Staying Zen with Joe Trapanese

On Wednesday we took a trip to Santa Monica (or Silicon Beach, as the natives call it) to meet composer, Joe Trapanese at his new music studio. Joe is one of the most uniquely talented and humble people that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. His humbleness was definitely a nice surprise, considering he has scored huge feature length films such as Oblivion, Straight Outta Compton, the Tron series, and the Divergent series. I’ve always had a hard time conceptualizing how composing works, but Joe was able to show us how synthesizers, pianos, and guitars all work together to create the desired sound. He somehow made it look simple, much to the disbelief of everyone in the room (which, by the way, looked like something that was just remodeled by Ty Pennington himself).


One of the biggest takeaways from the meeting with Joe was how crucial thinking outside the box and risk taking is to improve one’s work. He let us listen to a track he did for an upcoming film, which was composed entirely by playing the instruments the “incorrect” way. For example: strumming the guitar with a pencil. Overall, the track sounded ominous and eerie, but it fit perfectly to the scene which he was describing it was attached to (a chase scene in the woods of Southern USA?), which is the ultimate goal for a composer. Joe also mentioned his decision to switch composing programs, after he had comfortably been working with the same program for years. But the new program had a wider range of options and would ultimately benefit his work in the long run, so it was worth it to him. Joe’s discussion made me realize that most successful people do everything but stay within their comfort zones. Because then, growth is impossible.


Joe also kept mentioning the importance of not losing your cool and staying “zen” when all you want to do is freak out when things aren’t going your way or when people are being difficult to work with. His inclination to continually use the word zen in casual conversation made me question the effect of years spent immersed in LA’s culture. Would I start using words like that if I moved here? But I digress. It was a good piece of advice that not many people can follow. Keeping cool is certainly one of the most obvious signs of maturity.


One more thing, for those of you reading. Next time you are watching a show or a film, try to picture it without the music. Often times we don’t even notice it’s playing because we are so focused on the drama of the scene. But after an NBC sound producer showed us an action scene before music was added, I realized that half of the feelings and reactions we make while watching a film are created by the music itself! It made me understand how a film’s visuals and its score are carefully woven together, and honestly, how underrated composers are. I suppose if we don’t notice the music then the composer has done a good job with properly integrating it into the visuals, but still. Everyone should make an effort to notice it because it’s cool.

     Overall, composers like Joe Trapanese and the work that they do definitely have earned a lot of respect and appreciation from everyone in the Cohort. Stay zen, everyone.