Today we are delighted to have with us composer Hannah Parrott to tell us about her career in music and her new series The Croods Family Tree.
Hannah tell us a little bit about yourself and how you decided to go into film music?
I grew up in a very music-loving family. My Dad was always of part of bands with local parents in the neighborhood and my Mom listened to big orchestral music like Gershwin and John Berry. So I was kind of inundated with music all around. I personally fell in love with film scores like Finding Nemo and The Chronicles of Narnia– especially the Narnia series because I’d read the books and loved them. Then with the movies I was drawn in even more. When I listened to the scores it was another way to experience the story I loved.
After that I decided it is not good enough just to listen I have to write music like this and I can tell stories through music. I announced at my 8th grade graduation that was what I wanted to do and since then I’ve been working hard to gain the skills.
And then I had just an amazing opportunity upon graduation to work with many of the film score composers that I loved, I was able to do some orchestration work for Thomas Newman, worked on Finding Dory, which was crazy, given my love of Finding Nemo, I worked with the late, great James Horner, who was just wonderful. So yeah, that’s how I got started.
When you said Finding Nemo was so influential for you it must have been incredible to work on Finding Dory?
Yes! I fangirled pretty hard. It was amazing.
When you are in the musical department and you are working on a film collaboratively on a score with a composer like Thomas Newman what is that like?
It depends on your role. I’ve worn many hats. For Thomas Newman I was part of the orchestration team. So the lead orchestrator, Jack Redford, who is a gem, an amazing musician and composer. I worked for him and would get assignments from him directly to prepare the music from the orchestra after coming from Tom.
Do you think there is something different required when composing for animation rather than live action?
Yeah I think it has different rhythms that you lock into. Obviously it depends on the genre but there’s so much detail inherent in the animation and these artists that put in all this work and effort into these tiny nuances that the music can lock into that as well. You’re creating this sonic world along with the visual world that the animators created. And sound designers as well. There are a lot of sound designers in animation that fill out the world so beautifully. I feel like they should have soundtrack albums themselves. There’s a lot of room because you are creating the world. Whereas, in live action you are working with a lot of found materials just by nature of it already existing.
In animated films they often use a temporary track while they are deciding everything. Does that influence you when you sit down to do the actual final composing?
Yes, I think one of our temp music is used, it can be kind of a short hand for where people are at sonically, and it leads to kind of a jumping off point of like, ‘Oh, this is working really well, this isn’t…’ And your decision-making is kind of expedited sometimes with temp music.
The flip side of that be, some decisions are already laid out for you in temps, and it can be restrictive, but I think when it’s used as a shorthand for like, ‘this is how we’re feeling, this is the pacing’, or ‘we like this aspect of the temp track and don’t like this aspect’. It can expedite things as well
We have The Croods Family Tree coming up. This is your first project for DreamWorks right? Do you have a favorite DreamWorks film?
It is, yes. That’s a tough question but I will have to go with The Prince of Egypt. I rewatched it a few months ago and everything about it is so beautiful and thoughtful. It definitely had a big impact on me.
It must have been amazing to hear your music along with something so enjoyed as The Croods?
Yes, I was told about this pitch and then I very quickly watched the movies and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I was so excited to be a part of this world. I laughed very hard. I thought the characters were so endearing and the animation was so stunning. I was thrilled to be able to considered for the project.
How does it work as far as the episodes go, do they give you?. What stage is the music added as far as the creation of the episode?
The animator has been locked, so the frames are all the exact frames they’re gonna be… And it’s pretty fleshed out. At that point, we have a spotting session, and I don’t hear temp music in our spotting sessions, which is awesome, ’cause now I just get to play with the toolkit we’ve created in the first few episodes and talk through and we’ll talk through different feeds, comedic or heartfelt. If there’s any clarity that they want to provide about certain animation that’s in progress, I’ll provide that. If there’s any gags, like musical gags that they wanna incorporate we’ll talk about that.
Great, I’m really excited to get a chance to watch it. The last question, what would be your advice to people who want to get into film music?
I would say watch films and TV, listen to scores, listen to classical music, get familiar with how great stories are told. If you’re really avid breakdown why a piece of music moves you. Like if you love a specific piece of film music, listen to it and try and be a detective. Figure out what are the beats or the moments, the swells, the instruments, what they’re telling you. Because you’ll find that you listen to a great piece of film music or a great piece of music in general, and you can parse out: ‘Oh, wow, that high string line gives me a feeling of transcendence because it’s high’. I often find there are these connections with what I experience in day-to-day life and through what I see and experience
I think it’s great advice. Very much. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us
We’d like to thank Hannah for taking the time to talk with us. If you would like to listen to the audio of the interview check out below. Also make sure you are following Hannah on instagram and on her website.