American-born but Galway based composer Peter Broderick is a bit of an international enigma. Despite relocating to Barna, the contemporary composer has found his career has taken on a highly international flavour.
Broderick was key to the way fantastically inventive Danish act Efterklang converted their more orchestral edge into a live setting, and has also worked with the likes of Yann Tiersen, Phillip Glass and Dustin O’Halloran.
His most recent project is the construction of a score around the short film ‘Two Balloons. The collaboration with director Mark Smith has a nice sense of symmetry to it, in particular as the movie is part-inspired by an earlier piece ‘More Of A Composition’.
The soundtrack was released as an EP in November 2018, and is entitled, memorably, ‘Techno for Lemurs’. Two Balloons i showing as part of the Dublin Film Festival’s ‘Fantastic Fix’ this year, on February 23. I asked him about the composition, life and his earlier work…
Congratulations on the score. I understand you worked closely with the producer to break this down almost frame by frame. How complicated does that get, musically?
When it came time to fit the music to the picture, it really was just a matter of watching the film over and over again while playing the piano along with it, getting a feel for the rhythm of the story. The timing of different chapters and certain particular shots in relation to the music felt very important . . . but it was just a matter of repetition and practice until it felt just right.
I believe Mark Smith searched you out to write the music for this movie. What did you think of the film when he did so?
When Mark first reached out to me, he hadn’t even started shooting the film yet. He just had the story in his head and he seemed to know from the beginning that he wanted this particular melody from a song of mine to be used in the film. At that point, I didn’t really know much about the project, but I loved Mark’s enthusiasm and sincerity from the beginning, so I agreed to work with him from the start purely based on those things alone.
You play a whole load of instruments. Does that give you a better understanding of how they’ll interact when you produce your scores?
I would like to believe that playing lots of instruments gives me a certain insight into how these different timbres interact with each other.
I’m a huge Efterklang fan – they’re a phenomenal mix of contemporary and interesting orchestral music – what were they like to work with, and what did you take from it?
I too was a huge fan of Efterklang before I ever started playing with them, and I felt the same way about them — such an interesting mix of modern indie/pop music and more avant-garde orchestral and electronic elements. It was the opportunity of a lifetime for me when I started working with them, and it really did propel me into a career in music. My job with them was to help them realize their recorded efforts on stage, so my primary experience with them has been in the realm of touring and creating live performances. This also taught me so much about traveling the globe and getting accustomed navigating through different cultures.
What’s your creative process? Does it change when you’re working on something like a movie score?
I usually just find a quiet place with an instrument or two and start playing. Working on a commission like a film score definitely shapes the work quite a bit. I’m very conscious about trying to make the music fit whatever it’s made for, and especially pleasing the director or whoever it is that hired me for the job.
‘Less Is More’ seems to be a bit of a mantra for you. Do you think minimalism is something that’s missing from the most popular contemporary music?
I think it all has its place. And I go through phases . . . sometimes I like to make things that are really minimal, and sometimes I like to work on things that are a bit more complicated. But yes, in today’s hectic world I think sometimes it’s difficult to find a place of solace and quiet, and I really appreciate music that can help facilitate this.
Do you place much value in ‘popularity’?
In general, I tend to take more interest in the underdogs. I’m not sure why exactly that is . . . perhaps it’s that some popular modern things don’t quite resonate with me, or perhaps I like the feeling of something being my own little secret…
How has living in Galway impacted on the way you write or perform music?
Well, I think the way of traditional Irish music has certainly seeped into my musicality in some way or another . . . probably not in any real obvious way, though. But I’ve also spent a lot of time out in
Do you feel connected to the Irish music scene, or are you spending so much time abroad that it’s difficult to establish that kind of link?
I think the latter is more true. Most of my work is still abroad, so it’s been hard for me to immerse too much in the Irish scene. That said, there are a small number of projects I’ve done since moving here that have been really wonderful and meaningful to me, such as working with a local children’s orchestra, writing some music for an art installation in Cobh (Co. Cork), and performing at the Galway Jazz Festival.
What are your plans for the future?
I have some more film score work going on currently and some more projects like that lined up for this year. Right now my good friend and close collaborator David Allred is trying to convince me to make an album with just an acoustic guitar and my voice . . . and he’s being very persuasive and persistent, so we’ll see about that!
Two Balloons is showing at DIFF as part of Fantastic Flix on February 23.