"Music can really transcend a film beyond just telling a story. I can take the story to a whole different place altogether. It’s that magic that I was drawn to." -Hanan Townshend
While interviewing Hanan, I learned a lot about the inspiration, love and challenge he's experienced as a composer for film.
It was, however, when I listened to a particular piece he composed for a commercial that was 1 minute and 30 seconds in length that I felt & understood his passion as an artist.
Allow me to introduce you to the exceedingly talented composer Hanan Townshend via a recent interview I had with him.
Born and raised in New Zealand, Hanan is a product of inspiration derived from music's transcendent nature and the orchestration of it.
Allie: What has been the source of inspiration in your career as a composer?
Hanan: There is something about New Zealand, for me. I grew up by the ocean. I studied piano and was really interested in music at a really young age. I was always surrounded by the sound of the environment… the sounds of the ocean. I was immersed in that. It was part of my life. I feel that was an inspiration for me. I often will characterize the way I write with mimicking something in nature… the crashing of the wave or the repetition of the wave. That’s an aspect of my work that I draw on and that I’m very inspired by. The other side of the coin is my experience in the United States and that is working with the director who I just finished a film with (Knight Of Cups) which is Terrence Malick. He’s been a real inspiration for me in the way of reinventing the wheel and thinking of things differently. He is more of a philosopher, and that influences every part of story and the way he directs. I’ve really enjoyed that experience, and I feel that’s become part of who I am. I really appreciate Terry and for the opportunity to collaborate with him.
Allie: When did you first fall in love with composing?
Hanan: I don’t know if there was one specific moment. Music was a way for me to find my outlet. When I was in high school, I started writing for the bands that I was in at that time. I felt like I had a knack for that. I really enjoyed it. I’ve always enjoyed the process of writing - especially to picture. Music can really transcend a film beyond just telling a story. I can take the story to a whole different place altogether. It’s that magic that I was drawn to.
Allie: What challenges have you faced in your career?
Hanan: As a composer, a challenging aspect of collaborating with Terry is not being able to write to the picture. Often in more conventional films, you are given a locked cut of the movie that you write to. In that case, you are refining as you go, because there usually aren’t going to be many changes. With Terry and his projects, the story can be changed and recreated in the cutting room. The film is a fluid, changing thing. Terry’s an incredible man and very innovative in his film making, I think. I enjoy every collaboration I have with him.
Before our interview, I had a close look at Hanan's work. It was with THIS original piece that I fell in love. Over the course of a 1 minute and 30 second track composed for Apple, something in me was stirred. While I'm a fan of Apple products, I don't get emotional over them. And though I'm a huge fan of Whitman's poetry (recited in the piece), the words alone while inspiring won't get me worked up. I found it was the music, the transcendent element that Hanan referred to in our interview, that tapped into something profound within me... something inefffable. Of all the descriptors in the English language, 'ineffable' is my favorite. It's what I live and breathe for. If you're not familiar with the term, it's an adjective defined as 'too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words'.
I invite you to learn more about Hanan. Have a look at his site to see and hear more of his story and his work:
Hanan Townshend, the New Zealand-born film composer based in Austin, TX, reunites with director Terrence Malick on the aesthetically breathtaking mind-bender of a film, Knight of Cups. The Mocie comes with a star studded cast including: Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Antonio Banderas, Wes Bentley, Teresa Palmer, Joe Manganiello, Haley Bennett, Imogen Poots, Joel Kinnaman, Jason Clarke, Nick Offerman, and Ben Kingsley.
Knight of Cups follows writer Rick (Christian Bale, The Fighter, American Hustle) on an odyssey through the playgrounds of Los Angeles and Las Vegas as he undertakes a search for love and self. Even as he moves through a desire-laden landscape of mansions, beaches and clubs, Rick struggles with complicated relationships with his brother (Wes Bentley) and father (Brian Dennehy). His quest to break the spell of his disenchantment takes him on a series of adventures with six alluring women.