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12-07-2012 // interviews: Interview with: Rebecca Brandt

Just about 2 months ago there was an item about Numbers & Shapes, the debut album by New York composer Rebecca Brandt. There was nothing really special about this, I fall in love with music all the time. Now that another 2 months have passed, it is safe to say, there is something special about this album, because I still can not get enough of it! It is still one of my favourite Sunday morning records and I fall asleep to her mesmerizing piano works at least twice a week. As of this week, she has serious competition, but for now this album is the instrumental highlight of the year. And Rebecca Brandt, turned out to be a very sweet lady, sending me an impressive thank you-mail, within 24 hours after I wrote my little lovestory. We've done an email-interview over the weekend, so we can get to know the lady responsible for Numbers & Shapes a little better.

Rebecca Brandt, talented composer from New York. What else is there to know about you? Married, kids, pets?
I've always been in love with music. Started playing piano at age 4, violin at age 8, and had my first private composition lesson at age 10. I studied music composition and film scoring at NYU, and now I live in Brooklyn, New York. Aside from my solo project, I also write music for films and teach piano lessons. Not married and no kids, but I do have a fish named Gandhi.

You have released Numbers & Shapes a little over 2 months ago now. How did the release of a solo-album make you feel?
It was a very exciting and emotional experience for me releasing my first solo album. It was also exhausting! I put 2 years into this project and it was a ton of work, definitely challenging. But I also had a great time with it, had a lot of fun, and it was absolutely worth every second.

How does the process of writing a song work for you?
I don't really have one particular writing process, but I guess a song falls into one of two categories - it's either been meticulously thought-out, or it kind of just comes together. Often I will shape a song around a concept of music theory I want to try out, or create an obstacle and try to work around it (for example, write a song in 3/4, with 3 sections, with 3 instruments). I also like to play around with layering and fun instrumentations, and will sometimes pick a strange combination of instruments and try to make them work together. As for "it kind of just comes together" - sometimes a melody will pop into my head at an inopportune moment, like riding the subway or taking a shower, and I really didn't put much thought into it.

Once a song is finished, what’s next?
When I write film scores, all the music is done on the computer with MIDI instruments, so there's not much to do once the piece is actually completed. With "Numbers & Shapes" though, after I composed each song, I also did the orchestrations and notated each part so the pieces could eventually be played live. There were over 30 instruments spread across the 14 tracks, so this took a while! Because the ensemble is so large, my producer Marc Plotkin and I created a mobile recording set-up, so we could travel to different studios and locations to record each musician separately. This allowed us to get the best possible sound for the instrument we were recording.

Do you expect to play the music live? Go on tour with it?
Yes, we're in the process of working out a live show in New York. I would love to tour with the ensemble, so we'll see what happens!

What kind of music do you listen to yourself at the moment?
My musical taste is kind of all over the place. There's just so much great music out there, so why limit yourself. Lately I've been listening a lot to Yann Tiersen and El Ten Eleven. I love film composers Mark Mothersbaugh and Philip Glass, electronic music from Massive Attack, Bonobo, Lemon Jelly, Emancipator, and The Books, and classical composers Maurice Ravel and Beethoven. I'm also always listening to Radiohead, Sigur Ros, and The Bad Plus.

What does a regular day look like for Rebecca Brandt?
I do a billion things in any given day, so nothing ever feels regular! I work for a tech start-up, teach piano lessons, write film music and work on personal projects every day, and I make my own hours for each of these jobs. Every day is different, so while I'm definitely kept on my toes, I've also learned to be very, very organized with my schedule! iCal is my best friend.

What are you working on at the moment? Any future plans?
I'm writing two film scores at the moment, and working on organizing the "Numbers & Shapes" release show.

When will you consider 2012 to be a successful year?
I've already considered 2012 a success! Releasing "Numbers & Shapes" was a huge accomplishment for me, and something I am very proud of. Everything else this year has to offer is icing on the cake!

Thank you so much for your time and answers, Rebecca Brandt. When doing live-shows, please make me some videos, because I doubt you'll be visiting the Netherlands somewhere soon (although you're more than welcome..). For anyone interested, you can buy the digital album for a "pay-what-you-want" price or get it on CD via bandcamp.

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