Tue. Sep 29th, 2020

#MusicExchange: Q&A with Trevor Jones in search of the ‘perfect score’

Born and raised in District Six, world-renowned composer Dr Trevor Jones has set the perfect score for numerous cinema and television soundtracks.

musicexchange qa with trevor jones in search of the perfect score - #MusicExchange: Q&A with Trevor Jones in search of the ‘perfect score’

In March 2019, Jones — whose musical career began way back in 1970 — received a Ministerial Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to Film Composition from the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS).

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Image via Facebook Trevor Jones

Respected as one of the top five original music score composers in the world, Jones is responsible for scoring more than 120 wide-ranging blockbuster film and television productions, including the likes of:

  • Sea of Love
  • Arachnophobia
  • GI Jane
  • Notting Hill
  • Angel Heart
  • The Last of the Mohicans
  • In the Name of the Father
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • Brassed Off
  • Mississippi Burning
  • The Dark Crystal
  • I Robot

A symphony of accolades and ‘To Tokyo’

Among a plethora of accolades, Jones has also had the pleasure of conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Academy of St. Martins in the Fields, The RTVE Symphony Orchestra of Spain, The Greek National Radio Symphony Orchestra, and session orchestras in Los Angeles, New York, London and Paris in the recording of his soundtrack music.

Artists the calibre of the late David Bowie, Sting, U2, Sinead O’Connor, Charlotte Church, Britney Spears and Elvis Costello have all benefited from his mastery as well.

Jones returned home in 2013 as the keynote speaker and guest at the Music Exchange (MEX) conference in Cape Town.

On the eve of his 70th birthday, his work ethic and passion to play a role remains intact, most recently turning his hand to movie production as one of the executive producers and the score composer of the award-winning dark fantasy thrillerTo Tokyo

‘Playing’ it forward

As Jones was mentored in his youth and throughout his career, a great deal of his time has been dedicated to mentoring the likes of Academy award-winning composer Steve Price (Gravity), Italian film composer Dario Marianelli (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice, Darkest Hour) and music editor Neil Stemp (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Bohemian Rhapsody).

“My educational journey started with the help of a municipal bursary,” Jones recalls. “It continued with a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, and successive grants and awards to universities and film school.

“Without an education, my journey would not have begun.”

“Playing” it forward clearly remains a key focus for Jones, a commitment that has seen him more recently turning away traditional commissions in lieu of focusing on gifting his time and rich qualification with his younger peers.

“I know that our future survival lies in education and my old school taught me two adages: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and that knowledge is power. The reward of seeing either realised is supremely fulfilling.”

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 From left, Roeshdien Jaz ,Martin Myers, Dr Trevor Jones and Jason Curtis at the annual Cultural Affairs Awards of the Western Cape at Artscape in March 2019. Image: Supplied

The South African spoke to Jones last week in London as we lead into the 2020 edition of the widely popular Music Exchange conference which runs from 10 to 20 September.

Music Exchange (MEX), over the years, has attracted local and global entertainment industry thought leaders, all who have been instrumental in building and fostering value-add partnerships, job creation and economic development.

The non-profit company is chaired by Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse and its monthly programmes provides music professionals with practical tools and insights into the workings of the music and entertainment business, in order that they are better equipped to make a success of their careers.

Rapid-fire Q&A with Trevor Jones

When are you happiest?

Thinking about music, while mucking out in the stables of our rescue horses. Nothing like horse poop to make one realise that, as fertilizer it’s more valuable than one is!

What does music mean to you?

Communicating emotion through organised sound.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your work?

Helping to make clear the narrative and bringing out the meaning of a scene by writing music with the appropriate emotional weight.

Are you famous?

I hope not!

What do you think of when you are writing a score?

Am I making the audience feel what the screenwriter and director intend, and how can I surpass their expectations and achieve this in an original way.

What drives you…Ego or humility? 

A bit of both 

Your heroes?

Leonardo da Vinci, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Alan Turing…and my uncle Norman.

Which living person do you admire most and why?

Sir Timothy Berners Lee the inventor of the World Wide Web.

The internet has changed communication forever, and he has given it to the world freely, with no patent and no royalties due.

What is your most treasured possession?

My Steinway piano.

It’s your round: What are you drinking?

As much as possible.

What makes you stand out?

My need to educate the next generation. My interest in the world, in people, in love and death.

Nicknames?

Pop  [short for Poppit] (my wife); Swee-tart (my wife); Dood (my grandchildren) and Uncle Treasure (my nieces).

If you were not a composer, what would you do?

Stay in bed and take the fluff out of my belly-button, then make films, paint and write.

Pick five words to describe yourself?

Obsessive, passionate, reclusive, dedicated and confused.

Five favourite albums of all time?

  • The Dream of Gerontius – Edward Elgar
  • Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
  • Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
  • Bridge over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel
  • Elgar: Cello Concerto with Jacqueline du Pre & Sea Pictures with Janet Baker

Greatest movies ever made?

  • Citizen Kane
  • The Third Man
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • North by NorthWest
  • Casablanca
  • Rear Window
  • The Battleship Potemkin
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Psycho
  • Nosferatu
  • The Spirit of the Beehive
  • Seven Samurai
  • Tokyo Story
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • Il Postino

What changed your life? 

My wife and children. The realisation that life and all living things are a miracle.My scholarship to the Royal Academy of music and my mentors.

Who do you love?

Myself, my wife, children, grandchildren, dogs, horses and a cat called Tom.

What is your favourite word?

Hope.

Favourite fashion garment 

The award-winning tie, designed by my son, Caspar, to celebrate the UK’s hosting of the EU.

Give us some real proper slang and what it means 

CRUCIAL. Slang for very good.

Top of your bucket list?

Spending as much time with my wife as possible.

Your greatest achievement?

Nurturing my children and staying solvent.

What do you complain about most often?

Corrupt politicians.

What is your fear?

Dying before I’ve written my next piece.

Happiness is?

Eating a perfect mango in a cold bath on a hot day.

If you are walking on stage for a keynote speech, what song would you use and why?

Bill Clinton in his presidential campaign would walk on stage to the Main Theme of The Last of the Mohicans. I would like to have Vocalise by Rachmaninov.

The best life lesson you have been taught?

Where there’s a will, there’s a way…and people matter most.

Where would you like to be right now?

Here.

Do you do charity work and if you do, what do you do?

Promote education and mentoring the next generation.

What is an earworm?

A catchy tune which refuses to go away.

Wishes and dreams?

I wish that everyone could receive a free education, academic or trade.

And for my generation to leave a legacy for future generations free of plastic, unpolluted radioactive material, all protected by laws controlling carbon emissions and consequent climate change.

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