Pulse has a renowned list of high profile experts, who regularly lecture on our courses. Many with interesting and varied careers, in this section of our newsletter we aim to delve into their background to get tips on how to succeed in the professional environment.
Greg Magee: Guest Lecture Profile
In this months guest lecture profile, we get a unique insight into the world of multi award winning sound producer Greg Magee. With an Irish Film & TV Award for Best Score under his belt for work in Winters End, he is also responsible for composing and producing all the music for The Fairytale. The Fairytale is a 26 part multi-award winning animation series, based on the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, which was broadcasted in more than 90 countries. We are delighted that he managed to find time to share his industry knowledge and his passion for all things music related with Pulse news.
Q1. You started your music training with the Royal Academy, was music always of interest to you from a young age?
I guess I’ve always had a huge interest in music. I didn’t start formal lessons until I was ten, because it wasn’t practical to start flute lessons until that age!
Q2. Was music a big influence in your house growing up?
Neither of my parents were professional musicians, but my father liked to play violin and to this day he has a deep love of classical music. I don’t think I listened to anything more contemporary than Tchaikovsky until I got my first walkman at the age of 14, but I sure made up for lost time!
Q3. You then went on to study a Music Degree in Trinity, what made you go down the academic route?
I initially started computer science at TCD, but after two years of writing, arranging and performing music when I should have been building computer circuits and writing software I decided to go back to the beginning and enrol in their Music & Composition Degree.
Q4.Why did you decide to go down the producing path?
With a passion for all things technological I really didn’t see it initially as anything more than justifying my appetite for tech. After my initial attempts at recording my own music and being called on as a session musician in various studios I started to realise that it wasn’t just about writing / performing great music but that the actual recording process and balancing of sound was something that could radically affect what everyone would hear as the end result. Over the course of months working on an album or film score I think it’s really easy to deceive yourself into thinking that your vision or concept translates accurately from your brain to the outside world in the form of a CD or DVD. I’ve learnt that in my case it’s really important to have the knowledge and control over production tools so that whatever crazy idea I come up with sounds just as crazy or sane to you as it did to me the first time I thought of it.
Q5. You then went on to receive a scholarship in film music studies in LA, which must have been exciting, what influenced your interest in film music?
I received a bursary award to take part in a work training programme in LA. I was fortunate enough in the two years after my degree to take part in the Screen Training Ireland programme which brought the UCLA Film Scoring Programme to Ireland where such Hollywood legends as Don Ray, Bob Drasnin and Conrad Pope gave of their time and experience through their teaching, mentoring, supervising and recording sessions. The most exciting aspect of the industry in LA is that everybody takes it seriously and has a professional ethic which really does inspire you to be the best you can be and to take yourself seriously as a professional who has a contribution to make in the world of movie and music making.
Q6. What is your favourite and most inspirational film score to date?
It’s an extremely difficult question to answer – it changes quite a lot. The two scores that made me want to be a composer were by John Williams and Ennio Morricone. ET and The Mission. Music has such a huge part to play in these films and really do take the viewer on an emotional journey. I saw Ennio Morricone in concert in Belfast last year and I’d have to say that the Theme from Cinema Paradiso moved me to tears!
Q7.You have had a very diverse career from starting off as sound supervisor on “The Last Word” to working on “A Love Divided” amongst others, has this diversity help your career path?
Despite the fact that so many of our jobs today are highly specialized it still comes down to people working alone and working in teams to get work significantly larger than themselves completed. In most cases the jobs I have done to date have simply been a case of being in a position to complete one piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Most of our skills do translate in other jobs or facets of production. I had a background working for a music publisher at one stage and this really did help me in the role of music supervisor on one feature. I played in orchestras and learned to read orchestral score in school and college. This helped me in my role as score supervisor. Who knows? My experience as a film composer may make me a better teacher or vice versa.
Q8. You been involved in many award winning productions such as “The Fairy Tale” and recently won best score for IFTN for “Winters End”. What did it fee like for you work to be so highly regarded by your peers?
It is certainly great to receive recognition for your work. It’s not often that people working behind the camera or in post production get to be acknowledged for their work. For the vast majority of us it’s not really the driving force behind the work, but it’s great to see the fruits of your struggle rewarded with some deserved attention from time to time.
Q9. With so many awards behind you, what is the secret to your success?
If I seem to have had success in my career so far it’s not always immediately obvious to me. Seriously, I think that it’s not something that you can always work towards. It’s like trying to become a millionaire by working in entertainment. Success, money or whatever markers you use to measure success are just that. They’re indications of how well people think you performed at a particular job at one time or other. I don’t view myself as successful, but I do take pride in trying to be as good as I can be for every job I do. It doesn’t always turn out how you planned it, but it’s the sincerity of your efforts that people come to respect.
Q10. You are currently guest lecture for Pulse College how did you get involved with the college?
I think I first met Aidan and Tony around twelve years ago while recording some film cues on the Film Music Course. I taught a few classes on music technology for film composers just after I completed the programme and Aidan approached me to guest lecture on Pulse’s Sound Engineering courses. Over the past few years Aidan and Tony have recorded my music and I have worked for them.
Q11. How do find the challenge of teaching?
It’s a rewarding one. The real difficulty is assessing what’s needed. There’s only a finite amount of time and you need to make it as practical as possible. It’s easy to stand up and talk about subjects that interest me personally, but it’s really all about what the student needs not the teacher.
Q12. You are now based mainly in you studios in Dublin how do you find the music industry in Dublin in comparison to the other cities you have worked in?
I think there is a prodigious amount of talent and some great music being created here. I do still think we have a very young film and music industry. While there is definitely talent I think we could take a leaf out of other’s books and concentrate more on our professionalism and less on what people think of us. If you genuinely work hard at creating something and spend less time judging the efforts of others I think you feel better about your own worth.
Q13. Any advice for our Pulse College Graduates starting out their career?
What’s that old saying – Knowledge doesn’t weigh anything. I think working in as many aspects of the business as possible will do nothing but improve your prospects. I think it helps to have a real interest in everything around your own main discipline. I love learning more about film making, talking with people who are in the thick of it, thinking about why a composer chooses particular entry and exit points in a scene. I’m a composer, but that doesn’t stop me from learning or seeking to understand how other creative minds in different disciplines find solutions.
Q14. What do you see as the future of music production?
Firewire or Fibrechannel to Neuron interface… Less people playing more or more people playing less. I’d like to think we will move forward towards great music where its inception is artistically or creatively driven rather than an average of market surveys. There are more tools now for fixing less talented musicians than there are for elevating good ones to greatness. Maybe that’s something to think about.
Q15. In between lecturing in Pulse College, what other exciting projects have you got lined up?
The most exciting project that I have lined up right now is tidying up and perhaps redesigning my studio after a house move. There are a few interesting film projects coming up, but their NDA’s are so tight that if I told you I would have to shoot you.[openday]