When watching a film, the music in the background can often go unnoticed, but for Sebastian Duncan ’19 (pictured top right), the music is what he focuses on. After a summer of working with W. George Matton Professor of Music Larry Bitensky, one of Duncan’s orchestral pieces received an honorable mention from The Indie Gathering International Film Festival.
All participants received a trailer video for a 2016 movie titled “Roman Citizen.” The trailer had the original music removed, and the participants had to compose new music and mix it into the audio clip.
“I wrote an orchestral piece for the trailer, that focused mainly on dark and heavy registers of the orchestra, which is common in action and thriller scores,” Duncan said. “I especially focused on brass, low strings and a large percussion section. After I wrote the piece, I adapted it to the action and dialogue of the trailer and added electronic instruments and ambient sounds to build up tension.”
For the past six months, Duncan has been writing music for movie clips and short films, as part of his composition lessons with Bitensky.
Duncan’s summer research with Bitensky began as a study in music theory and composition.
“It became evident early on that he was most inspired as a composer when his musical work was paired with video images, and he had one of those rare ‘awakening’ moments when he discovered a calling as a film composer,” Bitensky said.
Toward the end of his research, Duncan began an intensive study of orchestration and sound editing software, all while giving himself a project of learning to write a variety of musical and video styles.
The music Duncan wrote for “Roman Citizen” was one of his earlier projects, and since then, he has completed 13 new pieces.
“Duncan has put in a huge amount of time and effort for this project, and the level of expertise that he has achieved in such a short amount of time is absolutely extraordinary,” Bitensky said. “The fact that The Indie Gathering recognized one of his first attemps while he was competing against professionals in the field is a testament to his natural gift.”
Duncan expressed how receiving an honorable mention for his work is an encouraging first step, and for this being his first competition, he’s appreciated the positive feedback.
“I like the variety of challenges that you have to face when you’re writing your own music,” Duncan said. “I constantly have to learn new things about music theory, instrumentation and sound design. Most importantly, I love learning how to use all of those tools together as effectively as possible.”
Throughout the next year, Duncan plans to submit other film score composition pieces to a variety of other competitions. He is also interested in trying out other compositional mediums and hopes to submit pieces to other competitions, as well.
“I am very much looking forward to seeing how he will grow in the next few years,” Bitensky said.
Listen to Duncan’s music compositions on his website, and view the video trailer with his orchestral composition here.
by Kerry Steinhofer
August 17, 2017