ANU Spaces – Leonard Weiss

Meet Leonard Weiss, a Bachelor of Music graduate who recently won an award for 'Best Original Music' at the Lights! Canberra! Action! 2014 short film festival.

What do you do at ANU?

I recently graduated from a three-year Bachelor of Music degree concurrent with a Bachelor of Science as well where I've focused in computer science. I've postponed computer science to do some further study and investigate music and science and the combination between the two of them then I'll come back to it fairly soon.

What is your favourite spot on campus?

Good question! Probably the willow trees next to Sullivans Creek - they're just a nice place to relax. Otherwise the desks outside the School of Music are kinda nice on a quiet day. You sit there and get to relax.

You like it because...

It's good to have somewhere that's a bit relaxed where you get a bit of a break from it and you can still work and meet up with people but at the same time you feel like you're not being beaten over the head by a textbook. So it's a good mix of both worlds.

If you were free for an afternoon, what would you do?

I end up doing a lot of music so I'd probably be inclined to stay home, catch up on TV shows, veg out. Otherwise catch up with friends if they were free. I enjoy spending time around the lake, I play the Carillon there so it's nice scenery, nice relaxing place. I'd probably spend a few hours getting outside my normal work routine and just relax.

You've been busy in recent times. Tell us what you've been up to?

Recently, after finishing the degree I've been doing some music work - music admin and also conducting various groups around Canberra,  and I also wrote a short film score for the Lights! Canberra! Action! Short film festival which then won best original score.

Did you ever think you would get into composing musical scores?

Not really. I'd kind of hoped so. From maybe when I was about 14 or 15 I thought it was fun. It's nice writing your own music. As much as performing other music is good and conducting other music is fantastic, writing something that's yours, you can turn around and say well, it kinda puts a smile on my face because I wrote it and it's completely new and no one has heard it before. I never thought I'd win, I was just entering it for fun. It's good fun helping out friends and saying 'yes I'll write some music for your film and I'll try and suit the mood' and whatever. But at the end of the day it's really good to say 'hey other people have also picked up that clearly this score fits and it's a really good feeling.

How did you get into writing musical scores? Did you just apply to the Lights! Canberra! Action! festival?

Pretty much. Lights! Canberra! Action! was open to anyone, so I have a few friends who studied film and I've known them from when I went to school with them a few years ago. So they sent me a message and said 'hi we're looking at writing a film and doing a recording or whatever to get it in and could you write a film score for it?' and they explained the turnaround was 10 days for the whole thing. I said yep, not doing much at the end of February. So it's just knowing a team of good film makers and I was very lucky that they got to involve me in it.

Aside from continuing your studies, what would you like to do next?

More of this sort of thing. Composition-wise, there are a few competitions which I'm hoping to enter before the middle of the year and then I'm overseas in June and July. I'm being sent overseas to conduct a choir in a film festival and then I'm attending the World Carillon Congress in Belgium for about 10 days. In between that I've arranged to meet with Dr Jeremy Thurlow at Cambridge and I'm performing a solo recital in Germany, so definitely lots of music ahead.

What advice would you have for other music students wanting to compose musical scores or go down this career direction?

My biggest bit of advice would be set aside time and actually do it and when there's a deadline there, there's a deadline there and you have to get something to it. One of the hardest parts about writing a score in 10 days is at the end, your film has to be ready and it has to be submitted and there has to be some music there. So at the end of the day it's crunch time. The easiest way to do it is just set aside an hour or so per day and do try and make a regular time so you can sit down, play around, keep experimenting, find out what different notes work well together, what chords work well together and how you can change them to keep making the piece interesting.

To listen to Leonard's score, download it here.