For Your Emmy Consideration: Q&A w/ Composer Leanna Primiani

"Music is architecture in motion, evolving through time and space."

Leanna Primiani is sharing some thoughts about her striking score to The Bad Seed which aired recently on Lifetime. The Bad Seed is an American psychological horror-thriller based on the 1954 novel by William March, the 1954 play, and the 1956 film. The Bad Seed is directed by and stars Rob Lowe alongside Mckenna Grace, Sarah Dugdale, Marci T. House, Lorne Cardinal, Chris Shields, Cara Buono, and a special appearance by Patty McCormack. The Bad Seed originally aired on Lifetime on September 9, 2018.

Selections from The Bad Seed score are available to listen here.

How do you know if the music you are composing is relating to the emotional message in the film?

That is such an interesting question because music is perceived so differently by people.  One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. When I write music for film, everything about it from the notes I choose, to what instruments play those notes, to the electronic sounds I create in my studio, are all based on the director’s ideas.

For my score for The Bad Seed, I was fortunate to work with Rob Lowe who, as many of your readers know, has been in the business for over 30 years.  Even though this was his directorial debut, he had a very specific idea for the music of the film, and gave me very clear direction as to what he wanted me to compose. 

Frank Zappa said ‘talking about music is like dancing about architecture’, and he’s right!  For a director to describe in words what they are looking for musically can be difficult.  I was so lucky to work with a director like Rob. He knew exactly what he wanted and was able to clearly tell me what that was.  I just composed what he described.  We all knew it was the right music when we heard it with the film.

When music doesn’t work with the film there is a general consensus between the director, producer, and composer.  We all agree that it just doesn’t ‘fit’.  Sometimes the tempo (speed) of the music is too fast or too slow, or the music is too ‘busy’, etc.  It’s such a fascinating process…when the music works, it’s just right.

Is there a musician you like to collaborate with? 

I’ve always wanted to work with Brian Eno.  Music for Airports has had such an influence on my music, and one of the reasons I compose electronic/ambient music alongside my concert and film work.  To that end, under the moniker ANASIA, I have written and produced the EP 5MICE, which is a 35-minute ambient exploration of electronic sound and orchestral instruments. 

I also just had a premiere of my orchestra and electronic work ‘1001 for Orchestra and Live Electronics’ in Seattle.  It’s a comment piece on the Russian masterpiece Scheherazade by Rimsky Korsakov.  It’s a retelling of 1001 Nights but told through her eyes like an abused woman fighting to stay alive.  I do this by using motifs from the Russian classic, and reworking them through modular electronics alongside a traditional orchestra. 

To collaborate with someone like Brian Eno on a project involving an orchestra and ambient electronics would be a dream come true for me.

Do you have to audition to be a part of projects or do productions connect with you personally?

YES!  A composer’s audition usually involves composing 10-15 minutes of music based on conversations with the creative team as well as reading the script.  Making movies is an expensive endeavor, and directors and producers don’t want to guess about the music they are paying for. 

I love composing demos, as it helps get everyone on the same page and makes the music part of making a movie much easier for everyone.  The nice thing is, if they don’t like your demo, everyone can walk away with no feeling hurt and I have a great piece of music that I can use in the future.  Some composers hate this, but I say anytime you have a chance to write music it makes you a better composer.

Do you have any social media links?
TW- @anasia5mice
FB-  @anasialeannamusic
Can upcoming composers in school get you to work with them and critique their work?

You bet!  Any composer interested in working with me can reach me through my website or FB.

What is something about your art form that is never truly understood or appreciated?

I believe the one aspect about composing that very few people understand or appreciate, is how much a composer has in common with the director.  Directors and composers are constrained by the same canvas:  TIME.  For a director to hold an audience’s attention for two hours is incredibly difficult.  It takes training, skill, and practice to develop one’s craft.  Composers are in
the same boat.  Unlike art, music like film can only be experienced through time.

Composers must work hard to develop the ability to sustain the audience’s interest while supporting the overall dramatic arch of the story.  It takes an enormous amount of study, practice and solitary hours to hone one’s compositional craft and develop one’s unique musical voice. It is incredibly
difficult… but great fun!

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