“Creating is a compulsion – you just HAVE to do it. There is no choice in the matter. When I create I feel truly alive and at one with everything. Creating is the mystery of life; it is contributing to something greater than yourself”
Natasa Paulberg is a composer based in Dublin, who spends much of the year in Los Angeles. She writes music for the concert hall, film, gaming and television. She is also a lecturer on the MA in Scoring for Film and Visual Media at Pulse College, Windmill Lane Studios.
Composing music is an art form, so we wanted to talk to Natasa about her craft.
What is it all about?
“This is a difficult question!” She laughs.
“Composing music has many guises and the way the craft is approached depends on the medium it is serving, the performance space, the desired sound palette and the intended audience and experience. For film, one is serving the narrative and media, so the focus is the character, mood, emotional arcs and visual hit points – basically underscoring the unfolding story. This approach can also apply to advertising.” Take a look at this ad Natasa scored for the National Bank of Australia.
But film is not the only arena that requires a score. Some incredible music has been created for the gaming industry, and the craft here may be different.
“In gaming, the composition needs to incorporate both linear and non-linear elements as gaming is a choice-based experience and therefore the music needs to be composed in such a way that smaller elements can be triggered quickly in response to player choices but still remain connected and fit into a larger compositional design. Therefore, this compositional approach relies on understanding interactive audio and gaming and the implementation methodologies employed.”
But what about concerts?
“Concert music is much more open to interpretation. Therefore, in some ways, it could be said that the composer has more freedom of personal expression. However, this approach to the craft still relies on the instrumentation available, the space and intended audience.”
For Natasa, music is like breathing, something that is intrinsic to who she is.
“I realised early on that music was part of my soul and that to deny it would not fulfill my purpose in life. For me, it’s the vehicle of personal expression, communication and engaging with something mysterious and beautiful. For me to write and perform music is a very spiritual and emotional experience.”
Natasa’s creative process is different when it comes to film or concert music, but the fundamental approach is the same:
“I try and not dive straight into writing music; I have to sit with it for a while and resist the temptation to start composing straight away (which is hard to do when faced with a tight schedule). I like to plan, think, have alternatives and ideas to draw from. This approach helps the music to feel more connected throughout and avoids (hopefully) total creative blocks.”
But it is not always a smooth process
“The hardest thing is starting. There is fear and some panic about what I am going to write, will it sound good, will I finish it on time etc!? Once I get over the anxiety and start immersing myself in the narrative of the film and get connected to characters or concert piece ideas, I become very focused and lost in the process.”
“Then ideas start to develop and when I reach about a third of the way into the work, and if it’s going well, I get into the state of ‘flow’. This is the best part when the music literally starts pouring out and you know where you are going and how it will end. This stage is both exciting and satisfying.”
On Spotlight, we often talk about the creative wall – the bane of many creatives. What do you do when you hit one?! For Natasa, it’s simply getting away from it all.
“I try firstly not freak out, especially if there is a looming deadline! Panic always stunts the creative process. Then I get out of the house and go for a walk to get away from the studio or even do some exercise. Sometimes it is then that I start to hear things in my head again and I sing them straight away onto my phone. By the time I get back into the studio, I feel revived and ready to get composing again.”
“Another strategy is to go away and listen to some of my favourite composers or works that are similar to the style/genre I am working on and hopefully get inspired again.”
Panic always stunts the creative process
Currently, Natasa is working on a few projects. She is the lead composer for the Haunted Planet Studio gaming company. The project there is a very interesting one called “Gaming for Peace” in which Conflict Prevention and Peace Building (CPPB) personnel can experience scenarios through a role-playing game, which is funded by the EU.
What’s next for Natasa?
“I am about to start another three film projects, which will take up the next two to three months.”
“I am also in the process of finalising the recording of a choir piece performed by the Choral Scholars of University College Dublin (Artistic Director, Desmond Earley) which will be released soon on CD by Signum Records (UK). Keep an eye out, it is called Perpetual Twilight.!
And finally, I am working on a collaboration with electronic musician Derek Cosgrave (from MIDASpaces) on a concept album and concert launch planned for early next year.”
Does Natasa have any encouragement for other creatives out there?
"Remember that creating comes in many forms and even ones that would not be deemed as obviously creative – so do what feels right for you."
- Don’t create with expectations or ideas of outward reward, trust that the process and the resultant work will be reward enough.
- Don’t listen to others, or let negativity enter your creative zone – follow your intuition and remember that your path is unique to you.
- Don’t get despondent if things aren’t working out as expected. Your journey is your own and is right for you.
- Never give up, try and fail and try again. Failure is a good and natural part of creative and personal growth – creating is a passion and hence sometimes a little bit of suffering is a part of the process.
"Being creative is a wonderful gift, cherish and nurture it and it will give so much back, sometimes in unexpected ways.”
Want to hear some of her music? Check her out on Soundcloud.
Words: Sasha Kinch