George Marshall

Composer

Author

About

Born in the steely UK town of Scunthorpe, in 1992, George Marshall grew up in the agricultural county of Lincolnshire living on a farm wedged between the scenic town of Broughton and the even more scenic back-side of the Scunthorpe Steel Works. Fortunately, for the local area, a 10year old George decided big farm machinery and making girders was not for him and henceforth vowed the largest mechanical object he’d wield would be the modest tri-piston instrument otherwise known as the Cornet. In 2010, after college education, George decided it was high time for him to see the wider world beyond Lincolnshire and so embarked on a Darwinian scale expedition, travelling over a mighty suspension bridge and into a mystical land known as Yorkshire and more specifically, Kingstonupon-Hull. It was here where he began his higher education at the University of Hull, studying Music. After developing such a huge fondness for both composition and chip-spice he decided to extend his education to a Masters Degree and then a PhD, which he attained a scholarship for in 2015.

While building a bigger brain to fill his balding head George has been a part of many projects that have spanned the concert hall, film and video-game industry. In 2013 he completed his first film score for a Barnaby Pictures short called GetAway (dir. J. Cobb). This was followed by two more Barnaby shorts in Corazon de Leon (dir. S. Caranicola) and An Interview with Batman (dir. J. Cobb) in 2014. All of which featured in various film festivals across the globe. In 2016 Kingston-uponHull became the UK’s City of Culture and one of the curtain raising exhibitions, Bowhead (2016), at the Hull Maritime Museum saw George contribute 3 short movie scores in a collaboration spanning multiple institutions and numerous people. The two and a half month exhibition was visited by over 100’000 people.

Taking a momentary step back to 2015 George engaged in his first video-game collaborations with indie developers BetaJester and became a part of their 2016 Tranzfuser team that developed Here There Be Monsters, which featured at EGX2016. He then went on to contribute music to their 2017 Global Game Jam winning video-game, Antiphase, which was also taken to EGX2017 along with George’s second Tranzfuser collaboration on the game, Six Sided Slime from Outer Space. He has since then begun collaboration with a third indie developer on the game Haunted Emotions, for which he has composed and recorded several cues for earlier this year.

Including Haunted Emotions, George is working on another ongoing video-game project while also working towards the completion of his PhD in Music Composition.

Videos

Sheets

Interview

What does music mean to you personally?

Hearing music and trying to create and express myself through the creation of music as well as studying it gives me a great deal of satisfaction and fulfilment in life. It’s also brought me into contact with a great deal of awesome people within and outside the field of music. One such example would be my fiancee who I met at University and was studying music too. So it means a great deal to me.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

In some ways. Music is a rather mysterious artistic entity in its own right. Obviously we have pieces that explicitly deal with fantasy, such things as Opera and Ballet that frequently wander into the fantastic. It always feels a bit cliche to hear this or say it but it is a subjective experience. For me it’s very much about feeling and expression when writing, listening and playing. I know for some people music can cause them to see imagery. I very rarely experience this, especially when listening. Sometimes I write music based on the imagery I can see in my head of performers playing my music but that’s about it. Despite considering myself to be quite visual when it comes to writing I never really get the imagery of music notation.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

Wealthier, but definitely not richer.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

I do worry to a certain extent about large scale classical pieces and/or ensembles with regards to their economic viability. Just because of their scale and the inherent overheads that they demand. That in parallel with reduced funding. However, I don’t believe for a second that there isn’t an appetite for classical music among younger audiences. There are billions of people on this planet and while we have a great range of music, to some people the classical strand of music will serve the greatest musical nourishment to a proportion of those people’s requirements. We just need, as I believe we are beginning to do, to reach them.

What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

I’m not confident I could put a specific role on classical music, not if we’re using classical music as a synonym for the western art music tradition, which in many contemporary cases has assimilated non-western ideas and techniques. Perhaps replicating the more cosmopolitan societies that are forming. Therefore it’s a very broad spectrum and I think the diversity of these sub-styles, if you want to call them that, is actually indicative of their differing perpetually transforming roles within culture and society. Audiences want to hear new things and creators want to express themselves in their own ways. So it’s always changing but I guess this is on a sort of static backdrop. By which I mean we’re all, as people, naturally voracious in out desire to not be bored.

When I say that classical music is searching for new ways or that the classical music is getting a new face, what would come to your mind?

It’s bringing sexy back… which is probably why I’m a composer and not a performer!

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Arguably. There’s the potential for a debilitating amount of freedom in music creation today and probably has been for several decades now. Therefore, half the battle can be to get to grips with this freedom and, in the grander scheme of things, find your place in all this creative space. It’s partly the reason I like composing for media as it comes with it’s own rationale: its own set of rules for you to play by and with, as well as collaborators who shunt you in directions you might not previously have thought about.

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

I think it’s already happening with musicians and groups taking up social media and streaming platforms for marketing and sharing experiences of classical music. I think there’s also things to be learned from popular music and how they engage with and build their audiences. For example, the classical music scene believes in it’s music, which is good but somewhat naive as it believes that everyone should simply believe in that music too, but people now want to be involved in things more, to feel a part of something. Especially younger people. Classical music needs to work on this I think.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favorite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?

I can’t really say that I have a favourite work of my own. Usually it’s my latest one as I haven’t had chance to find all that’s wrong with it yet, but typically I’ll become dissatisfied with them. One composition I remain particularly proud of is a solo piano work called In Memory. I completed it last year and had conceptually come up with the piece in about October 2014 I just wasn’t satisfied that I could do the idea justice so kept trying and retrying until eventually it all just started to, weirdly, come together and I ended up sketching the whole thing in a single day. I think what pleased me about this musically was that it’s the first concert work where I felt I reached the sort of balance in intellectual and emotional complexity while also not being generally too complex, which I want to strive for in my future work.

More broadly my creative process can vary based on things such as deadlines or the medium I’m composing for. For media projects, especially video-game, I like to try and create a short complete piece that encapsulates the projects idea and then derive material from that. I find this keeps things concise and efficient as it starts forming a musical rationale, upon which creative decisions can be made. I also find it helps get into the directors or developers head on purely sonic terms.

My favourite work by a different composer, at the moment, as I want to mention it, would probably be David Bruce’s chamber work Steampunk (2011). I only heard it for the first time a few weeks ago, on YouTube, but it blew me away. I wouldn’t be overstating if I said it contains some of the most beautiful and expressive melody lines I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear.

We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

All for it. I especially like music that acts as a sort of commentary on other art works and forms. Or, composers who use other art forms to shape their music. For example, Elliott Carter whose works I love and have studied would often write music inspired by poetry and films. One such example would be Jean Cocteau’s 1932 silent film Le Sang d’un Poete which inspired certain creative decisions, such as the large-scale form, of his First String Quartet. I myself have considered writing music inspired by these other artforms too, I just haven’t carried out those ideas yet!

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

I’m going to assume this is young listeners who may or may not be having some form of music education. I would suggest if you have potential access to learn an instrument, do it, but this is not always an option and isn’t necessary.

If they’re here reading this then they’re in the right place already, so keep doing the same thing with regards to that. Additionally, I’d just say keep an open mind and be patient as it takes time to build tastes. Get yourself to concerts, if you can, and get programmes and have a read about the music you’re hearing.

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?

I would agree with this. Over the last few years it does seem that many of the major players have brought into social media as a way of building their audiences. For instance, last month the LSO live streamed a performance of Mahler 10 and Tippett’s The Rose Lake which I found via Facebook and watched on YouTube. I also get ever increasing video-bites of concert performances from the Berlin Phil as well. This can be extended to other smaller-scale groups too and even colleagues.

On a slightly different note, perhaps, the number of music educators, performers and even some creators using the likes of YouTube and Patreon to support what they do is growing as well. So it’s getting there on multiple fronts. I personally think Patreon is a great system as not only is it a potential place to offer your art or knowledge but it enables you to support things you want to see more of.

Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

No expectations, only appreciations.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I am still working on a couple of video-game scores, which have been ongoing for a little while now. I’m currently trying to complete my PhD so personal projects have temporarily ceased for the most part.

I wouldn’t call myself experimental in the hardcore, avant-garde sense of the word. Far from it. Composition is heuristic though, that’s what I love about it. I rarely know where a piece or project is going to take me. In addition to this I’m still learning a great deal so experimentation seems a good methodology for breaking new, personal, ground.