Tom Hodge composes for film, TV and commercial clients and recently created Capriccio for Carolina for fashion designer Carolina Herrera, inspiring her New York Fashion Week collection. Tom talks technology, new ideas and being ready to grab opportunities...
What’s your name/age/job title?
Tom Hodge, 37, Composer.
Please give us an overview of your average day.
I have three average days! One, during a project, involves lots of writing in my programming studio, a bare minimum of emailing to avoid disappearing off people’s radar, and a good amount of coffee, drunk on my own. Another, between projects, involves jotting down ideas, listening to inspiring music, catching up on emails I haven’t answered, a good amount of coffee, drunk with others, and maybe even some rest. The third is the most fun. When the writing’s done, I go to rehearsals or recordings and bring the music to life. You could never call something like going to Abbey Road and recording the London Contemporary Orchestra for Carolina Herrera’s fashion show an ‘average’ day, because every project is unique, but I’m lucky that this type of day happens regularly.
What is the most common misconception about your job?
Traditionally composers are seen as eccentric and aloof, locked away in their so-called ivory towers. For those of us involved in the media, this is no longer the case (well I guess the eccentric bit probably still holds). Most composers and musicians I know are extremely technologically savvy and heavily connected into our digital world, always looking for the next opportunity and the next collaboration.
What is the hardest thing about your role?
One of the great challenges is talking about music with people who are extremely creative – film directors or fashion designers, say – but don’t have extensive musical knowledge. Whenever you’re embarking on a project, big or small, you have to find a new common language to describe what’s required. Sometimes this comes effortlessly; sometimes it’s hard to find.
Fashion designer Carolina Herrera with composer Tom Hodge.
When did you decide what you wanted to do with your life and how did you set out to achieve it?
In my final year of studying Social and Political Sciences at university, I watched all my friends disappear off for interviews - in the City, at the big banks, the accountants, the law firms - and decided then to give music a shot.
I took a sound engineering and technology course I felt would give me some helpful training and then looked around for a job as a runner/teaboy. Glamorous it was not.
What can you do to get a head start?
There are no short cuts unless you get very lucky. I read somewhere that Thomas Newman’s first ever job was bits of orchestration on the score for Jaws for John Williams – I don’t think that happens often!
I started by making tea and copying tapes as a day job, often for 12 hours a day, and did this for a year or so before there was even the sniff of something music-related. I went home each night and tried to do some creative stuff before falling asleep.
The head start comes by being as prepared as you can to take an opportunity when it arises. Learn the relevant technology, get hold of the best sounds/equipment you can without breaking the bank, make a good functional website that showcases your best work, connect with others in the industry focus on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses.
Could you describe the creative element to your job?
A composer is nothing without ideas. And these ideas need to come fast and regularly. This is the fundamental creative element, but ultimately every stage of bringing music from an idea to a reality involves creativity: after the writing comes the arranging, orchestrating, recording, mixing, rehearsing, performing, producing, collaborating… the list goes on. I feel blessed that the vast majority of my working day involves creativity.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known at the start of your career that you know now?
The most important thing – certainly more important than training and possibly even more important than talent – is meeting people. For some this comes naturally. For lots of musicians, it doesn’t. So you need to learn and practice that skill too!
Which organisations/websites/resources do you think would be useful for people entering your industry?
The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors
PRS for Music
Tom’s piece for Carolina Herrera, Capriccio for Carolina, is out now on iTunes.
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