(Photo: Julio d'Escriván)
Julio d’Escriván is a composer and performer of new music. His work is grounded in a career spanning the best part of thirty years that has included writing jingles, commercial branding, documentary and film music. At present, Julio is a Senior Lecturer in Music, Sound and The Moving Image, and a doctoral supervisor with an emphasis on composition as it relates to visual media at The University of Huddersfield, in England.
Why do you make music?
Because I am almost obsessively moved and fascinated by it. It provides for me a means of expression deeper than words (and I know that is a bit of a cliché but true nevertheless!)
What music do you make?
I think I am a polystylist. This is the result of years of work as a commercial composer as well as working to classical commissions. My work usually involves a combination of synthesis, sampling, acoustic instrumental sources and found sound. I don’t feel bound by style but I tend towards music that is rich in rhythm and also texturally rich. More often than not I work to moving images, actual or through a brief. So perhaps I make could be called ‘cinematic’ music? I definitely draw much inspiration from the post-classical composers like Johann Johannsson, Max Richter and Dustin O’Halloran. I have also been quite involved with electroacoustic improvisation in recent years but I keep coming back to the simplicity of tonality and pulse.
How do you make music?
My first approach is improvisation, then I often sequence with an extra large keyboard at a DAW, having prepared my samples. I mix as I go along, placing tracks where I ultimately intend them to be in the audio image or field. When the work is more spectral, I begin by processing samples or synthesising sound and then only start making music when one of these sounds moves me. I follow the first avenue that opens up, I believe in failing fast and not judging myself during the process of making.
Is any of your sound-based work not ‘music’ as such and, if not, what is it?
How do you describe yourself (e.g. are you a performer, a composer, a technologist, an engineer, some combination of these or, indeed, something else) and why?
I am a composer and sound designer who benefits from technology to participate in the performance of my work, either via controllers or directly on the laptop. More and more, I am a composer for the moving image above all.
What is the cultural context for your work - how are you inﬂuenced by music from other cultures or the other arts?
Given my mixed ethnic background, raised in America and South America and living in Europe, I would say that I am a foreigner everywhere I go, so my culture is rather that of international available online media. I am an arts omnivore and find inspiration in all sorts of places from Vedic metaphors to web series memes, from morning rags, through Balinese or Indonesian music to percussion finger tapped acoustic guitar. I don't distinguish between 'high' and 'low' art. I am heavily influenced by the culture surrounding film music and current trends in film sound design.
What skills and attributes do you consider to be essential for you as a musician?
The following: having had a good education as a classical guitarist, being able to work my way through keyboard harmony, loving orchestration, a technical facility for understanding synthesis and sampling (having worked professionally in both fields) and some familiarity with computer programming. Having encountered the book Silence by John Cage when I was twenty.
What forms of notation should a digital musician know and why?
Standard Music Notation and computer music representations in code. The former because it is very useful to a working musician (if you want to go beyond niche experimentation as a professional, that is!) and the latter because we cannot ignore current trends.
How do you explore sound in your work?
I tend to load samples into synth or sampling engines, or look for sounds I already like and modify those, I try to identify the features of sounds that I like to recreate them on other sounds. I favour granular processes and old-fashioned tape style manipulation of recorded sounds by using live coding (the latter gives me great flexibility in triggering, slowing down, reversing, chopping up and layering of sounds.
How do you relate to the global digital culture?
I feel a part of it, piloting my own little boat in the endless stream of audio, video and text that washes from every phone, computer screen and smart TV. I think there is no escaping it today… also, knowledge and aesthetic influences spring from anywhere in the world instantly through social media and web discovery, and this augments our own experiences of everyday life in the various corners of the planet we inhabit.
Do you have any other useful or relevant things to say about being a musician in the digital age?
I don’t think so…