Monday, October 10, 2011

Hill Smith: The Composer Syterious

Hill Smith is a composer of many experimental songs that have a wide variety of styles. He also happens to be a twin and has done countless solo compositions and combined projects with his brother, Wynn. One such project, the Extemporaneous Project, is used to help other composers gain confidence in their work. I love musicians that help each other out! Hill's recent upload, "The Stories at Eve" happen to fall into one of my favorite categories - orchestral music! It is also very creative and unique, always taking you in a new, unpredictable direction. I would definitely place this in the video game category, and could see this easily being used for a new series. Here is what Hill had to say:

1) Tell us about yourself:

My name is Alexander "Hillard" Sims David Smith (Full name), but you can call me Hill.
I'm seventeen years old (turning eighteen in November).
I live in Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
I am, currently, Home schooled, and we're being taught by our Mother, Debra, who has given us life, basically. She gave us an abundance of love and care, and she is the best mother that we could have ever been rased by. We're planning to go to a musical collage in the near future.
My username is ComposerSyterious. The name "Syterious" sounds like Serious with a TY put in it, but it was just a name that I thought of when I was younger, before I even started composing music.
Hill is used like my real name. I've had it ever since I was a baby, and have been called Hill ever since. Plus, I like Hill.
My brother and I are identical twins, and I'm sure we're gonna be together for the rest of our lives. We have a mighty brotherly bond, so you'll often see us together in projects, and such. Family, and teamwork, is important.
2) What equipment do you use?
Eastwest/QuantumLeap: Complete Composers Collection (Orchestra Gold, Symphonic Choirs, Pianos Gold, GOLIATH, Ra, Silk, & Stormdrums II)
Cubase 5
Use Audacity (freeware) to convert our pieces.
Microphone from Laptop (on occasion)
This is a current list, and this is what we've been using to compose with, but it's always a subject to change. We'll have other VSTs and software that we will be using in the future.
Back then, we use to use just GarageBand (3, '08). We have made SOOO much music with this system, but we're having difficulty trying to export everything. Here's the deal.
First, in the beginning, we found out how to use GarageBand (excellect), then we've composed on it for a year and some months in our spare time (estimated), and then the computer broke (It's a MacBook Pro, it literally fell apart, and I'm very upset with this model, but thank goodness we backed up all of the files, but not the MP3s... Oops).
Anyway, we had to compose on another computer with a lesser GarageBand with no ability to update it to '08 or higher (this Mac was old) so we couldn't open our previous files from the '08 version, but it had better instruments then the other one, which was weird. Anyway. We composed a lot of great music on there for a year and some months (more estimations). Now that computer is starting to lose it's mobility.
During all of that time, we've been researching for other softwares that have been trusted and highly respected, so we had that going for us once the time was right, and it came sooner than we thought. We had a bunch of deals available that made a new computer, new music software, and new sound come to fruition!
We got a nice ACER computer with 1 TB and 6 RAM (which isn't a lot, but it works well with us), and the EWQL CCC. All for under $2,000 (Which I think is a bargain, for it will provide years of benifit)! We have to thank our family for that, it helped so much! Our friend, Nicholas Potter (WowSoundtrackProject, I recommend you visit hin, he is dang good), helped us get Cubase 5 for us to use EWQL. He was very helpful! At the time, we didn't know it was just a sound library, and it had no software with a piano roll/sheet music to work with.
OK, was that long enough for you guys? I didn't even go into very much detail (I'm pretty detailed).
I also have to mention, after using Cubase as a base for composing, it makes GarageBand rather difficult to compose on. That's my experience.
3) How long have you been composing?

We started composing music on June 2007, four and a half years ago as of September 2011 (my brother and I started composing at the same time together, we both had the idea to compose something).
Our lives were an inevidable manifest to music. We've had music with us throughout our lives (that wouldn't be big news for most people, but I'm mentioning it anyway). We also had some piano lessions when we were six, but were prematurely stopped for unknown family reasons (I think our Dad didn't like it too much). But it surely enhanced our interest in music for the coming years.
Even though we where heavily listening to music from (mainly mainstream) Country, Classic Rock, Hip-Hop/Rap, Rock/Alternative, Metal, Various hardcore music (grindcore, dethcore), etc. when we were pretty young, we were still improving to become musicians/composers. Not only that, music was emotional to us, and we had feeling towards it, good and bad feelings.
When we started, we were thirteen, and (literally) one day we foundout about GarageBand and wanted to start making music on it. During that time, there was a Ninja Warrior Marathon on G4 that served as inspiration (I'm not kidding, but it's funny). In three days, we learned more about GarageBand, and made a thirty-seven minute album called "Turbo Current," and it's comprised of, technically, avant-garde free jazz. It was interesting, and it has SUCH a positive output on us. It's a hilarious album.
That's how it started though, and we contimued to make more albums, improving by each one.
4) What does the Extemporaneous Project mean to you?

Oh boy, do I have a lot to say about this one! I'm gonna be as brief as I can be about it (but don't count on that),
When we started this project, we were inspired to compose music (or just play), rather hastely, oddly, or impromptu (hence the word extemporaneous. Fancy, no?). Mainly because, in a project, you have to compose promising music, fast (to fit a certain emotion, etc.). So this can serve as an exercise, but the oddities are just any unique-like ideas. I encourage others to do this. Compose your unique ideas. Not only for yourself and others, but for me, because I'm VERY INTERESTED in music that is unconventional (structure, sound, etc.). :P
But it was not only for that, there are philosophies behind this project. We realised that there are a lot of people (I think) that have these self-esteems on their music, and somewhat feel pessimistic towards it. Maybe they don't like what they compose; if they're dissatisfied, or they compare too much to their interests and say that their own is inadequate, or they think that if they compose an idea like "this" that people wouldn't like it because it's "not right" to music.
That's not right, they should never scrap an idea, or think bad towards it. I think most people don't think about creations as judiciously as I do (aside from the quote by Einstein that I love "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."). When you create something, it has a part of you in it (even a remix or arrangement does), and that's good. There's something in that creation that has never been done before, and you created it (don't have an ego about it though, but it should make you happy).
Don't limit yourself, only as a challenge, not permanemtly.
There's even more to this project, the philosophies just keep coming! I'm gonna give it a rest for now, though.
Now, I KNOW, that this philosophy wouldn't apply to certain projects, but when it's purely personal, and you're showing it to the world, don't be afraid to let out all you have, and be open minded; be out of the box.
Although, I hope I won't get in trouble at a musical university for these believes. :P
5) How do you believe passion is related to music?

There's a lot that can go to music, but don't think too much about it, or else you'll hurt yourself. If you do, it might be a good idea to write a book about it. Share your passion.
With passion in music, I believe you do have to have feeling/emotion in your music and towards it. Plus, it shows in the finished product, and that gives good results. Among that, there's also determination. No matter what, have fun composing, even when it can be stressful, turn it into a challenge and that you can make it to the end.
Now, I do consider this as the standard passion, and that nothing in life is easy. If it was, we'd all be really bored around here. Find your passion, and do what makes you happy. If it's composing/playing music, being a doctor, philanthropy, being a chef, stock broking, noodling for catfish, learning languages, or anything. Like Bill Cunningham, the happiest you've ever been, that's how life should be lived.
6) What are your musical goals?

In the beginning, I also started composing because I wanted to hear something that I would like. That was the first goal (definitely accomplished :D).

My main goals are to be prolific and eclectic (I have reached that for myself, but I have so many ideas to write down). A good person to look up to, and be inspired by, is Yoko Kanno (She is eclectic and prolific, and not only that, she produces great music as well). Mainly, I just love to compose music, and I also love to play music.
I would love to make my music a money making business also, so composing for projects is a good start. I still have a lot to learn on the business side of music, though.
To inspire (music, philosophies, etc.), and encourage that inspiration is good. I think it's good to be around the spectrum, from sounding alike to completely different, tonal to atonal, structured to discombobulated, subtle to noisy, etc.
Well, there's a lot more. :P Of course, there will be more.
7) Random thoughts:

History doesn't change, but opinions do. Only take the opinions as current advise, for I'm only seventeen, and I'm gonna see a lot more in my life that will give me different results on even the same topic. That's why you take multiple interviews and updates. :D
Although I'm inspired by virtually everything, my recent inspirations are this: I've been VERY inspired by music from Asia (mainly Japan). Also, I've been watching a lot of anime recently, and have been getting into the music in that. I recommend listening to Yoko Kanno (Especially Y. Kanno), Kou Ootani, Kouhei Tanaka, Kenji Kawai, SPITZ, Suneohair, The Pillows, Masa Sumide, Oshio Kotaro, etc. That's just a few, and I'm not even counting the video game composers that inspire me! I'll just say for now that one of my favorite VG soundtracks is Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. It had such an impact on me, and I love everything about it! If you gave me a Best Of list to do, there would be thousands of soundtracks and it's in no particular order, all are equally deserving and educational, musically.
Keep pursuing your dreams! - Hill

My thoughts on the interview:

Hill sure can talk, haha, as can I. I like your composer name and the fact that you made it up. It's funny, because I love to make up names for stuff as well (my dog, Gunslash, based on Lightning's shooting sword for FFXIII... and my poor future kids, what will they experience!). Perhaps you should turn it into an adjective like, "Hill is a Syterious composer." Just playing around.

I only hear about EW products and Cubase, both of which I have yet to experience. Can't wait! And, sadly, I am composing on a miniature Acer with only two processors, so it makes using VST's a pain.

Four years is a good amount of experience to have when going into a university. I just graduated from a non-musical university in December, but I was lucky enough to be able to learn and practice on the side, getting advice from musical people! Even if you do get in trouble for your musical beliefs, don't change them. First, look at things from other angles or "eyes," then your perception may grow. If necessary, once you have these other insights, you can then make the decision... change yourself or change the world :)

It is a HARD journey indeed. But the more fun you have with it, the less big of a deal opposition and challenges seem. I remember in the beginning, trying to learn a new program or machine was so frustrating, I wanted to throw it out the window, but I just sat there for days until I forced it to cooperate and work. Silly me, way too much thinking was involved. Laugh at yourself, the world will be a brighter place.

To me, making money for your music just means that you get to be around it more often WOOOOO!!! because then you don't have to spend time working elsewhere. I'm dying for that to happen. I used to only know people that knew people that knew the people I needed to know (tongue twister), but now I know people that directly know and have worked for and with these people... getting closer!

Paper Mario not only has great music in the entire series, it also has unique, fun gameplay as well. And yes, I've been planning second-round interviews to keep up with people. They probably won't be for a few months though.

Thanks Hill! For more of his music, visit his YouTube channel here.

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