Alexandre Jannuzzi is a up-and-coming composer from Brazil who has been working in Los Angeles for about one year, but has already made an impression.
Being an impressively eclectic musician, his music ranges from gorgeous soaring melodies to incredibly dark and tense textures, from epic orchestral pieces to exquisite piano pieces, and from quiet woodwind trios in counterpoint to aggressive EDM drops. It seems that the style of music doesn’t matter: Alexandre has been able to maintain an impressive high level of production and quality throughout his work.
Q: Tell us, when did you decide to become a music composer?
AJ: Well, I could say that the decision came when I was about 17 years old, on my last year of high school, and I had to pick a career. I was terrified of the idea of being stuck in a small cubicle working in something I didn’t like for the rest of my life, and I made the conscious decision to further my studies of music and to be an artist and a composer. But, in reality, the choice was made for me long before that.
It happened when I was still a kid, learning to play the recorder flute in school. That was the first spark, what first gave fuel to my hunger for understanding music and learning the musical language. That hunger intensified a lot over the years. When I started playing in bands I wanted to be able to write down arrangements to songs that I wanted to play. I wanted to come up with new songs, to make new stuff, and to do that I started studying music. I learned a lot really early and, without realizing, I was preparing myself to be a composer. The conscious choice was more of a realization of where that path was taking me.
Q: At Berklee you studied Film Scoring. What’s the process for writing a score?
AJ: Different composers have different methods, although some elements will always be there. For example, there should always be a spotting session, which is when the composer and the director sit down and watch the movie together. That’s when the director will tell the composer what he expects from the music.
I like to do something a little unusual in my process. I’ll watch the movie at least a couple of times before the spotting session to have an idea of how I feel the music should be like, then after we’ve spotted the movie I watch it a couple more times with the notes from the director in mind. Then I won’t look at it again for a day or two. But I’ll still be thinking about it, you know? I’ll still be humming things to myself, or thinking about instrumentation or some cool ideas. I’ll be doing some normal daily thing like cooking lunch, and I’ll stop at the piano for a couple of minutes and try a thing or two.
Starting a new project is super exciting, but I’ve found that the first ideas that come around usually don’t really work 100% because I’m still getting in touch with what the movie represents and the deeper emotions involved. Writing music for films is to tell stories, so, depending on how much time I have to work on this project, I like to take a little time to just think about the movie. Then when I sit down to write the ideas will be much more in touch with the movie. That’s when my creativity and focus will hit in full. I’ll shut myself in my studio, sometimes for days, untill I’m done with the project. I have been very lucky this far because I’ve worked with amazing directors who gave me a lot of freedom, and who trusted me to write what I felt was right for the project.
Q: What about the score you wrote for the film “Ofelia”, for which you won the award for Best Musical Score?
AJ: We didn’t really have a lot of time, we had to work fast because we were making that movie for the 48 Hour Film Project in Los Angeles. But I worked on that project with my good friend and amazing musician Alberto Menezes, which really helped. We started working off of the script, without even seeing the movie. But when we got the first draft of the movie, the music we had already written worked great with it, so we just finished it up.
Watching Ofelia at the festival’s screening was the first time that I watched a movie I had written music for on the big screen. I’m really lucky to have been working as a recording engineer at Voxx Studios, and to have been invited by the guys and gals at the studio to help them with the project. Watching Ofelia at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, seeing people in the audience getting emotional watching the movie, and then getting the award, those were amazing experiences that I’ll never forget. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.
Q: Besides Ofelia, you’ve already worked on 5 other movies. What was your favorite project to work on?
AJ: I don’t think it works that way. Choosing a favorite project at this point would be like trying to choose in between my children. I’ve had a good level of freedom to experiment on my scores, so I like to think of every project as a set of experiences that I’ve collected, each being unique. Like for “Ciclos”, by Guilherme Moyna, I put together some very discomforting sounds, and for “I Am Erica”, by Sebastian Zancanaro, I mixed some of those discomforting ideas with more traditional orchestration. For “Lady Labyrinth” I got to feature the director Jo Pratta singing, which was awesome because she’s a great singer. And for Chaaritha Dheerasinghe’s “Ever After” I got to be as minimalistic as I could get.
What I mean to say is that every project has different musical needs that need to be respected. As a composer for media, I always try to find the best way to help tell the story and drive the message home, while looking for ways to make the music unique. And, of course, I find subtle ways to make the music be “mine” in a way. I find that the more I put into a project, the more I learn from it, the more I grow, so I try to always give it as much as I can.
Q: Why do you say you are a composer for media, instead of a composer for film?
AJ: Because I’m interested in writing for all types of media, like video games for example. I love games because they’re an interactive way to tell stories. You can help shape the story, you actively participate in it, and I think there’s a lot of value in that. Also, designing interactive music is extremely fun. So far the only commercial game I’ve worked on is called “At Sundown” by Mild Beast Games, but I’m looking to start working on more games soon.
Q: Do you usually work alone?
AJ: On the contrary, whenever I can I like to work with other musicians. I’ve found that when other talented musicians pitch in the final result will probably deviate a bit from what the composer had originally intended, but it’s usually for the better. It gets richer for their added musicality, and their personal perception of the project gives it greater depth.
Writing an entire score alone, for example, can be pretty taxing on the composer, and unnecessarily so. There’s a reason why all the big composers work with teams. The more the composer can focus on the composition itself instead of orchestration, mixing, and other aspects of production, the better. Delegating also speeds up the process considerably.
Q: You’re also involved on a couple of YouTube Channels?
AJ: That’s right. I’m an arranger and bass player for “Mais 55”, which is a channel that we begun when we were still in college. Paula Park, a music business and production student at Berklee, invited a bunch of Brazilian students to re-arrange, record, and make videos of us playing classic songs by artists visiting Boston. It’s a way to pay tribute to the artists, and to showcase a new generation of musicians.
And there’s also Blak Magik, a channel that I started with one of my best friends, Mr. Caio Souza. Caio is also a composer for media in Los Angeles, and one day he came to me with the idea of starting a YouTube channel where we would re-arrange old iconic video game tracks using whatever live instruments we could get our hands on, and voice. The idea is that those old tracks were all made using synthesizers, so we decided to give new life to those songs that influenced us so much as musicians.
Q: You’re also playing in the world renowned band An Endless Sporadic. How did that come about?
AJ: In January last year I moved to California and immediately started looking for opportunities. As it turned out, Alberto had met Zach Kamins, the band leader, in a networking event, and Zach was putting together a new line up for the band to start playing live again. Alberto jumped right in, and gave my name as a possible bass player for the band. When Zach reached out to me I was ecstatic, of course. An Endless Sporadic is an amazing band. It’s always an immense pleasure to play in a band that pushes you to grow as a musician.
Q: You’re a music composer, but you’re involved in a few different projects and jobs. Has managing your time ever been a problem?
AJ: Some weeks are busier than others, and my days tend to be a little hectic, but that’s ok. I don’t really like having a routine. I like the fact that my schedule changes a lot every week because I feel like it keeps me on my toes, so for now I’m just going with the flow. I’d rather be super busy than have too much down time. But my intention is to focus more and more on writing music and to keep playing with An Endless Sporadic, so my schedule is bound to settle a little more.
It’s natural for an artist to have side gigs to complement the income. I already feel blessed just for the fact that everything that I do involves music. Being an artist isn’t easy, and it’s a lot about persistence and working hard. Good work attracts more work, and we’ve been busy over at the studio.
Q: What’s next for you? What are you working on?
Aj: I just recently finished a score for another short movie, and I’m already talking to a couple of other directors about collaborating on their projects. I’ve been planning the second season for Blak Magik with Caio, which we intend to start releasing in June of this year. Also, I’ve been talking to a DJ friend of mine about maybe producing electronic songs together. Besides that, I’ve been contemplating the idea of having my own project, but I’m aiming that for late 2020.
You can follow Alexandre and find more of his work here: