Name: David Wingo
Occupation: Film composer
Current project: The Report OST
Recommendations: Purple Mountains by David Berman, it's one of the best albums by my favorite American songwriter of the last 30 or 40 years and has a couple of truly perfect songs that encapsulate everything that made him such a captivating artist. His passing has left such a deep void and I'm still thinking about it every day / Kicking Child by Dion which finally got put out in 2017.
When did you start composing film music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
The first time I had any music put to film was David Gordon Green putting an ambient piece I had sent him in his student film when we were 20 years old. He and I grew up together and I was just sending him music I was making on my own and he put it in and it seemed to work well so I made original music for his next student film and then we were off and running.
I think my biggest early influence in terms of film music was Brian Eno, he's a pretty great gateway from rock/pop music into more tonal/ambient work, he still retains the heart and melody from his more traditional songwriting.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I think everybody starts out as a sort of composite of several things that they love and will try them on for size so to speak, at varying degrees. I think when you're first starting you either consciously or unconsciously try to emulate a lot of different things just to make the magic real and tangible. You can develop a voice of your own if you can parse it out and detect the influences; the hope being that all of these influences are being blended together in a new and unique way and most importantly filtered through your own, personal voice/perspective/experience to make something unique and signature.
I'm not sure that finding your own voice can be learned so much as felt out through intuition and emotional intelligence. You come to recognize when something feels very specifically “you” and you keep following that.
I appreciate lots of things at the level that they're technically impressive or a good pastiche of something I love but I'm always looking for that unique voice in all art forms; it's where I find the connection that made me want to pursue being a creator in the first place. As far as my own journey, I don't have the perspective to say. I don't think most do on themselves. Hopefully I've been able to move past my large collection of influences and put something with my own personal stamp out there more often than not.
What were your main compositional challenges when starting out as a film composer and how have they changed over time?
I didn't go to music school and have no proper music training so I think my biggest challenge was just learning how to write more traditional film music over time without this training. The first scores I did were more guitar-based and droney, so I was slowly able to learn on the job so to speak, as my scores started to employ more traditional film music orchestration.
What, to you, are the main functions and goals of soundtracks and film music and how would you rate their importance for the movie as a whole? How do you maintain a balance between, on the one hand, artistic integrity and sticking to your creative convictions and, on the other, meeting the expectations of the director?
Just to support the story and the director's vision in however he sees fit. I don't think there's a tried-and-true function that film music always plays, it's dependent on how the creator and storyteller wants to employ it.
It's always been very important to me to pick projects where I won't have to sacrifice my creative convictions. I'm pretty selective to make sure that what the director wants out of the music is something I feel compelled to provide, so we don't have to enter a frustrating relationship where we're not seeing eye-to-eye on the direction of the music.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first studio was my bedroom and it has evolved since. All it used to be was a computer, an old Korg workstation, and an acoustic and electric guitar and some effects pedals! No sample libraries to speak of. It’s been a slow but steady evolution. I'd have to say my Moog Little Phatty has been my most important piece of gear for a while, nothing else gets that particular kind off low-end bass tone that has the definition, size, and volume.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
This is a rather large question I'm not sure I can properly answer here. Everything I do is making use of technology to some degree. It's all integrated at this point in every aspect so I'm not sure how else to elaborate without writing a thesis on it.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I sort of have to give the same answer as above...it's all integrated for me at this point, since I learned to compose on all these tools and my learning of the tools has evolved alongside my compositional evolution. I can't separate the two at all, especially since I don't have music training.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
There’s a couple of composers I've had a consistent collaborative relationship with. Jeff McIlwain and I are always sharing files back and forth and constantly adding to each other’s ideas without a whole lot of talking about it outside of instrumentation. We trust each other's input to add to each other’s ideas. Explosions in The Sky and I have a similar relationship and process but they are doing their thing together through jamming/improve. I'll go to their studio and we'll listen and talk about it together and then sometimes I'll add to what they're doing or take a lot of their parts and make something new with those as added elements; so it ties together with what they're doing.