‘Turning ideas in your head into recorded audio is important,’ says music composer Sumeet Sarkar

He’s worked as an orchestrator for the series ‘Ginny and Georgia’ and the documentary, ‘RUTH – Justice Ginsburg in her own Words’ along with managing the MIT Symphony Orchestra. But Los Angeles-based award-winning violinist and music composer, Sumeet Sarkar always been interested in music’s impact on mental health. With his latest effort, ‘Cymatic Chronicles Vol 2’, Sarkar – who grew up in South Africa – talks to Music Plus about his interest in exploring sonic solutions for mental wellbeing; his new venture, Project Serenity that provides music to content creators; and how his art is transcending platforms and mediums.

Can you tell us about your experience with healing through music?

Music can improve the well-being of people with physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities. Now ambient minimalism has been a growing genre from film compositions that have helped many explore a realm of relaxation that intend to help with instances of insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Through my film composition studies at Berklee College of Music, I learned many approaches to creating and orchestrating music that provides a deeper connection between viewers and the narrative of a film or what the characters are experiencing. This provided an opportunity to convey my own emotions into music that underscores feelings through orchestration and thematic variation. Every day as a composer/songwriter is ongoing research and an opportunity to dwell deeper into emotions with art.

What approach do you have to your own releases, and what advice would you give other musicians?

When the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, venues, studios, and teaching facilities were shut down. I began live streaming on Twitch in early June of 2020, performing some of my original songs and soundtracks, showing the creative process, and engaging with my viewers while we stayed home.

I could find a way to engage through different platforms and circulate an audience to meet on Twitch, from music listeners to gamers that could use my music released on other platforms such as youtube, Spotify, and SoundCloud. A releasing artist must have a routine to balance and keep track of various media.

I would advise adapting and being fluid out of our comfort zones or conventional ways of releasing music like others in a great pool. With a vastly growing collection of releases, this may seem competitive and overwhelming but SHARE YOUR WORK. We grow from the steps we lay to climb over time. Millions of humans are growing through life’s phases with new stories that we can reflect on through song. It’s our responsibility as artists to captivate and express moments that could help connect us in the world, and during a time when the world is separated, we may need it the most.

Being able to turn the ideas in your head into recorded audio is the next important step in this new era. We have an unquestionable amount of technology that can help us share our musical ideas with others. The DPA microphones and hardware in an android or iPhone outmatch the specs and quality of machines that used to produce music decades ago. What we record now may not be the final product, so do not let perfection slow you down as the idea is constantly innovated through time. There are ways to share this growth while in the creative process, e.g., the voice note on our phones could turn into the next demo with collaborating musicians and producers. This could be released independently or signed by a label that will help share your work. Perhaps it becomes soundtrack placement afterward or an interactive song for an independently developed video game with colleagues who are software engineers. I encourage finding new ways to constantly record and release, no matter how small or big the idea is. This will, over time, become a routine to stay motivated and appreciate new forms of inspiration that you may captivate.

Lastly, remember that we control the machines; hopefully, they do not control us. Learning how to use our programs to create music efficiently and having the discipline to organise and stay savvy is equivalent to being proficient at an instrument. There aren’t many excuses to look past that.

Could you talk a little bit about getting your music synced? We’re seeing an uptick of music syncing in the Indian music market.

Sync placement and scoring music to media rely heavily on what is appropriate for the client. It is an important skill to be able to adapt your work to suit their needs, deliver efficiently to deadlines as you are part of a bigger team, and have the right equipment/software to manipulate and produce the highest quality of audio for the final product.

There are many ways to contribute music for sync, and this way includes being the lead composer of a project for a producer, a writer for a music library that distributes curated music with inclusive or exclusive rights for a TV show, assisting another composer as an orchestrator, engineer, additional writer or recording musician. You may also help in the recording process by being a copyist and assisting the orchestrators or composers by transcribing and notating sheet music from the software for a professional player to read and record efficiently in the studio. Or even create a ‘mockup’ where you must re-record what the composer sketched through sample libraries to present ideas at their highest quality to the producers and director for approval. Often these Mockups become part of the actual soundtrack, which a live orchestra or soloist records over to save on time and budget.
You may also be interested in being a music supervisor or distributor to help shows find suitable composers and music producers for placement. However, in the competitive industry of sync and scoring, it is essential to remember that we are assisting the creation of other media in collaboration with our music; therefore, being attentive to how your music is placed in context is essential.

Before creating a demo, ask the potential function of the piece, i.e., is it lyrical that it could be showcased as a montage or instrumental that dialogue and effects may layer over while captivating a particular emotion or moment in the film. I would suggest creating a reel of various styles or energies and being able to pitch its potential placements to a client.

With content monetisation on everyone’s mind, and as a creator yourself, what can you tell us about your journey with going beyond the traditional label route?

It is essential to realise that you need to support yourself with different mediums of monetisation with your content. The secret is to find ways to reuse your content across different platforms in this music or videos by taking note of the length and how your audience may engage with it.

To have my music transmedially available across many forms of media (Films, TV, Videogames, etc.), I released my music commercially on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and for free access on Soundcloud and Youtube. I created a Patreon to support the creation of additional content that I released and was made stream safe to use for Twitch Streamers that would feature and help promote it across their video games without receiving a DMCA takedown. As my views grew, I received requests to do custom music and commissions in which content creators had their own theme songs for their channels. This helped me invest in building my own recording room in Los Angeles where I could record remotely as a violinist for other composers in my field since we were able to trade sessions and use the same software for the film projects.

I had unlimited studio time to attend to clients on demand for multi-instrumentalists during the pandemic. These many possibilities helped me grow as an independent artist through the years with the support of my label Ambedo Records assisting me in distribution.

Could you talk about Cymatic Chronicles Vol. 5, which is a collaboration with the MIT Media Centre for a performance centred around music in augmented reality?

I have a deep interest in transmediality and how we experience music differently through various forms of media. Movies and soundtracks are linear, meaning you hear it the same way from point A to B. However, this differs from the video game, where loops are implemented for an interactive experience. The metaverse, in this case is accessing applications through virtual reality or augmented reality device, allows us to immerse in a virtual universe manipulated visually and sonically while in the comfort of our personal space.

I see an opportunity to use music as a form of therapy with visual support. I am currently investing a great deal of research in my studies for my Master’s at Thinkspace Education and am collaborating with artists under Ambedo Records in fulfilling this concept and extending ways that we may access and enjoy music through a healing process. The album is planned to release in 2025 following Cymatic Chronicles Volume 3 and 4, featuring a live ensemble recorded in Los Angeles at our studios.

What are you currently working on?

I am creating my own music library to assist content creators and streamers, Project Serenity. This features various styles of electronic, ambient, and orchestral music that I compose a piece live on Twitch, four days a week. In collaboration with a singer-songwriter from Miami, Carolena, we are producing a cinematic pop album featuring my orchestrations and her poetry in song to be released as an EP across all major streaming platforms in 2024 and performed live in Miami and Los Angeles. My album Cymatic Chronicles volume 3 is currently in progress that expresses a catharsis of emotions through ambient music for healing and is to be released in early 2023 with Ambedo Records.

As a session musician, I am recording with Anson Seabra and his producers on his next singles following the release of the Christmas EP this year. I am also working in collaboration with Grammy Award Winning composer Lili Haydn on the Netflix series Ginny and Georgia and composing commissioned works for Minecraft content creators that score their world builds for their Youtube shows.

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