James left QEH in 2016, and at age 24 he has already accomplished so much!
We spoke to James about his most recent musical accomplishment and his career so far:
What was your favourite music moment at QEH?
Hard to choose a single moment from over the years - running the sound for the school theatre production of Sweeney Todd with our music tech class was a really fun experience. I also played orchestral percussion in the orchestra and wind band, and performing Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs at St Georges was an annual highlight!
Where did you go after finishing school?
I went home! I did go to one or two university open days, but by the time I finished at QEH I was lucky enough to have a good idea that film music was what I wanted to do. My parents graciously allowed me to (loudly) compose from my bedroom for a few years, which gave me the experience and financial stability to move out to Los Angeles and pursue a career here.
What was your first music job?
It depends on your definition of ‘job’ - my first paid work was around 2012, which I would’ve written in the QEH music tech suite using Garageband - but my first film with some real responsibility came around 2017. The music tech students were able to come up to Abbey Road Studios for the day and watch one of our recording sessions - Mr Gent even helped out on percussion! It has to be said that my work very rarely feels like a job, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.
How did composing with Hans Zimmer for Frozen Planet come about?
I first met Hans in 2015, and over the years since have worked with his company Bleeding Fingers Music. I moved out to Los Angeles permanently towards the end of 2019, which was around the time we first started hearing about Frozen Planet II from the BBC. Hans, Adam Lukas and I were chosen to score the series, and thus began a 3-year process of waiting, conceptualising, writing, recording and mixing.
What was your favourite piece to compose?
The melting permafrost of the Frozen Lands episode was certainly a highlight. Scoring the effects of the climate crisis required a musical sensitivity that wasn’t overbearing or heavy-handed, and ultimately we settled on a delicate choral requiem. We worked with a choir in Reykjavik, Iceland led by Viktor Orri Árnason, who performed the piece with an incredible subtlety.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I grew up immersed in music, from pop and rock to classical. Prokofiev’s Cinderella was one I distinctly remember listening to - really a masterclass in scoring drama! On Frozen Planet II, we worked with Norwegian singer AURORA, and she was a huge inspiration. We dove deep into her entire catalogue early in the scoring process and developed an immense respect for her sonic fingerprint.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt on this journey?
There’s a highly technical aspect to the fast-paced workflows and the often complex process of recording and mixing large quantities of music. There’s also a psychological side to creating a sound world for a score to exist within, and the political elements of working as a cog in a much larger, worldwide production team. Writing music is just one aspect of being a composer.
What would be your dream job to compose for?
I tend to become rather immersed in what I’m currently working on and find it hard to zoom out, so it’s hard to think too far ahead! I love finding the heart and subliminal stories of each project and trying to avoid surface-level sentimentality. I’ve never scored something really dark so I’d love to experiment there. Production companies like A24 are really pushing the envelope in that space and coming out with films that are a treat both visually and sonically.
If you want to read more about what James is up to, you can go to his website: jameseveringham.com