the first feature documentary film I ever scored was called “One Big Hapa Family”. And that was directed by a Japanese-Canadian director, Jeff Chiba-Stearns. And that score, he wanted me to use some traditional Japanese instruments and use them in kind of a Western way. The whole movie was about mixed race Canadians and how Japanese people who had come to Canada unfortunately ended up a lot of them in Japanese internment camps. The generation of Japanese-Canadians who were then born in Canada, had been struggling with mixed race, identity stuff. That whole question, and that whole questioning of that, it was something that we wanted to bring into the music. I guess I was 22 when I scored that, and I was living in New York City. And luckily in New York city, I had this incredible koto player who could actually come and play real koto. And I was interning at the time for a music company who let me use their recording studio for free after hours. So I ended up being able to use a real shamisen player, a real koto. I even had a percussionist come who had taiko, but the taiko were these travel versions of taiko. So he basically could put them on the floor. They weren't like full big drums, and sit and play them. And it just sounded huge with some magic that he created those out of. And so that's when I first started getting acquainted with Japanese instruments. And then from there, I actually ended up scoring three more films for that Japanese-Canadian composer. We didn't always heavily utilize… Oh, and also I use shakuhachi on that as well. So when I was 22, I really got to play around with some amazing Japanese instruments and players. And so that's when I really got interested in it. So when Hokkaido came around, I didn't have to start from scratch. I had a little bit of a basis.

Akira
And so can you tell me about the instrumentation in Hokkaido.

Genevieve
In Hokkaido, I heavily feature flute. There's a little bit of shakuhachi. I also used alto flute and concert flute. I wanted to have shakuhachi for the authenticity to help give the film a sense of place. But the kinds of melodic lines that I felt would really tell the story were not easily played on the shakuhachi, and we're more easily played on the alto flute or the concert flute. So we kind of went back and forth with various flutes to achieve that sound. There's a lot of strings. And I used cello violin and viola. And then I just layered them a million times. I mean, actually, 37 times. 

Akira
Wow. 

Genevieve
So because it was this really magnificent landscape, and actually Hokkaido has no… Hokkaido, the episode that I scored, has no narration. It really requires very dynamic music to fill that space. And although there was sound design, it was more atmospheric. And so the story of the landscape and how the characters interact within that landscape just needed to be painted sonically by the music.

Akira
That is great. And we are going to listen to a clip of Hokkaido right now.

Music: “Deer Theme” from Hokkaido. [16:40]

Akira [18:35]
That was Hokkaido by Genevieve Vincent, a beautiful film score. Thank you for sharing that with us, Genevieve. Take us forward. What happened next in your career? 

Genevieve
After Hokkaido, I had the opportunity to score several TV movies for Hallmark. They were romantic comedies, and so that was a completely different. That was a bit of a gearshift and really fun and light. And one of the really great things I learned from scoring comedy was timing. I think with film scoring, the thing that I've learned so far the most is that there's just a lot of design elements. It's really important to design the cue in a way that sets it up for success. Designing a joke… You need to know where the punchline needs to land, and you need to know how to set it up. Doing these Hallmark movies, I should have really helped me to hone that in and practice it. Then I was able to do my first studio film, narrative feature for Sony Tri-Star called the Broken Hearts Gallery

Akira
That was so amazing. Because you've got that, I think right after you came in and talked with us. So it was so cool for us to be able to say, see, you got to mentor with someone who now went off to score a studio feature.

Genevieve
Yeah. I mean, it was so amazing to work on that. And the team was amazing. The director, Natalie Krinsky, is just so funny, and she's so real. She has got such a great sense of humor and. It really comes out in her writing. She wrote and directed that film. I was able to actually work with a 18 piece string section instead of doing my fake 37 layer string section.

Akira
37 layers?

Genevieve
37 layers!!! String section...

Akira
I mean, I love this score. I think it was so great. I got it right when it's came out. So at this point, I think we're going to play a clip from the Broken Hearts Gallery

Genevieve
Great. 

Music: “The Broken Hearts Hotel” from The Broken Hearts Gallery  [20:23]

Akira [21:17] 
That was so fabulous! Amazing to happen during Covid So, congratulations. That was so great. I was so happy to celebrate that for you. 

Genevieve
The unsung hero of all of the things I've scored is my mixer, Justin Moskowicz. He's mixed almost all of my scores, and he is just also just such a great artist. You know, it makes my music sound is as good as it can.

 Akira
Indeed. Mixing is such a great art form. You are so right. And now you've moved on to another studio film that's coming out on... Is it June 27th on Hulu? 

Genevieve
Yeah, yeah. It's called Safer At Home. It's a thriller. Which is fun. I do like me a dark movie. This is a pandemic thriller. If you hadn't had enough pandemic, here's some more pandemic. At the time that it was shot and I was hired to do it, we didn't know how to work really with musicians or anyone because everyone was locked inside their houses freaking out, which is totally understandable. And so this whole score is actually all just synth. So it's a lot of analog synths and drum machines, and just a variety of odd sounds that I made from things around my studio. It's meant to sound like a riot is going on outside of your house, which I hope that's not too close and too soon. I love making scary music. 

Akira
Maybe I'm not watching this. 

Genevieve
It's really fun. It's really fun. 

Akira
Here's a clip from Safer at Home.

Music: “Pandemic Theme” from Safer at Home [22:45]

Akira [23:49] 
Okay. Well, that was indeed dark. So very excited. Thank you for sharing that with us. Speaking of dark, that leads us to your counter or your parallel career that you have musically, which is darkDARK, which I think has always... It was incredible to find out you did this, and I think very inspiring for some of our kids. So can you talk about this? 

Genevieve
So the kids, I just want to say, you don't have to ever be pigeonholed in music because music is music, and art is art. And just make whatever you want to make, and you don't have to make just one kind of music. That's how I feel, and so that's what I do. So I have this other side of me that wants to produce pop music and write pop songs and have fun with this sort of more experimental electronic stuff. And so me and my producing and writing partner in darkDARK, Chris James, we've created this electronic pop sound design… sound. And we've been doing that for, I think we started working together seven or six years ago. We just released our first feature length album on Network Music Group on February 24th of 2021. We've also done a EP called Heathered. I was released in 2018. So the one we just released is called Feel So Much. And then we have two really amazing featured artists on it who basically sing and rap. So we have Madge, and we also have Leonis who is a French rapper. Chris is really the beat master of the two of us. You know, we're both writers and composers in our own respect, but he definitely has a knack for making beat. And we kind of just collaborate and send music back and forth until we're happy. 

Akira
That’s so cool. And he's in Texas, right? 

Genevieve
Yeah. He's in Austin, Texas. 

Akira
Can we share a song?

Genevieve
Yeah, let's put on “Sequels”, Chris and I wrote and produced the track with French rapper Leonis who signed to Because Music.  Me and Leonis both sing on the track. It's really cool. So enjoy.

Music: “Sequels” featuring Leonis.  Feel So Much by darkDARK. [25:51]

Akira [27:37]
With that great track from darkDARK, we are going to wrap this up. Genevieve, Do you have anything final that you'd like to put in? 

Genevieve
Just that I really think the program is fantastic. The Inception Orchestra is just doing such amazing work, and I'm really proud to be a part of it. And I hope that I can help some more young aspiring composers along in their career again when, when you're rounding up your next batch of mentors. 

Akira
Yes, indeed. We'd love to have you back. Our new cohort refreshes itself in September of 2021. Genevieve, if someone wants to reach out to you, how do they get in touch with you? What's your website?

Genevieve
First Instagram. I'm called YouAreCanadian. And my website is GenevieveVincent.com. But if you want to check out my band, you can also grab us on Instagram, and that is darkDarkmusic. 

Akira
Very, very cool. And lots of posts and lots of music that comes from those. I want to say, thank you so much. It was really great speaking with you tonight, and we look forward to seeing you at the mentoring table again, very soon. 

Genevieve
Thanks so much for having me. 

Akira
Thank you for listening to today's podcast. The Inception Orchestra Young Composers Mentoring Program, in partnership with the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers (ASMAC), is funded by grants from organizations such as the Los Angeles, Central City Optimist Foundation, and generous donations from friends, family, and listeners like you. Please check us out on www.inceptionorchestra.org. Thanks everybody.