Composer profile — Dominik Hauser

Dom Hauser conducting

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Dominik Hauser is multimedia composer, orchestrator and music arranger.

BIO:

Born and raised in Switzerland, Hauser received an education at the St. Gallen Jazz School in Switzerland, earning a Masters Degree in music and Jazz performance. His talent ranges from composition to arrangement to instrumental performance, including bass work for jazz-funk artists The Ruleless. He is the recipient of the coveted Prix Walo and has taken the stage at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1996, Hauser completed one year of study at the Musicians Institute of Jazz Studies. He went on to take a UCLA extension program in film scoring, from 1998-99, which led to his selection for the 2000 ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop. He was elevated to semifinalist status at the Young Film Composer Competition in 2002.

Subsequently he began composing for independent films and eventually arranging, orchestrating and writing music for major studio films.

HauserӪs film credits include The Chronicles of Riddick, ̠on Flux, Into the Blue, Assault on Precinct 13, Man of the Year and Pineapple Express.

CHILDHOOD:

From age 7, Hauser played the recorder and violin. At age 15 he learned the electric guitar, moving on to the bass guitar the following year. Age 16 was when Hauser really started playing in earnest, taking private music lessons to hone his skills. Following high school, he went on to study at the St. Gallen Jazz School in Switzerland, and played with and wrote music for his own six-horn funk band.

During his twenties, Hauser claims all he did was play bass. “Five, six, seven hours a day,” in addition to his studies.  He decided to focus more on his writing, turning his focus to composing for instruments other than the bass.

Dom Hauser portrait

CAREER BREAKS:

The ASCAP film-scoring workshop proved to be an intensive four nights per week, three weeks practicum. It was here that Hauser learned how to develop his composing skills to incorporate computer programming, specifically with the language “Q-base”. The exercise for each of the individual students was to write and record a piece of music for a 2-3 minute clip of dramatic film footage.  They were given access to a 42-piece orchestra and their composition was recorded at Twentieth Century Fox Studios, on the legendary Alfred Newman Scoring stage.

Participating in this workshop led to Hauser working with prolific and renowned composer Graeme Revell on the theatrically released sci-fi feature film Red Planet (2000).

Hauser went on to work several times with Revell on several more feature films, including Daredevil, Freddy vs Jason, Bordertown and Marigold.

Hauser recalls the film-scoring workshop as a massive learning experience.  “I learned as much from that as I did from my academic education.”

Through his introduction to, and collaboration with, Graeme Revell, Hauser also gained valuable experience and forged working relationships with other composers in Revell”™s “˜atelier”™ of including Paul Haslinger, Boris Elkis, David Russon and orchestrator Tim Simonec.

This was back when Revell was working at his most prolific period in his twenty-year career; the years between 2000″”2008 saw Revell credited as composer on over forty feature films.

Sharing orchestration credit with Tim Simonec, Hauser worked on The Chronicles of Riddick and assisted Revell in building his library of horror music cues with pieces specifically commissioned by Revell for his personal library of samples.

COMPOSING FOR LIBRARIES:

In addition to working on major studio movie releases – recent work includes orchestration of A Perfect GetawayHauser collaborates with various music libraries creating exclusive compositions, which, as he explains, “”¦is where they commission you to write a piece of music according to their specifications.”

In these instances, the library then owns the copyright to the piece. Hauser adds, “These kinds of commissions used to pay handsomely, but unfortunately haven”™t paid as well since the film industry, and the US economy, took a downturn.”

His company, HauserMusic, specializes in services for the entertainment industry, including original compositions, arrangements, orchestrations, and music preparation by Hauser and his supporting network of professionals.

He says his non-exclusive compositions are inspired by personal style, preference “”¦and sometimes your own strengths. Working in this way, from pure inspiration, means you may compose a piece of music that will sell well.”

Hauser maintains that there are not a lot of good orchestral mock-ups nor midi samples that emulate or provide a good substitute for the orchestral experience. Orchestral pieces are marketable as there is not as much competition out there, as it takes more musical training to create these cues.

On the other hand, electronic, action and techno pieces are easier to compose using loops, sound effects, atmospheric sounds and synth pads.

Nowadays, Hauser writes for ten libraries, explaining that some are more successful than others. Some libraries are regularly checked every three months for new music cues. “It”™s a numbers game,” he adds. “The more pieces you have out there, the more you are likely to sell.”Â  Unfortunately quality is not always what they are looking for. Laments Hauser, “Sometimes they even want something with very old sounds or that has a dated feel.”

Dom Hauser with bass

COMPOSITIONS:

Baby Attacks is a comedy or cartoon music cue that is crammed full of funny, odd synth sounds with a whimsical, quirky flavor. A dramatic tune, but not too serious.

“Music is so subjective. I find it”™s better not to talk about it. Everyone has their own personal background that they bring to music appreciation.”

For listing the cues, Hauser does have to come up with titles in order to peg the music into certain genre categories, yet maintains that diverse styles exist within those limited categories.  Tags, descriptions and keywords help music hunters define and narrow their search.  “People like to typecast music, but good music can seldom be typecast.”

As he points out, original music evokes emotions and can sometimes surprise even a serious music lover.

Chase the Donkey is an upbeat and high-energy comedy children”™s tune with a honky-tonk flavor. To evoke a carefree and chasing melody, Hauser featured glockenspiel, marimba and banjo.

Costly Victory features a pretty piano theme, merged with synth strings, that builds for dramatic impact to a positive and triumphant finale. He put that tune into a folder labeled “˜emotional, melancholy and romance.”™

Hauser reiterates, “Yet everyone can have a completely subjective response to any cue. That”™s why I don”™t like to tell people what they are supposed to feel.”

Infinite Universe is a haunting piece with triggered vocals and harmonies. Explains Hauser, “Because you are somewhat limited by the samples you use, it”™s sometimes like constructing a puzzle. You have to take a pre-recorded selection of samples of voices, from individual notes to whole phrases, and make them connect.”

“Now I”™m getting pretty good at it,” he grins.

Hauser says he can compose a two-minute cue in six hours. He returns to it a day or so later with a fresh perspective in order to refine the composition, insisting you need create some distance to see how it will strike another listener who is not familiar with the piece.

For his “˜Spy”™ music folder, he sometimes falls back on predictable classic sounds and choices.  “Nothing defines James Bond more than a minor major with a 7th chord.”

Hauser says that writing for libraries can be a little restricting. “Sometimes you can”™t compose as freely as you”™d like. Library music exists to fulfill an expectation. Often they are looking for a sound-alike theme or melody.”

He adds that probably the most copied piece of underscoring is the instantly familiar 5/4 bass line theme from Mission Impossible, composed by Lalo Schifrin.

For his cue The Thief and the Spy Hauser used bassoon and pizzicato strings in order to fulfill expectations, explaining that sounds and emotions are driven by associations, whether conscious or otherwise.

Fanfare for a Common Soldier is – predictably enough – a marching tune that was commissioned by one of the libraries. Pairing brass with an up-beat, heroic march tune, Hauser explains that using a live trumpet player to lay down the main melody makes a big difference in the immediacy and urgency of the sound.

These days his work involves him in a variety of projects, including movies, theater and video games. In addition to being a composer, Hauser is also an educator and bass player and has released three Bass method books, which are available for purchase here.

With his musical compositions, Dominick Hauser demonstrates a vast breadth of styles, skills and expertise. Whether writing a commissioned piece to precise specifications or composing with free reign, Hauser”™s themes and melodies are delightful, intense or transporting – depending upon the intent of the music cue. This gifted composer is equally at ease with a simple theme as he is with a sophisticated orchestral piece – Hauser can do it all.

More info here.


Review & interview by Pauline Adamek

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Comments

  1. Hallo Nick,

    schick mir mal etwas Schönes, also etwas mit Dreiklängen, gäll.

    Lieber Gruss

    Lük

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