The Peter Broderick Interview, Part One: Music for Confluence
For many years, I’ve been a fan of the US-born, Berlin-based composer Peter Broderick. I was thrilled when he agreed to do an interview discussing, among other things, his most recent work, a film score entitled Music for Confluence. To my pleasant surprise, Peter said he had a new album ready that was about to come out, so naturally I asked if I could also ask him about that. What became of the intiial, hopeful email I sent him is a two-part interview. Here is the first part, which is more general. The second part, focused on his February 2012 release http://www.itstartshear.com, will be posted shortly. Both pieces make for a good read, so check them out! :)
ELM: I read an interview where you said the piano is your favorite instrument. Can you tell me about some of your favorite pianos that you’ve played?
PB: I think all pianos have something special about them. And I find that most often the space is more important than the piano . . . if the instrument is in a good setting, it’s nice to play. I love to play the piano in Nils Frahm’s studio/home. It’s just a little Kawai upright, with adjustable felt that can be lowered between the hammers and strings. Something about that piano in that room just feels so nice.
ELM: In that same interview, you mention Samamidon. I’m a big fan of his work, as well as that of the other Bedroom Community artists. Have you collaborated with any of them?
PB: Nope, I haven’t worked with any of them . . . but I love what they do!
ELM: You recently collaborated with Clint Mansell on a score for Last Night. What was your collaboration process like?
PB: Clint and I started off by sending some demos back and forth, trying to rearrange my vocal melody a bit to fit his piano composition. And once we found something that worked, I flew to Los Angeles and we spent one day in the studio together, doing the final recordings.
ELM: How did you come to work with Arone Dyer?
PB: Arone plays in an amazing band called ‘Buke and Gass’, and they supported Efterklang on tour in the autumn of 2010. So that’s when we met. I was really inspired by her musicality and just by her as a person . . . and soon after the tour she came to visit me in Berlin. We played a few concerts together and at that time I was working on the score for confluence, and she lent her beautiful voice to a few of the pieces.
ELM: A lot of your music brings to mind so-called “sacred music” to me. (I say “so-called” because “sacred” is obviously a subjective term.) Is that something that’s influenced you?
PB: Is the music of Arvo Pärt considered sacred? I’ve definitely been influenced by that.
ELM: Do you always work with the same string arranger and string players? Can you tell me more about that?
PB: Most of the time I write and play all the string parts myself. Violin was my first instrument (starting at age 7), and the only one I’ve had training on, so I use it a lot… on my album float I had another string player for some of the parts, but since then I’ve played everything myself.
ELM: Were you familiar with the story behind Confluence before taking on the project? What drew you to it?
PB: I didn’t know the story until the director got in touch with me. And it actually takes place not so far from where I grew up in the USA, so I felt a strange connection to the people and the lifestyle in the story. Plus the director (Vernon Lott) was just so nice, I knew I wanted to work with him right away.
ELM: How does your process differ when composing for a visual versus composing without one?
PB: Well . . . I always aim to make the music fit with the visuals. To accent the picture, but not to push it too far in any one direction. Sometimes the director or choreographer has very specific ideas, which I try to follow, and sometimes the process is more loose. But it always pushes me to create something I wouldn’t have created otherwise. I think it helps to have some kind of image which I’m making the music for . . . and perhaps when I make music without visuals, I have some kind of image in my mind anyway, or some kind of concept which I’m trying to make the music fit into…
ELM: Was there anything you wanted to do for this record that you weren’t able to work in because of the film?
PB: No . . . Vernon was really kind with everything I sent over. He trusted me to create the music, and I was pretty much free to do whatever I wanted. That felt nice.
ELM: What projects do you have planned for the future? What form do you think they’ll take? (By that, I mean I’m wondering what role the piano and vocals and guitars will take, if you know yet.)
PB: In February I’m finally releasing my second proper vocal album, which I’ve been working on for over three years now. It’s called http://www.itstartshear.com . . . and it’s definitely my most ambitious album so far. Most of the songs are built around vocals, but there are many long instrumental passages and tons of layers with a lot of different instruments. But it’s also a very dynamic album . . . there are loud moments and there are also very quiet moments. It’s a bit all over the place.
ELM: What inspired your decision to move abroad? Was it working with Efterklang and then falling in love with Europe, or did something else transpire?
PB: I moved to Europe when Efterklang invited me to join them in Denmark and to tour with them. It was a dream come true for a young American boy who didn’t even have a passport yet… but as soon as they asked me, I knew I had to do it.
ELM: Despite living in Berlin, you haven’t really experimented with techno/electronica. Do you think you ever will?
PB: Sure! I like to try everything . . . and I have done some experiments with more electronic beats and rhythms. Who knows what will happen in the future…
ELM: What film(s) would you like to have scored?
PB: The future by Miranda July. Synecdoche, New York by Charlie Kaufman. Hmmm, both were scored by Jon Brion . . . I guess I want his job!
ELM: When you play live, do you switch up your setlists or stick to a more narrow repertoire?
PB: I try to switch it up so that I’m not playing the same thing every night… I usually try to keep a balance between instrumental and vocal numbers.
ELM: Who are your favorite authors/poets?
Right now these come to mind: Miranda July, Jack Kerouac, Jonathan Safran Foer, Tao Lin, Shane Jones, Laurie Anderson…