by Austin Webb
Andrew Johnston listens intently to the perky theme from Ducktales,
a 1990s spinoff of the Donald Duck cartoons. Hes clearly enraptured
by the jingles pristine backing vocals and tightly-scored horn sections.
A second-year music student, he has more than a fans casual interest.
He and philosophy student Scott Freeman have a new business: composing
music for films.
For Johnston, 24, the idea has been in the works for almost two years.
He was finishing a degree in philosophy at Carleton University and working
on various Ottawa-area musical projects when he discovered the classic
scores of Ennio Morricone and John Barry. Barrys swanky James Bond
soundtracks made a big impression: Barry was so amazing at putting
his own distinctive stamp into the music.
Johnston moved to Montreal and enrolled in Concordias music program,
where hes studying jazz guitar and electro-acoustic composition.
About three months ago, he enlisted Freeman another Ottawa expatriate
and his roommate and the two of them put up posters around Concordias
film and communications departments in search of collaborators.
The first taker was Natasha Mekhail, a graduate student in journalism
who wanted music for a short documentary she was making about the medical
marijuana controversy. We discussed some of the ideas and shots
for the film and I wrote some things that I thought might match,
Johnston said. The result was three short compositions for guitar and
synthesizer, written and recorded by Johnston in his bedroom studio.
Said Mekhail: Andrew had an understanding of what kind of music
I wanted, and when I added it, it came out beautifully.
Johnston and Freeman have upped the ante with their current project, a
full soundtrack for first-year film student Van Roykos short film,
The Weight of the City.
They called on Angus McLachlin, an old musical cohort. On a weekend visit
to Montreal, he watched a silent copy of Roykos film, then returned
to Ottawa to compose and record a string quartet which he sent back to
Johnston for editing via the Internet. Freeman, a multi-instrumentalist
with several ongoing projects of his own, added a skittering percussion
track to the piece. This kind of collaboration between friends is both
an attraction and a tremendous asset for the young composers.
Its a really cool network we have going, Freeman said.
Concordia Music Professor Kevin Austin agrees that this kind of personal
relationship between collaborators is vital, especially in todays
media industry. The difficulty is to become known, said Austin,
who has had both Johnston and Freeman as students in his popular electro-acoustics
class. In time, theyll build up a body of work and be able
to go a little further afield.
Johnston has already made contacts through an unexpected source. Three
nights a week he works the phones at Concordias Office of Advancement
and Alumni Affairs, where a surprising number of the Concordia graduates
he talks to turn out to be working in film, television and electronic
Austin said these kinds of contacts, especially those from in the electronic
world, will be crucial. In about five years, theres going
to be more media work than films. Since sound files generally download
faster than video, Austin sees huge commercial potential in providing
music that will hook Web-surfers to a site while they wait for its images
to come up.
Working long hours between school and other musical projects, Freeman
and Johnston are finishing the ambitious soundtrack for Roykos film.
Theyre also putting together Radiation Musics first demo CD,
which they hope to send off to Johnstons first round of Alumni Affairs
contacts by April.
To reach Radiation Music, contact email@example.com.