I sat down with composer and sound designer Oliver Getz Rodahl to talk about his practice and motivations. Oliver is a composer and sound designer based in Boston, MA, where he is working in the indie game scene. He has been a composer for hire since 2012. Oliver recently composed the entire score for my upcoming project Andean Sky. Oliver’s Sound Cloud
Carlos Villarreal Kwasek: Could you describe your work, what do you do?
Oliver Getz Rodahl: In its essence my work is writing music down in a sheet of paper and study how other people have done it before me. I consider music more a craft than art so I feel it’s important for a musician to understand how all the components work in order to put it together in an effective way.
You are a composer and a sound designer, can you talk about what are the differences and similarities between these two titles.
The biggest similarity in my opinion is the focus on timbre of each sound. In sound design timbre is like 90% of the job: does the sound sounds big, small, wet, dry, cold hot, metal, wood, whatever. Writers have to consider timbre too but the importance of timbre comes very late in the process after you have established pitch, rhythm and harmony. I think that is the biggest similarity. From that you can also extract what is the biggest difference: a sound designer doesn’t has to think much about harmony. Pitches? Yeah maybe. Rhythm? Definitely. But the harmony goes away.
Tell us a little about your creative process. How do you approach music or sound?
It variates between a couple of methods. If I’m writing music my preferred method is to sit down by a piano, sketch out a few melodies and extract one of them in order to orchestrate it: give the lines to different instruments. I usually notate on a notation software, or paper, before importing everything into a digital audio workstation. This process can be very time consuming. If I have to crunch things out I just start writing directly in the digital audio workstation but you are skipping a few steps by doing this. I find value in detail and my workstation usually do not allow for that to the extent that I like. You don’t have the freedom to really dive into your own composition and tinker with the small stuff. I’ll usually have a visual on the side. For instance, in Andean Sky I would have the comic on a separate screen to have a visual feedback about whether I’m going in the right direction or not.
I’ll usually have a visual on the side. For instance, in Andean Sky I would have the comic on a separate screen to have a visual feedback about whether I’m going in the right direction or not.
Can you describe your style? What kind of music are you drawn to?
I feel like I’m still in the process of finding a certain style but I am very much influenced by romantic composers from the 18th century until today. Right now there are so many different things I am interested in. I feel like I am in this awkward space in between. Like for Andean Sky I used a lot of samples instruments but I also used my acoustic guitar, digital synthesizers as well as sound effects. I do try to be consistent and have acoustic instruments in my tracks because they add more feeling to the track. If my wallet and the time allows for it. Acoustic is always more expensive because someone has to play the instrument.
What are your short term and long term goals?
For short term: I’m going back into my writing again. I’m disassembling the way I’m writing and trying to reconstruct it, if that makes sense. Especially with my melodies because I feel that they can be a lot better. My goal is to make them sound more interesting.
For long term: I wanted to do music for video games for a while. My long term goal used to be being able to write for games and still being able to get food and have a roof over my head, ha ha ha. Writing for games slowly developed into writing for media. I think there is a certain kind of beauty in art that is made collectively by different types of artists like a team of illustrators, actors, musicians and designers for instance.
Who are the most influential artists for you?
I had a thing for Danny Elfman for a while, who has worked on most of the Tim Burton films. Right now I’m listening a lot of Michael Giacchino’s work who composed for animation films like Zootopia and Up. I’m a big fan of the romantic french composer Maurice Ravel.
You need to surround yourself by people that you want to be friends with and not just persons that can give you a job.
What advice would you give to a upcoming artist?
I don’t think I’m qualified to give advice but I can share some advice that I have been given which have worked for me. First of all it’s important to get out there. Media business is much about who knows who but it’s also important not to forget that networking is about making friends. You need to surround yourself by people that you want to be friends with and not just persons that can give you a job. Secondly, it has helped me a lot to treat my craft as a business, because that is exactly what it is, especially in terms of getting paid. Be able to convey the value of your own product to clients. That is important if you want to live off of your craft.
Thank you for your time.