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Tutor Tale: Meet Francesco Menini

Updated: Jan 29, 2019

Welcome back to the GEMS blog! This week we’ve got tutor tales, where we will be talking with the tutors from our GEMS programs, find out who they are, hear what they do, and you can see (or well, read) for yourself, how much they can teach you during the 2019 GEMS summer program in Madrid, Spain. July 1st- July 11th.

This week, it’s Faculty Tutor Francesco Menini – an orchestrator and composer in his own right, who will be helping participants effectively orchestrate their score this July 1-11. I really enjoyed this one; Francesco is such a wise person and speaks using interesting metaphors. Let’s see what he had to say!

Francesco, could you tell us a little bit about what you do on the GEMS summer program?

Well, you know I support the visiting tutors, Christopher Young, Garry Schyman and Pete Anthony and all the students in class. I focus helping the students to achieve their sound through a correct orchestration, from the very beginning of their musical idea until the conductor’s score; which I also review carefully before going to recording sessions. You know that orchestration for an orchestra, ensemble or band, needs experience and knowledge in a million things, and sometimes it could be very different from your "DAW" orchestration process on your home studio. Checking the orchestration before the recording session, saves valuable recording time and prevents confusion for the conductor and the musicians in the orchestra.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your profession, where you studied, how long you've been studying music, projects that you're currently composing or orchestrating for.

A journey! During my childhood, I was pretty convinced that I'll become a great vet…Hah! At the age of 8 I was in love with science and biology, but music was easily my favourite hobby and at a certain point, it even became a way of living and a passion. Even though I don't belong to a family of professional musicians, we usually swam into music at every moment of the day: radio or stereo players at high volumes with hundreds of artists of many genres; from Eric Clapton to Bach. My father played the guitar in a band and the accordion at home. My mother sang in a female choir. I started playing the piano and drums at the age of 7, I also studied and played the clarinet in a symphonic band for three years. 

At the age of 14, I was really bewitched about learning harmony, and listening to some great soundtracks like "Indiana Jones" or "The Mission"on one hand, and the "Karn Evil n.9" or "Tarkus" by Emerson Lake & Palmer on the other hand. As an autodidact, by the age of 16, I had memorised a lot of transcriptions, just for passion. Then I started to play the keyboards in a band, I wanted to learn more about music, more seriously. 

I studied both piano and symphonic percussions, composition and orchestration for wind at the Conservatorio, finding a lot of wonderful teachers that trained me with a touch of our old school Italian composition techniques.

But the best school for me was working and writing for live musicians in many theatre project in my city, Verona, after the Conservatorio training. There's nothing that could replace that life experience in terms of knowledge and developing skills. I finally met Chris, through Nigel Ashley Lees the GEMS Director, and we connected immediately.

Now I'm a sort of "half-blood" composer, I write for the screen as well as concert scores for absolute music. Right now, I'm working on a script of an Italian war movie that was stopped in 2017 and re-launched this year...and be finished probably at the end of this year.

I’ve also recently just finished a beautiful project; a soundtrack for the concert hall dedicated to "Tex", an Italian Western Comic that's Italian but very famous in many countries. And other work is coming…so stay tuned!

How important do you think orchestration is in a musical piece, particularly in the context of visual-media composing?

If you view a picture, you can see many elements, colours, texture, prospective, style. The colours in a picture are strictly connected to style. Think for a moment about the use of light by Caravaggio, the position of the objects in Magritte, or the colours in Mondrian. Orchestration in music is like the use of colours in visual arts, but it is strictly connected to style. 

So if you don't have a clear idea of yourself, your style and what you want to achieve with the use of musical instruments, orchestration could be a ticking bomb in your hands. 

Vice-versa, it could be gold. It all depends on you and the idea that's in your head. That's the challenge!

Could you tell us a bit about your process while orchestrating? 

Nice Question. Sometimes I start to write my music by hearing particular instruments that are really clear in my mind. Sometimes however, I just write at the piano, without paying attention about anything but the musical structure of the composition, "painting" the colours only the second time around. In both cases; harmony, counterpoint and texture are the basis behind all the "Technicolour" process. In a certain way, it’s like being a good tailor! Haha!

What is your favourite part about orchestration? 

Finding the right sound for the right theme or counter-theme. The right mixture if needed, the right balance under the main texture. I feel that there is a soul inside each individual instrument, and a tune could sound completely different if played in one way or another. Well written orchestration can make your piece a home run!

How helpful do you think this summer program is to composers wishing to improve their skills, or to aspiring film or game composers? 

Very very inspiring, at every level. Christopher Young is a wonderful and passionate teacher who really loves music and loves to listen to your ideas for film music. He is a one-of-a-kind guy that understands very deeply what you need to aim for, to listen for in your music and - talking about soundtrack music; he's a living legend. SpiderMan 3, Drag Me To Hell, Ghost Rider.

This year we'll also be having Pete Anthony for orchestration classes, who has collaborated with Chris in movies such as "Jennifer 8" or "The Shipping news”. We will also be having BAFTA winner Gary Schyman back for his second GEMS program teaching video game-scoring. Garry is the game composer for Shadow of War and Bio Shock.

The recording day with faculty tutor Juanjo Molino at the baton with Mad4strings Orchestra, and GOYA winning producer, José Vinader recording the students compositions, it’s unforgettable. Don't miss it! 

You hear that folks? Don’t miss it! Click here to apply:

Listen to the orchestration that Francesco helped us create in the last 2 years

If you haven’t checked them out yet, check out the last 2 years year’s interviews and past students’ music here! Videos and Music. Go watch! Go listen, Go Join!

Until next week, fellow composers!


Writen by the one and only Maria Borg

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