We spoke to Jakob Eisenbach soon after joining the family. We are very excited to have him on-board and look forward for further collaborations with him.
First of all we are very excited to have you on-board with us at Opus Projekt. Tell us how you first got into music and why you decided to become a composer?
Thank you! I am also very excited and happy to be a part of this very interesting project. I like the project's idea which extends beyond the common ways of live music. I can remember to have always been interested into the possibility of expressing ideas and feelings with music. When I was a teenager I started playing electric guitar and totally fell in love with the sound of it and when my parents got me one I practiced for up to 12 hours a day, every day.
Then I developed a certain technical skill on the guitar and I got into high energetic music of bands such as Dream Theatre or some of Hanz Zimmer's scores. They sounded so much different than what was played on TV and radio. That’s why it got me very interested and then I decided to study music composition. Music is not just a 3 to 5 minute piece that we hear on the radio, it has many different forms, It can be anything you want.
How is it different between writing your own music vs. writing music for films?
Writing for a film or a similar medium is something I've done a lot: I get a certain idea of a director and perceive formal aspects in the picture and editing, as well as the emotions of actors. So I pretty much instantly know what 'not' to do, which gives me a good framework to work fast and direct to results that you can work with. When it comes to writing my own music however, I don't have any framework. I need to get creative with extracting formal aspects from analysing my surroundings or stories. But the most difficult part is to just accept yourself with your emotions and to let them into your music.
That being said, I cannot hide behind the idea of a director and when I hide behind the sound identity of someone else, it's not my own music or I couldn't take it as serious.
You’d need to know a lot about all the instruments, but also how to use them in different scenarios, what’s your biggest challenge when writing music for films?
During my academic years I had to analyse a lot of music from all eras: from early vocal works and romantic orchestral works to jazz, contemporary or avant-garde music. But then I realized most of it is written on paper and in order to get a good idea of instrumental capabilities, I decided to to dig in more and learned these instruments. For example learning the viola helped me incredibly for string orchestration. More than analyzing a hundred works of string literature. Woodwinds and brass instruments are the next thing for me.
The biggest challenge when writing film music however, has nothing to do with the music itself: It's a psychological mind bend between the idea of your music and a director's idea of a film. You really are in a position where you are providing a service to a bigger project, which has to work as a whole piece of art at the end of the day. Sometimes it's hard to get this idea right when it comes to capturing those emotions and the quality of it, sometimes it's hard because the director is happy too fast and you are not happy yet, but you're not the director.
Creating music for a movie is a collective art form. Unlike painting or sculpting, where you are mostly working by yourself, in a movie you are working with a group of people. Does that make things more difficult for you?
Working with a group of people and having this collective idea in one project is the reason why I wanted to write film music in the first place. For me it’s quite enjoyable working with other people.
However an editor or a director - or an audience viewer, they can perceive pictures and figures with different characters. They quite don't know the intellectual thoughts you had when composing the music, they just get the energy and emotion it actually has. When working in a team with those creative people from other disciplines, you get a feedback on how your music is perceived by non-musicians and what you can do better because of this. I would actually go as far as saying, it's more difficult for me to write without working with a group of people.
When you start to compose for a film, do you have an idea of what you want it to sound like, or does it take on a life of its own?
If you already have an idea of how it should sound like in the end, then you're already forcing your own idea onto a project, where someone else may have other or better ideas. That is not what a good teamwork looks like. Finding out what is best in a team and just providing your best ideas, even if they're not accepted. That’s the way.
Are there any of your scores you’re particularly proud of?
That's a hard question. I actually rarely had the case where I really felt happy or proud with the outcome of a score. But funnily when I realised how they work in a cinematic setting or how others told me, how they perceived it or how it affected them, that made me proud. I realised it's a bit foolish to think you can plan the emotional impact on hundreds or thousands of people just by "thinking". When I put all my emotions into one score however, because of a certain emotional time, I stumbled upon something that I couldn't re-create ever.
One score I'm pretty happy with however, is the one that's coming out this fall: it's a huge orchestral score blended with my own created sample libraries and synths. I also used a lot of samples of gamelan music I recorded when I was on the balinese peninsula. What was kind of weird with this music though, was that after creating the demo version of this score, everyone from the team or even some customers started whistling the theme for some time.
Do you ever run out of inspiration when you’re working?
I think I'm quite lucky to have learned a ton of ways to get inspired in many different ways. For example I learned how to actually forget your personal self and ego that wants to be something special, which is just blocking inspiration. Instead you try to just subjectively become anything else and try to express an experience this way or get ideas from another perspective. Even if you just think about your music from the perspective of a tree in front of your window, then I just listen to my inner ear and intuition but also I have a ton of recorded ideas in my phone. I think you get creatively blocked if you already expect your music to be something particular special.
If you feel the idea is not special in the beginning of your process, then you're blocking yourself and losing your inspiration. However, I sometimes don't really work for a few days and drift around, or if I work too much I get oversaturated and happy too fast - but that’s normal I guess.
Who are your musical heroes?
They change every few months and can be from any corner.
I loved Maurice Ravel and Debussy for a period, then I was obsessed with the music of Béla Bartók, Dimitry Shostakovich and Alfred Schnittke. When I started working on big orchestral projects, it was mainly Franz Schreker, Krysztof Penderecki or Jóhann Jóhannson and John Powell. I also had periods where I only listened to Meshuggah, Slipknot, Periphery and Dream Theatre. In the electronic music nature, I recently listen to a lot of the music of Moderat, Rival Consoles, Max Cooper and of course Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein, Trenz Reznor & Atticus Ross.
I could go on forever, but to not extend too much: I also love a lot of jazz musicians like Thoots Thielemanns, Duke Ellington and always loved finger-style guitar music from John Butler or Tommy Emmanuel. There's a lot more though.
Have you got any new releases or collaborations in the pipeline, we’ve heard you have been working on some music with Amirali?
Yes. My schedule is actually quite full in the next few months with amazing projects; Amirali and I just finished the studio versions of our Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich Collaboration and we're also working on some new tracks. Besides that, he thankfully encouraged me to extend my electronical work into a full electronic music album, which I am working on right now.
But in my media related work I'm finishing my biggest project so far: I composed and orchestrated a full orchestra work for a beautiful virtual reality experience from my friends at 'TrueVR Systems', which will be recorded with over 100 musicians in August. Unless COVID-19 strikes again, which postponed this recording session from last May already.
Give us a hint about the podcast you are preparing for us?
I got the idea that I'm free to choose whatever I can think of. It will be a little story without words, with electronic music but also extended to other musical styles. Different characters.
If you were not a musician what would you be?
I wouldn't be who I am right now. There is a certain philosophical and psychological topic, on which I'm actually writing a small book right now, maybe just for myself. But to keep it short, the core idea is that the identity and profession that we have are only the result of an idea of what 'we' think who we are, as well as what 'others' like family, friends or strangers think who you are - or what you're not.
So if I wouldn't have had the naive confidence to become the musician, I wouldn't even be the same person at all, nor even in Switzerland. But if this question just aimed for what profession would have defined me: I would have been an IT specialist or programmer. I have a good hand with technical things and actually graduated an IT assistant degree before I studied music.