by Esther Wambui
Madeleine Klouda, you are a musician, film music composer and orchestrator, which among these came first in your life?
Since I was little I always liked music and dance. I started singing in a choir before I started playing clarinet at the age of 8. Since then, I knew that music is what I want to do in my life. I was playing in different ensembles both in Norway and the US before I got more interested in composition. I was trained in classical composition before I followed my passion of writing for film and stage. On top of that, I am very interested in music theory, the art of orchestration and how different instruments work together, so now I orchestrate just as much as I compose.
Where do you work?
I mostly work in my apartment where I have a little studio setup with different keyboards, midi controllers, microphones and softwares. If I am really tired of sitting in the same spot all the time, I take my little midi keyboard and computer with me and sit in a cafe or library. I don’t get easily distracted and find it sometimes easier to compose in places where there are people around and a little bit of background noise.
You have been mentored by Chris Hajian (Film Composer, score for Infiltrator and LAbyrinth) and Irwin Fisch.What value has it added to your career to be in close contact with such monsters of film scoring ?
First of all, I am always inspired by their stories. The stories about scoring their first big film or how they started out and how they went about connecting with different directors and producers make me go for my highest goals. It is important to me to take in absolutely everything they teach me. How to write successfully for an orchestra that only has 15 minutes to record your music, why a certain orchestration works and doesn’t work and how to score to a dialogue without overpowering the scene are all valuable lessons that I think about every time I write music. I feel extremely honored to work with such talented and professional musicians.
Do you have a favorite film composer?
It is very hard for me to pick just one, because different composers inspire me in different ways. When I listen to John Williams, I am so amazed by his themes, melodies and storytelling and when I listen to Michael Giocchino, I am inspired by his orchestrations and timbre just like Thomas Newman and his mesmerizing and beautiful tunes. Hans Zimmer goes far and beyond with his scores, presenting innovative compositions that feature hybrid instrumental and electronic music. And of course, I absolutely love the warmth, pacing and melodic themes presented by Johann Johannson.
When you create music for a movie, is it more of an action or an emotion that gives you inspiration?
Overall I have to look at what a particular scene is already saying without music, what does the director want to portray and focus on in the scene, and what do I hear when watching the scene. Based on these factors, I can either chose to focus on a certain emotion or an action that is happening. What I need to remember is that the beauty and also the scary part of composing for film is that I can actually change people’s view of a character or a situation.
The main challenge when you compose a score for a film.
There are many challenges. Some of the challenges are just inner struggles and dialogues with yourself while writing. There is always that voice in your head that is second guessing the music you are writing and if the voice takes over, suddenly you are staring at a blank canvas trying to come up with something different. Then there are the challenges of being able to write exactly what the director and producers want. The key here is constant communication and dialogue between the composer and director. And of course, one of the differences between writing music for film and writing music for the concert hall is the timeframe and deadlines. You don’t get a lot of time to finish a score and within this timeframe you also have to do multiples of revisions, recordings and sometimes mixing. But that is what I like about film scoring. The deadlines give you that extra nudge you need to finish something and you really don’t have much time to second guess.
You have been chosen to create the music for Tadpoles by Triserratops Production and DuoFilm (2017/2018), an important international project between US and Norway. What can you tell us about this movie?
This film is very personal to me and I am extremely excited that I get to work on a film that takes place in Norway in the US. It is almost a little surreal to me. It is a children’s film about an american boy coming to Norway and meeting a norwegian girl. The film takes you on a journey of friendship and non-verbal communication that you only see between kids. The scenes portray the beautiful landscape and countryside of Norway, giving me room for music and interpretation. The music will for sure be inspired by norwegian folk music and to me that is just a really fun project to work on. It is a big collaboration and I am excited to see the finished work.
You won the NYU Film Scoring Competition with the score for animation Goodnight Boon by Jeremy Jenkins in 2016 and your composition has been played in the Symphony Space, one of the most important theatres of the city. Which memory do you have of that night?
I remember thinking about the night I first started writing down ideas for the score. Seeing your work evolve from pen and paper, to the computer, to different instruments, to rehearsals and finally to the stage is a wonderful and a little scary journey. You want everything to be perfect and you have worked on the project for so long that you know every millisecond of the score and how it should sound like. That night I just had to let it all go and enjoy the wonderful performance. Having your work performed live as compared to constantly working with computer sounds is like giving new life to your score. These are the moments I live for and I for sure want more nights like that.
How do you feel about the role that you will be playing in Dan Mertzlufft’s musical?
I am really excited about this collaboration. Dan Mertzlufft and I have been collaborating together on many occasions and I have worked with him both in the role as a composer and an orchestrator. While working on the musical “Who lived in a Shoe”, I get to take the brilliant compositions Dan has created and give them a musical lift through orchestration. When writing for musical theater, you usually don’t have a full orchestra to write for so the fun and challenging part will be to orchestrate the music for the set ensemble and make it sound as colorful and rich as I can. Since we have worked together before and we know each other’s style, I feel very comfortable to experiment and try new things and make the whole process a dialogue and conversation. The script writing by Jiana Odland is excellent and I am looking forward to this long-term project.
Madeleine and the city. What are the best places to see live bands or musicians in New York and why?
The best part about NYC is that it has so much to offer and there are events going on at all times. I really enjoy a lot of different music genres so here are a few of my go-to places:
1. Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center for the best, classical concerts featuring orchestras,ensembles and soloists. These concert halls are absolutely beautiful and the program always features the top musicians in the world.
2. On/Off Broadway Shows to see musical theatre which is one of my passions. The level of performance is so high and the productions are spectacular to watch.
3. Music Hall of Williamsburg is a great venue for more popular music ranging in genres from indie to hip hop. The layout of the venue is very cool and I usually go there when they feature a Norwegian artist such as Sondre Lerche or Kygo.
4. Low-key venues/bars with live music. These tend to be the best ones and you get to experience new artists for a low cost. Shrine in Harlem is an excellent place for live music and so is Pianos in East Village.
What are your recommendations for must-visit places in NYC and why?
Washington Square Park is one of my favorite places in NYC. It is in the heart of Greenwich, surrounded by NYU buildings and it offers so many different types of people! You can often see street art, music performances, dance performances- you never know what will go on in Washington Square Park so just sitting there and watch people is an activity itself. Another place is St. Marks Place- typical East Village with lots of colors, small shops and fun people but most of all- delicious food and drinks in all of the restaurants and bars.
When you need inspiration, what you do? which place do you to visit in the city?
Most of the time, I get my inspiration from my emotions and I feel the most inspired when I’m in calm and in secluded places. NYC is very hectic and it can take a lot of energy out of you, but those days I take the time to walk in Central Park, Riverside Park or Bronx Botanical Garden and let my mind wander on its own.That is when I start hearing different ideas for different projects. I also find that I get very inspired by going to concerts, so whenever I have the chance to see live music I get to refresh some composition techniques I might not have thought about in a long time or I pick up new and interesting sounds that I would like to try out in my music.
Advise a teenager that want to start your career:
One advice I have that really goes for any type of career: Stay true to your plan A- your number one dream. If you are thinking about plan B, it means that you are already doubting plan A.
And for musicians and composers- stay as versatile as you can! Learn as much as you can about any genre because you never know when you will get an amazing opportunity that will require knowledge about a unique genre or skill and you want to be able to say “Yes, I can do that!”
Plans for your future:
My plan is to continue composing here in NYC. This city has so much going on and it gives me inspiration. Furthermore living here is great and it helps me make more connections and get involved in more projects, be it film, classical music or theatre.
Your hidden dream.
My hidden dream is not very hidden, but it is definitely a long term project that I keep talking about: to write my own musical. I already have some songs for it, however I need to work on the story. It will somehow be about young people that have just moved to NYC and are just living in between. Instead of doing what they came here to do, they are working three part-time jobs and face the very high highs and very low lows of living here.
A contemporary La Boheme?
Hahaha. Yes. A contemporary La Boheme. That people will sing and remember for centuries and say “That song is about me!”