Interview with Nitish Kulkarni
Nitish, how would you describe your music?
I create instrumental music that is a blend of acoustic and electronic sounds. I use instruments from around the globe and blend them together in a contemporary setting. The result is a dynamic style of music that is highly accessible and leaves the interpretation open to the listener’s imagination. There are no words in my music. I use human voices from time to time, usually to create a specific effects, but only as another instrument.
Why instrumental music?
For me, the beauty of instrumental music lies in its ability to communicate across language barriers. I’ve always imagined going to a country where I don’t speak the language—perhaps I wouldn’t be able to communicate with the local people there verbally, but if we all had our instruments we could have a musical conversation with no difficulty. It was that idea of cross-cultural communication that inspired me to begin composing contemporary instrumental music.
What are your goals with your music?
The past few years I’ve been focusing on bringing a global spirit to my music. As an Indian growing up in North America, bringing down barriers between countries and ethnicities that humans have invented for ourselves has been an important cause for me. Today, I’m attempting to bridge cultural gaps worldwide through my music. In fact, my new album features ethnic instruments from every musical system in the world. The combination of Australian didgeridoo, Arabic oud, Zimbabwean mbira, Indian tabla, Irish bagpipes, and so many more instruments sprinkled throughout the album is a metaphor for the unified global society that I dream of.
Tell us about your new project 1World.
1World is a very special collaboration project that I have started with Enrique Ponce. Enrique is a fellow Berklee classmate and an accomplished composer in his own right. Both of us were intrigued by the idea of working in an exciting new genre of music that is different than what both of us do normally. Stylistically the music of 1World can be described as “ethnic chillout” — downtempo, electronically driven grooves featuring folk and classical elements from various world cultures. The track we’ll be performing at Innovation ¡En Vivo! features Indian vocals. Enrique and I will be joined onstage by our featured artists Shruti and Sahana Kumar, who are two incredibly talented classical vocalists. It has been a pleasure to work with them and I’m excited to see how audiences respond to our fresh sound.
Interview with Enrique Ponce
Enrique, how did you get into scoring for visual media?
I got into film music around my early undergrad years, when somebody asked me if I could write music for a radio advertisement. That was my first introduction to music for media. One thing led to another, and soon I was being asked to score for picture. After graduating I freelanced for two years, scoring short films and entering film festivals. When I discovered that Berklee had a master’s in film scoring, I decided to save up and apply. And here I am!
SFTV students tend to have less of a public presence than students in some other programs. Tell us a bit about that experience.
The most special thing for me has been working with live musicians. Here at Berklee I’ve had the opportunity to record with live orchestras, which is extremely difficult to do on your own. Writing for musicians is a completely different art form than using technology, because it forces you to remember that you are writing for a living, breathing human being—not a machine.
How long have you been composing?
I’ve been composing for 13 years. I started off mimicking my idols—Beethoven, Chopin, Wagner. Being familiar with the works of these composers is essential to write for film. I feel very lucky to have had a strong classical training from the very beginning. You could say the journey of finding my own “voice” is ongoing… it doesn’t ever really stop. In more recent years, influences from other composers, styles, and cultures have found their way into my writing.
Speaking of that—we’ve heard that you’re involved with a new project that involves the music of other cultures. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes—the project is called 1World. I have been fortunate enough to have travelled to a myriad of countries, and it has been nothing short of absolutely wonderful. Experiencing these places with my own eyes has engrained a special love for foreign music in me. Besides listening to classical music of the Western world, I’m quite the fan of the music of different ethnicities. While studying here at Berklee I had the privilege of meeting Nitish, who shares this passion for global music. We decided to start a collaboration together using these styles in a modern context. What started out as a simple idea has now become a serious duo with a few tracks in the works and a live performance planned at Berklee’s Innovation ¡En Vivo! concert. We plan to continue making music together even after our time here is over!