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The Master Stroke

Hollywood composer Ilan Eshkeri on the process behind his award-winning film scores.

Written by Debesh Banerjee | Published: October 25, 2013 4:45:18 am

As the young aspiring composers of the first-ever Music Composers Lab at Andheri,Mumbai,mill about anxiously awaiting a task by the organisers,Ilan Eshkeri strolls up to them individually to calm their nerves. “I believe they will be given a task of scoring music to a three-minute movie clip from an unknown film. I want to let their creative thoughts flow at this stage,” says Eshkeri,the London-based music composer in Mumbai to mentor the first ever Music Composers Lab,being held at the Yash Raj Studios,Andheri.

Eshkeri is one of the three composers at this lab (Amit Trivedi and Ranjit Barot being the other two) along with mastering engineers Christian Wright and Jonathan Allen,from Abbey Road Studios,London. But Eshkeri is clearly the star of the show as Trivedi walks up to him to greet him. “I don’t know much about Indian film music,” says Eshkeri.

The event,being organised on the sidelines of the 15th Mumbai Film Festival,is a platform to mentor young and emerging Indian music composers from varied genres and give them an understanding of composing music for films,especially,western cinema. For 36-year-old Eshkeri,whose body of work includes composing original scores and music for popular Hollywood productions such as Johny English (2003),Hannibal Rising (2007),The Young Victoria (2009),Kick-Ass (2010) and Coriolanus (2011),mentoring young composers is a new experience.

“Over the next few days,I will be saying a lot of stuff to these artistes. I’ll tell them about what I would have liked to be told when I started out,” adds Eshkeri,who learnt music composing on the job,working as an apprentice at the age of 19.

Eshkeri has never followed a defined process to approach his film projects. “I like to sit at the keyboards and make stuff up. I just try to find a cue in the film,a moment,which opens up to other parts of the film. And from there I can develop a tune that sounds good,” he adds. An accomplished music composer from Hollywood,Eshkeri has collaborated with bands and artistes such as Coldplay and Annie Lennox respectively.

Describing his process of composing music for films,he says,“It is a developed aesthetic and luckily for me lots of people agree with it. There are many theories of film composition,but if you ask me the one highlight of being a film composer,it would be about storytelling.”

In his decade-long career,Eshkeri has received Best Original Score for his work on Stardust (2007) and being nominated thrice for The World Soundtrack Awards. Besides his aesthetic knowledge,Eshkeri swears by researching for every project for getting a suitable music score. “What is best about my job is that you are presented by a period of time,a place in the world and then you have to go and find out about that period. Then you can take elements from that period and bring it into the film’s score,” he adds.

At Composers Labs,Eshkeri assumes the role of an observer rather than a teacher. “I don’t believe in improving someone’s style. But what I am able to comment on with a certain authority is the combination of music in the film and whether it (the music) works for an audience,” says Eshkeri,who has recently provided music for a 3D Hollywood production starring Keanu Reeves,titled 47 Ronin.

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