Jul 13th 2014

Interview With Composer Gregg Lehrman

by Teddy Wayne

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novels The Love Song of Jonny Valentine(Simon & Schuster) and Kapitoil (Harper Perennial), for which he was the winner of a Whiting Writers' Award, the recipient of an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, and a PEN/Bingham Prize, New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist. A columnist for theNew York Times, his work regularly appears in The New Yorker, GQ,McSweeney's, and elsewhere. He has taught at Columbia University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Yale Writers' Conference, and he lives in New York.

Gregg Lehrman is a composer and entrepreneur who has helped score music for a number of big TV shows and films. Lehrman has also invented an ingenious new musical instrument, REV, which reverses sounds. I spoke with Lehrman about his invention and his work in the entertainment industry, which has brought him into contact with everyone from Steven Spielberg to Darren Aranofsky.

You just invented a new kind of instrument -- not something we hear every day. Tell us about it and how you came up with the idea.

Most music nowadays isn't made solely from live instruments. All the purists can gripe, but the majority of commercially produced songs, film scores or sound design have some elements of electronic music in them -- from synthesizers to samples. As a writer/producer, one of my favorite tricks was flipping audio in reverse and using those textures to form the background of a piece -- similar to an artist texturizing a canvas. A great example is Justin Timberlake's new song "Blue Ocean Floor," which includes vocals over a reversed piano sample.

For such an obvious idea, there's never been much advancement of the process. Record it, flip it and reverse it. At least, that's Missy Elliot's / Timbaland's take. And that works, but it's also very limiting if you want to dive into melodies, chord progressions or creating complex sound design. JT, for example, couldn't perform "Blue Ocean Floor" without a prerecorded backing track. So, the idea came to build a software instrument based entirely on reverse sounds. What we ended up with is a new concept and so most people have no idea what to expect, which is the beauty of it. It's been super organic but all of a sudden we have endorsers like Paul McCartney's producer David Kahne and the composer behind The Chronicles of Narnia and Shrek-- Harry Gregson-Williams. It's called REV by Output.

You write a ton of music for TV and film. What are you currently working on?

It's been a busy year! I just finished writing the music for Bill Lawrence's [Scrubs, Cougar Town] new television show, Ground Floor, as well as the Spike Lee-produced film Girl Is In Trouble. Besides that, I've had music in the 2014 Super Bowl, American Idol, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Saturday Night Live and the video game League Of Legends. 

I'm also called in every now and again to help create a score for a film's theatrical trailer campaign. It's exciting because you're the first one to work on the music and so you often help define the sound of the film before it ever hits the edit room. Examples of my work include Inglorious Basterds, Avatar, 127 Hours, The Avengers, and most recently Darren Aronofsky's upcoming thriller Noah.

You began your career working for legendary composer Hans Zimmer (Lion King, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception). What was that like?

Well, we all have those stories of trying to "break in" to the business and I'm no exception. It literally took showing up at composers studios and saying I was there for a meeting that didn't exist, just to be noticed. Some times it worked, sometimes it didn't. One day while living in New York, a lead turned into an interview with Hans' team and so I jumped on a plane and showed up in Santa Monica a few hours later willing and eager... it had actually worked! 

As for the job itself, it was exciting, terrifying, humbling -- all the things you might imagine working for such an icon. It was my first professional job and so like most recent grads, I went in thinking I knew it all and found out quickly that I knew nothing. Lots of hard work and little sleep, but where else can you be in a room with Steven Spielberg on your first week at the job?

Funny enough, Hans' whole team wore sneakers to distinguish the sounds of his loafers so that they knew when he was walking around -- of course, on my first day, I wore formal shoes and was berated.

First posted on the Huffington Post.



Teddy Wayne is the author of two novels:

* The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, and

* Kapitoil,

please see below for Amazon.

Teddy Wayne's Twitter address is: , for his web site please click here.

For Gregg Lehrman's web site, please click here.




  

Browse articles by author

More Music Reviews

Jul 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "Scarlatti sonatas are enjoying a popular surge in recent years, tempting pianists –Europeans, Americans, Asians -- to try to master their broad range. Margherita has some advice: “Don’t be afraid to slow down, to speed up, to play the truly singable melodies with a quasi-Romantic feeling.” "
Jul 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "The dizzying output of John Cage the musician, the poet, the writer, the thinker, the artist, was so prolific that one of his sidelines – his interests in wild mushrooms -- has been almost overlooked. A new a two-volume set of books, beautifully designed by Capucine Labarthe, packaged in an elegant slipcover, seeks to fill this gap."
Jul 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "In our chat by telephone, Paley spoke from his Paris apartment and asserted his belief that Rameau was “the greatest French composer ever. Pure genius and very special colors.” He acknowledges his extensive research into the period of Rameau’s life (1683-1764) in order to recreate the spirit of the time."
Jul 8th 2020
EXTRACT: "In A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and subsequent films, Morricone opted for an unprecedented fusion of archaic-sounding lines in the melody, reminiscent of medieval modal music. He intermixed this sound with contemporary pop touches (the Fender electric guitar), wordless choirs, unusual instruments (Jew’s harp, ocarinas, mariachi trumpets…) and ambient sounds (whip cracks, whistles, gunshot, coyote’s howls). He also infused scores with his trademark humour. This can be heard in the comedy western Il Mio Nome è Nessuno (My Name is Nobody, Tonino Valerii, 1973) where a toy trumpet toots bits of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries."
Jul 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "Question: Are you collaborating with living composers? Answer: Yes, Scott Wollschleger sends me unfinished new works every month. Keeril Makan is working on a piano concerto. Melaine Dalibert has dedicated several recent works to me. There are more names on the horizon. But these are the three where I feel I can have a big impact on their careers, and all three write music that I feel born to play. That combination of things is important to me."
Jun 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "Question: How do you see your musical mission today? Answer: My real passion in music is to resist popularity rankings and market forces. In my view, these currents impoverish our cultural richness........."
May 1st 2020
EXTRACT: Alessandro Deljavan: "I bought a former convent 40 kilometers from Pescara, in Villamagna. It's very important for me to breathe clean air and live as simply as possible. Life in a giant city full of cars and smog is hard for me to imagine. My perspective is always to live fully. My aspirations for the best musical experiences guides my decisions and over the past several years I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some wonderful musicians—these experiences have brought me a sense of optimism for what might lie ahead.”
Apr 16th 2020
EXTRACT: "Federico Mompou, the reclusive Catalonian composer whose calm, spare piano writing is currently enjoying a rebirth, might well look askance at any effort to pull him forward into modern mode. Such was never his genre but that’s precisely what one of his ardent admirers, pianist Maria Canyigueral, proposed to do. The result is her intriguing new CD, Avant-guarding Mompou."
Mar 22nd 2020
EXTRACT: "In our interview, Prof. Réach says he cautions his students in Barcelona to approach the Variations with care, warning them “the path will be long and will require great patience”. He has personally overcome his fear of this “masterpiece of masterpieces”, having recorded them three times and performed them in about 15 countries a total of about 150 times."
Mar 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "The 88-key piano looks headed for a major transformation in the coming decades. The mechanism under the lid is based on a 130-year-old design and many specialists believe it is time to dispense with those delicate moving parts.  As innovative Australian piano builder Wayne Stuart says, “The piano has been crying out for a rethink for over a hundred years.” "
Mar 8th 2020
EXTRACT: "Question: You have a Paris background. What do you bring to Granados to ensure Spanish flavor? Delicacy? Momentum? Singing and dancing undertones? Rubato?........Answer: First, I am profoundly European........."
Feb 15th 2020
EXTRACT: "Question: You have said that you are plagued by doubts. Is this true?.........Answer: Of course I am plagued by doubts. This is part of the artist’s life. But I continue to work and perform. I have moments of depression but I try to transform these doubts into positives. Many artists have these doubts. Some don’t talk about it. But doubt is always there."
Jan 26th 2020
EXTRACT: "QUESTION: Wouldn’t young composers of today benefit from aligning themselves with a philosophical ethos in order to find their musical voice -- as opposed to trying merely to find their own voice by drawing on imagination or personal experience?.......... ANSWER: It’s an interesting question, but open to interpretation. My impulse is to answer yes. When young I did a tremendous amount of reading in the history of aesthetics, and as a result my sense of artist -- ethos, necessity, whatever -- is not limited to post-WWII influences. One result is that I’ve never had any patience for the late-20th-century idea that art is about “personal expression.” The ancient and more enduring view is that the artist expresses what is out there to be expressed. As T.S. Eliot admirably wrote, art is an escape from personality, not an expression of it. Likewise I’ve never warmed to the idea of “finding one’s voice,” which sounds to me too much like creating an instantly recognizable trademark style that will make your music easier to market commercially."
Jan 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "It has been a long journey I enjoy re-living as I take note this year of the great Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday. As a practicing music critic and journalist from American corn country, I call myself a hick hack but I experience meltdown at almost everything the great man wrote. How can one not love Beethoven?"
Jan 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "Judith Juaregui, based in Madrid but peripatetic in her concertizing around Europe, is gaining an international audience of admirers, boosted by the brilliant pianistic colors of her Debussy, Liszt, Falla, Chopin and Mompou in her fifth CD, “Pour le Tombeau de Claude Debussy”, just out. This album was recorded at a recital in Vienna last year, her first foray into live recording, and she is  rather pleased with the result, which, she says in our interview (below), captured a “moment of honesty”. She left everything in, including the vigorous applause from the audience."
Dec 11th 2019
EXTRACTS: "The young tousle-haired pianist from the distant Minnesota, Reed Tetzloff, is building a performance career in the U.S. and Europe by steering a course through rare repertoire that is both challenging and attractive for the listener........In our email question-and-answer discussion he explains his priorities as a musician and his attraction to a wide range of repertoire."
Dec 9th 2019
Extract: "Then the house lights came up and the rest of us rushed out, relieved that it was all over."
Nov 15th 2019
Extract: "Question: Mompou was modest, yet one of his famous comments is similar to Handel’s remark that he was writing down what God dictated. Mompou said he did not think up music, he simply transmitted it. Answer: The Mompou’s idea about God was interesting. God was a great force that also could destroy his own creation, like a child who in a moment of joy treads on an ant without noticing. Mompou explained that, in his case, the music was not coming from inside to outside, but the opposite way, from outside to the inside, with him being the intermediary of this flow, as a kind of medium. Mompou felt embarrassed to be called on stage after a performance of his music. He was convinced that if the work was really good, it was not entirely created by himself. 
Oct 27th 2019
Composer Kyle Gann’s new book ‘The Arithmetic of Listening’ analyzes microtonality and makes a plea for the music fraternity to open its ears to the new directions possible. After 22 years of teaching at Bard College in the eastern United States, Gann has become a guru or godfather of new music, and continues to produce captivating compositions, as in his new two-CD album ‘Hyperchromatica’. His latest book analyzes and explains tuning theory. In this interview he asserts that new music that gets the attention of publishers and producers today is mostly “derivative crap”. The golden age of “downtown” music from 1960 to 2000 assembled “a bunch of escapees from the twin hells of academia and corporate commercialism”.
Oct 21st 2019
EXTRACT: "A powerful new talent from Italy, Alessandro Deljavan, made his U.S. East Coast debut October 19, with a magnificent reading of the Brahms Piano concerto No. 2 under conductor Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra."