Archive for the ‘Press’ Category

24 August 2019,

NA: As the fourth quarter gradually approaches, you’ve accumulated quite a number of accomplishments this year. Within the months of July and August, you’ve seemed to garner more accolades than the preceding six months. You’ve certainly been the talk amongst the EOK Times staff. Job well done, Kerwin.

In July, you were named a Teresa Carreño Fellow with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music for the 2020 season. Congratulations! Each year, only a select few composers are accepted into the GLFCAM. For what ensemble will you be composing during your residency?

KY: Thanks Namhiya. The EOK Times has been very supportive, and I give thanks to you all. I was surprised when I received the news. Gabriela contacted me personally, and I was quite excited. I’ll be composing a new work for the award-winning Del Sol String Quartet, based in San Francisco. I’m looking forward to an intense residency. I finally have an opportunity to hear one of my string quartets performed. The last string quartet I composed was in 2015, Mark Lewis in Hong Kong. It’s never been performed, and although I plan on composing a totally new string quartet, I’ll carry that work along with the hope to test it out.

NA: Amazing. I was going to ask whether you’ve written for the chosen instrumentation before. Knowing you prefer to compose for larger forces; specifically orchestra, what are some of the challenges that a composer like Kerwin Young faces when selected to write for an ensemble of this size?

KY: Hmnn… Well, to be truthful, before I began composing for orchestra, I spent a lot of time studying Bela Bartok’s six string quartets. The Bartok string quartets were the only chamber music I looked at. I forgot how I was introduced to his work, but that must have been sometime during the late 1990’s. I still have the double CD I purchased at Tower Records, performed by the Novak Quartet. Of all the string quartet scores and recordings I’ve acquired, I appreciate Bartok’s the most.

NA: Bartok’s string quartets are among the greatest ever written. When does your residency begin, and when will the Del Sol String Quartet premiere your work?

KY: The residency is set to begin in January, with the premiere coming in June. So, I’ll need to pace myself and wrap up the work by late April 2020.

NA: Are you composing other works that may pose any deadline challenges?

KY: Yes! Inscape Chamber Orchestra is commissioning me to compose a new work for  an April premiere. That will definitely overlap with the writing of my string quartet; though only during the early stages. But, an overlap is an overlap, and it does require much time management. I also spend a lot of time composing for picture; so, that too must be maintained. Plus, I’m also composing my eighth symphony.

NA: You’ve begun your eighth already? Unbelievable! How far along with that are you, and how did your commission with the Inscape Chamber Orchestra develop?

KY: Ha haaaa (Kerwin laughs) Yeah! I’m onto the fourth movement now. I’ve got complete sketches for the preceding three movements, and the motivic ideas are fully developed.

The Inscape commission came about after a series of correspondences. I approached them about a collaboration, and through our on-going discussions came the commission. I love their ensemble, the flexibility of it, and the fact that I can write without feeling restricted due to the instrumentation. That’s going to be a FUN piece; though on the short side.

NA: For your eighth symphony, is there a working title? When do you think you’ll complete it?

KY: No, there’s no working title yet. I’ve got some ideas, but I’m a bit undecided on that. It’ll all come together once I begin to wrap it all up. At the pace I’m writing, I may complete it by February or March 2020. It’s safe to say that I’ll complete it by May 2020; that’s realistic.

NA: Have you scored any films in the past few months?

KY: Yeah, I’ve been collaborating with director, Deidre Thomas. We’ve been working together since 2003. I scored her first film, which was also the first feature film I scored. Looking back on my past work, I can say that I know what I’m doing now. Composers need lots of opportunities to grow, fail, and learn. I’ve had my share since 1994.

I haven’t scored any releases yet this year, though I’ve scored a lot of projects currently being shopped. I’ve been upgrading my rig all year, and have added on some really cool gear. I’m writing everyday, messing around with new ideas, new software, and crafting new scoring templates across Digital Performer and Pro Tools. I’m keeping busy.

NA: In the pop world, are there any new releases, or expected releases? What new projects are you currently working on?

KY: DJ Cool and I produced a song for Gambit’s new album, Underground Kingpin. We have a cut on there called “Super-Sonic” that was originally intended for a 2017 documentary film about NBA Hall of Famer, and Super Sonic legend, Spencer Haywood. The project never went beyond the initial Seattle premiere; so Gambit decided to repurpose it and include it on his new album.

Relating to other recording projects, sheduled releases include three new albums within the next few months. There’s a soundtrack album, a world/reggae album that I’ve been producing since 2014, and the third is a Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement Greatest Hits album.

The soundtrack and world music albums were mastered this week. I used Studio One 4 Pro for the mastering and arranging of the albums. Studio One also has an amazing batch processor that allows one to check the overall loudness and peak of the entire project or individual songs. It comes in quite handy for checking the LUFS (Loudness Unit Full Scale) for each song. In the Projects window, I can make all the necessary adjustments until it suits my needs. In compliance with the loudness standard for online streaming, I also find Presonus, Nugen, and IK Multimedia to have the most accurate metering plug-ins available. I own the TC Electronic’s Lm2, but in my opinion, it’s not as accurate as the others.

Sorry to get on the subject of production and mastering, but I’ve been doing that for many years, and it’s a vital part of the creative process.  The albums will be out during the fall.

NA: Hearing a sneak peak of your releases, you’ve got a wide range with sounds I never heard before. That’s saying a lot from a woman who grew up in India, and was educated in South Africa and Europe.

KY: I just thought of Jimi Hendrix, and the question, Are You Experienced? (Kerwin laughs)

NA: We’ve discussed your residency, your commission, your eighth symphony, your media composition, and your upcoming album releases. Now, let us focus on your diplomatic duties pertaining to cultural exchange.

In 2017, you traveled to Egypt with Next Level as a Hip-Hop Cultural Ambassador. Your on-going activity with Next Level recently brought you to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for two weeks in June 2019, as part of their Hip-Hop Institute. It’s now August 2019, and Next Level has appointed you Performing Rights Associate.

First, congratulations on your new post. Second, how did this new position develop, and what exactly does your position entail?

KY: Thanks Namhiya. You know, I’m truly honored by this, and humbled. My on-going advocacy for song-writers, producers, and artists to own and control their publishing; and to spend as much time focusing on the business aspects of their career as they do on the creative, has come full circle. It’s no secret that I lost millions early in my career for lack of a publishing company and proper representation. When I became aware, I made sure to share my experience and remedies with those coming up alongside me and behind me. Long story short, I’ve been educating and building others through awareness of performing rights and intellectual property since 1992.

Mark Katz (Founding Director, Next Level) and Junious “House” Brickhouse (Director, Next Level) through their observation, brought to my attention the combination of music and entrepreneurship that I’m so passionate about. It was suggested that through this type of dialogue and awareness, Next Level representatives could better address much of the challenges encountered by artists in the U.S. and abroad. Through the sharing of information and implementation, we can better assist the artists we engage. Many of the international artists we encounter have enormous talent, but either lack the economic resources or the government support. So, born out of this, I was brought on to continue the work I’ve already been doing. Once again, I’m honored. Next Level has taken something I’ve been doing for much of my career to a global plateau.

NA: Your road is quite unique. It’s quite an honor to be in your presence, and having your permission to conduct these interviews. All of your activities are new seeds yet to sprout. Until next time.

 

Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times

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Kerwin Young Completes 7th Symphony

Posted: April 23, 2019 in Press

History was made on April 22nd, 2019, when Kerwin Young penned the last note of his Symphony No. 7. Few American composers can make claim to such an accomplishment, and Young now joins an elite group of living composers with seven symphonies or more. Congratulations Maestro!

NA: Kerwin, you continue to shock and amaze us through your relentless output. What has inspired you to compose seven symphonies? What challenges are you currently faced with?

KY: Thanks Namhiya. My teacher, Chen Yi, would always tell me to continue writing. And, since I don’t make distinctions between different styles of music, I just continue to create. Sometime around 1999 and 2000, I made an assessment of the landscape as to what composers were not doing, and I decided to fill that void and to not stop.

As for challenges, it’s the same ol’ thing of composers not having their works performed, and not being commissioned to write new works. I’ve never been commissioned to compose an orchestral work. Never ever; not yet. Aside from recent performances and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra reading, I’m invisible. No one’s paying any attention to my work or career achievement. I’ve been doing this for 30+ years, and there’s a type of sophisticated; yet purposeful rejection at play, making it quite difficult to earn a decent living.

 

NA: Are there any orchestras interested in performing your work(s)? Any conductors? What orchestras or conductors would you love to collaborate with?

KY: The only orchestra at the moment who has taken any interest in my work is the University City Symphony under the baton of Leon Burke III. If there are other interested orchestras out there, it’s their little secret. No one has expressed any interest in me or my work yet. I would love to have my music performed by the L.A. Phil (Dudamel), the Berlin Phil, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the NY Phil.

Tirelessly, I’ve solicited my music to all the college orchestras and lower tier orchestras, and they’re all unresponsive and exclusive; just as the majors. So, I don’t bother myself with any of them. Instead, I focus on the big guys. I’ve earned the right.

 

NA: When I think of living composers of color who possess a large body of work, I immediately think of you and Wynton Marsalis. How long is your latest symphony, and is it a multi-movement work or in one movement?

KY: You just compared me with Wynton Marsalis?! Whoa…I dig that Namhiya! This is why I love you! Symphony No. 7 is seventy-five minutes long. It’s in D minor, and its got four movements. There’s no choir in this one, and unlike the previous six symphonies, it’s without a subtitle. As with my favorite saying, “Music speaks louder than words”; I will allow the listeners imagination to determine a subject. Oh…, that might take years to happen, lol!

Before I began my initial sketches, I listened to a lot of seventh symphonies by my favorite composers. And, then I said to myself, keep the music personal and true to ME. A lot of people expect a symphonic composer to write in a European tradition, but I’m not European. I’m Kerwin, and I decided long ago to write Kerwin’s music. When I’m producing an artist and writing music for an artist, I have to cater to the artist. When I’m composing a film score, I have to satisfy the producers, the directors, and the film. But, when it comes to concert music; there’s a lot of music that I want to hear that I haven’t heard yet; so I’m writing it.

 

NA: You mentioned your UMKC Conservatory days with your professors. What else from those times has found its way into your sound palette? 

KY: Well, without Bobby Watson, I would have NO proper knowledge on the function of harmony. Originally, after the Paris Conservatory rejected me on account that I was too old at 32, I only intended to return to school to brush up on harmony and orchestration. I’d been writing songs, producing, and transcribing music for years; but I lacked the applicative sense of how to handle harmony over a long span of time. What my music theory classes were wasting whole semesters on, Bobby Watson covered with me in one day at the piano! Bobby made everything click, and when I got it, I was off and running! In fact, and for the record, Bobby Watson and Chen Yi were my main teachers while at UMKC, and I also learned quite a lot from Zhou Long. I had other classes like Ear Training and Piano which are necessary essentials. But for the rest of it; regurgitating useless information for the sake of passing an exam, there’s nothing I held onto from any of it.

 

NA: Now with seven symphonies forever attached to your list of concert works, have you prepared any plans for future symphonies or other large works?

KY: Yes. There are approximately eight orchestral works that I’ve begun sketches for. Those particular works are massive undertakings. These do include future symphonies. I don’t plan to compose another symphony as long as my seventh; so, I’ll be sure to keep them under an hour.

I think if I were scoring major motion pictures; which I’ve been pushing to do since 1994, I wouldn’t be writing so many large orchestral works. But, since I’m not in demand for neither, I’m writing until I can’t write anymore.

 

NA: Kerwin, It’s always a pleasure interviewing you. Is there anything you would like to add?

KY: Thank You Namhiya; the pleasure is all mine. I would like to add that I want a residency with a major orchestra. I want all of my symphonies programmed; including my Kasuf Tetralogy. And, if any filmmakers catch wind of this, 2019 is my 25th year trying to score my first feature film. I want to score feature films with great stories, and I’m looking to collaborate with any serious filmmaker that would bring me on board.

 

 

Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times

Kerwin Young is among four composers honored by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra readings scheduled in early March 2019. National recognition by any major orchestra is no small feat, and definitely a well earned accomplishment through much persistence. Kerwin’s American Caravan is scheduled for two readings during an intense week of events. During the DSO residency, each composer will participate in educational outreach with a youth ensemble, performing and analyzing re-orchestrated and reharmonized versions of their work.

ACO-EarShot-Detroit-Collage

I had the pleasure of catching up with our beloved maestro after his return from Saint Louis, where Titus Underwood (principal Oboe – Nashville Symphony Orchestra) and Peter Henderson (Piano – St. Louis Symphony) premiered Kerwin’s “A Composers Passion“.

Kerwin mentioned how this chamber work, originally composed as a movement for Songbirds: Suite for Violin and Piano, ended up not being used. Young says, “This piece had been a dedication to Leontyne Price, and it was written with a lot of deep feeling. I know when I’ve got something good; so I put it aside, knowing that it would eventually get performed. Thanks to the Intercultural Musicians Initiative, it’s premiere was very well received, and it was a memorable event.” 

Kerwin, still composing Symphony No. 7, had this to say: “I’m almost done with Symphony No. 7; I’m neck deep in the final movement now. I want it to be longer than my Symphony No. 2, which is sixty-six minutes, and my longest work so far. I also want it to be more epic than my previous six symphonies. I’ve got it around seventy minutes now, and I’m lovin’ it! I’m happy with what I’ve got so far, but I’m taking my time finalizing it. It’s basically complete; I’m just fine-tuning some things here and there; filling in the gaps and making corrections. I’m writing music that I want to hear, and with a look that I want my published scores to be known for. I think every composer ought to do that; have an identity”Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age

Kerwin has also expressed the significance of 2019 being a year of assorted anniversaries and celebrations. On the downside of things, 2019 makes 25 years at unsuccessfully acquiring the opportunity to score his first feature film. On the upside, 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of Public Enemy’s Muse-Sick-N-Hour Mess Age album; and it’s been 30 years since Kerwin’s first Bomb Squad album projects: Fear of a Black Planet (Public Enemy, 1989) and Amerikkkaz Most Wanted (Ice Cube, 1989). Kerwin had this to say, “If you only knew how much I want to be scoring major motion pictures! That’s what got me writing for orchestra in the first place. What I’ve had to go through thus far….It soon come!” 

 

Namhiya Ati, 19 February 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kerwin Young begins 2019 composing the film score to Miss Jackson, a dramatic film short directed by Seneca Robinson. Maestro Kerwin Young is quite pleased by the creative chemistry this composer-filmmaker collaboration offers, and looks forward to a lengthy alliance.

Symphony No. 7 now has the first three movements complete, and Young affirms to have a final draft by mid-March 2019. The running time is already at the 50-minute mark, and Young surmises it will exceed the duration of his Symphony No. 2 (Khemet West), which is sixty-six minutes.

On January third, The American Composers Orchestra awarded Kerwin with a composer residency through its EarShot program with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Congratulations Mr. Young!

2019 is also the 25th anniversary of Public Enemy’s Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age album, which was produced by Chuck D and Kerwin Young.

More to come…..

 

N. Ati

Kerwin Young With Namhiya Ati, Part 2

Posted: December 11, 2018 in Press

Interview conducted by Namhiya Ati, 10 December 2018

Ati: Hi Kerwin, again it’s a pleasure to interview you. During our previous interview, you were composing your seventh symphony. How is that coming along, and what difficulties have you encountered, if any?

KY: I’ve since completed the first two movements. They’re rock solid, and I’m into the third movement right now; with some material for the fourth movement fleshed out and fully orchestrated. For me, writing the second movement always poses the greatest challenge. Deciding on what material from the opening statement that I ought to develop first, and how I will map out the musical journey for the second movement is ALWAYS my biggest hurdle. I’m always thinking about the audience and how I want to keep them engaged and enthused by what they’re hearing. I also want to write something that I’ve never composed before, and make it as dope as I possibly can.

Ati: Are there any talks for a premiere of Symphony No. 7?

KY: At this moment, no. I’m quite certain this will change over the next four months. Keep in mind that there are six other symphonies that remain unperformed as well; not to mention my ballet suite, and orchestral fantasies. The only performed orchestral works are Season of Autocracy and Rabat Waterfront Fantasy. I’ll probably wrap up composing sometime in January or early February; with another month of editing the final score.

Ati: Do you compose many chamber works?

KY: Nah. I like writing large works too much. On occasion I will write a much smaller work, but getting those works performed is just as difficult. If I’m going to write anything, I like to make it a worthwhile investment. So, I go large all the time. My end game is film scoring; so I like to keep a large landscape in sight, developing thematic material over a vast timeline.

Ati: Do you receive any guidance or wisdom from your peers; older composers?

KY: I wish. Chen Yi and Zhou Long continue to be helpful; they’re the only ones really. In my opinion, many of my so-called peers / elders have failed us. They really don’t care, and many of them practice that old-school plantation division without realizing it. They haven’t formed any sort of support system or composer community for those coming up behind them. To many of them, if one doesn’t have a doctoral degree; then that composer cannot be apart of their little club. Many of them are gatekeepers against real progress, and they’re so caught up in their foolish ways, they don’t even realize how ignorant they are.

For instance, while studying at UMKC, I contacted several of my elders; and many of them were unresponsive. If they did respond, it was quite short and uninspiring; at best offering a simple “good luck” as the only advice. And these are well known concert composers I’m speaking of! And I saved the emails.

Ati: That’s terrible.

KY: Truly!

Ati: Have you considered pursuing a doctorate?

KY: While at UMKC I did, but I have no interest in promoting western thought. If I should ever go back to school for whatever reason, it would be in pursuit of film scoring. As you know, I’ve been pursuing scoring a feature film for 26 years now. I’ve never had representation, and though my music has been in several blockbuster films, I’ve yet to score one. The only reason I would consider schooling for this is NOT to learn anything, but to build relationships with filmmakers and agents.

Ati: What filmmakers are you into this week?

KY: Hmnnn…..this week I’ve been checking out Ryan Coogler interviews on YouTube, his film work prior to Black Panther, and some of the films that he’s referenced as his personal inspiration. This week, I’m also into Steven Caple, Jr., and some Coen Brothers films that I’ve never seen.

Ati: I’m sure you’d love to score a Ryan Coogler film. Have you made any progress at securing film scoring work since our last interview?

KY: Ludwig Goransson is Ryan’s composer, and he’s a bad-ass cat who’s got that on lock. The ideal situation for any media composer is to have a working relation with a great filmmaker. I have yet to secure any work; though I pursue it daily. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s been 26 years now, and I’m still pushing. It’s unnecessarily difficult. I’ve got several scripts to films that are still awaiting production approval. But, even if or when they get approved, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be the composer. Will the producers fight to have me onboard? Or, will the producers hire a top gun with a track record? You never know; yet I remain optimistic. I don’t have any composer friends in the film industry; though I would love to.

I’m also collaborating with fresh-on-the-scene filmmakers who at the moment are only making 5-6 minute shorts. While that’s kool to an extent, and I can build a working relationship with the filmmaker and practice my craft; that particular work won’t go anywhere. I have to get some REAL work, you know what I mean?

Ati: You’re living in Atlanta, Ga, and the film scene is really happening there. Have you been engaging the Atlanta film community?

KY: I have been since 1999. I began scoring student films at Clark Atlanta University, thanks to the late Wynton Mayo. From that, I began meeting filmmakers at the Atlanta Film Festival, and collaborating on films with local filmmakers. None of those films, except for two, ever hit the market. There’s nothing from those films that I can put on my score reel or add to my IMDb page. Atlanta is a hub filled with tight cliques of who you know. There are a number of film organizations in the A-town, but they’re not welcoming to media composers; at least not to a black one. Scoring a film in Atlanta is just as difficult as getting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to program one of my orchestral works. It’s the same superficial bs on both sides that makes it appear as if they practice harmony in business relations. We know they do not! Both arenas already have their token negroes to make it appear as if they include all. The last thing they want is some bad-ass black composer who has also produced Public Enemy. This seems like a hard pill to swallow for most of those people. They don’t want to show that type of diversity. Promoting a white dude with these same attributes isn’t a problem, and they’ve made that the new normal; we see it all the time. My experience over the last 31 years has shown that these folk do not wish to support or promote this type of diversity from the black community.

Ati: That’s a handful Kerwin!

KY: Damn right it is.

Ati: I’m sure you see a change coming, or otherwise you wouldn’t continue your pursuit. Is this a correct assumption?

KY: Yeah, that’s accurate. Just look at all the years gone by though! All because of this type of stereotypical practice. It’s wicked. I’ve definitely experienced an excess amount of intentional rejection. And, then I’m also refused an agent too. Explain that to me? Like how can a cat like myself, a composer of 7 symphonies, platinum & gold recording producer, grammy nominated, and in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not have an agent? Explain that to me. Who lobbies for me? It’s madness. I want my orchestral works performed, and I want to compose for film and television; just to earn a decent living doing what I love. Other people have made it damn near impossible for me to obtain this. I need help…I can’t keep doing it alone. I have scoring credits, and I’ve held a college professorship teaching media scoring as well.

Ati: Your determination is an inspiration to many I’m certain. I commend you for your constant encouragement to young composers and recording producers; sharing your life experience. Keep on Kerwin!

KY: Thank you Namhiya!

 

 

NA

 

2018 has been a very busy year for composer Kerwin Young, who is now in the midst of writing his seventh symphony. The year has seen the completion of Symphony No. 6 (The Plagiarist), his ballet suite Dumas-Pushkin Suite, the revised Reclamation, and three new orchestral fantasies: Chasing El Diablo, Over 200 Films, and American Caravan; attributing to more than one hour and thirty minutes of performance time. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kerwin Young during a recent Ethiopian celebration in Washington, D.C.

 

Interview conducted by Namhiya Ati

 

Ati: Mr. Young, what drives you to compose so much music, and why for symphony orchestra?

KY: Since high school, I’ve always wanted to write music for film. I’ve faced so much rejection and intentional refusal that I chose to compose for orchestra until that day when I finally breakthrough as a media composer. I enjoy writing for orchestra, as I can paint sonic pictures, and remain creative at a high level. Also, I wanted to destroy the stereo-types associated with someone who’s produced a large body of work as a recording producer, mainly hip-hop.

Ati: Prior to your beginnings as a recording producer, did you have any music training?

KY: Certainly. I began as a musician at a very early age; it came natural to me. When I began grade school, I played alto saxophone in the school’s band for four years. Then it was 1984, and I was knee deep in the happening culture; I became a disc-jockey doing parties. Then, I became a professional disc-jockey, and then a recording producer.

Ati: At what point did you begin to study music composition, and why?

KY: 1994 was the year, and I had grown tired of making beats for rap artists. It didn’t challenge my creativity. Much of the lyrical content wouldn’t get any radio airplay, and I felt it a waste of energy creating music for someone’s personal gratification. And as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to compose for film, and so I began that process by studying orchestration and instrumentation at home. I would transcribe music from recordings, as well as visit the local university library. And, of course, the study of filmmaking.

Ati: Now you are composing Symphony No. 7; a pinnacle very few composers achieve in one lifetime. You’ve had quite a busy year composing several orchestral works; including Symphony No. 6. Is this work a commission? 

KY: No, Symphony No. 7 isn’t a commission. Like all of my orchestral works, they are born out of my love of symphonic writing. I write a lot of large works; works that exceed the standard instrumentation for even the top orchestras like the New York Phil or the Berlin Phil. I write really fast too. I write on the bus, the subway; away from the piano. I can compose a fifteen minute work in 3 days. I write all the time; I’m really comfortable composing for the orchestra. Of course, every once and awhile I have to check a few things out concerning fingering or register, but that’s common, and one never knows everything. I’m always learning new things. This is also why and how I’m able to compose so many orchestral works in a year.

I think if I were a college professor or busy scoring films, I wouldn’t have the luxury of composing for the orchestra. But, since neither of those offerings have yet to come my way, I remain busy writing. I don’t see anyone else writing as aggressive as I am, so why not do it. I’m almost half way into Symphony No. 7, and it’s going to be a lengthy, kick-ass piece. It also conforms to the standard orchestra; give or take two extra musicians: 3233/4331, timp+4, hp, pno-cel, strings. I would love to be commissioned to compose for orchestra, and I know it’ll come.

Ati: Wow! You also have a vast background with several accolades. As a member / producer of Public Enemy for 30 years, you guys are now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You also served as a Next Level / US Cultural Ambassador to Egypt last December. Why is it so difficult for you to acquire work as a film composer? Don’t you have an agent?

KY: That’s a handful Namhiya! I wish I did; seriously! I do not have an agent. I’ve been trying for over 25 years now; and I’m always made to wait or told that I don’t have enough credits or this and that. Makes me kind of sick to a point. Then there’s the spiel about not accepting any unsolicited material. I’ve mentored guys fresh on the block who have agents. It’s almost as though I’m invisible, but I won’t quit.

Ati: How do you manage to keep abreast without any scoring gigs; besides composing for orchestra?

KY: Each day I compose music to a film clip; many times the same bunch of clips. I work out different scenarios each time; trying different methods. Then I mix the music; rendering it out as an mp3 or wav file for my score reel, and as an mp4 for my show reel. And, I’m always learning new software; working in different DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstations). I remain a student of the craft.

Ati: Have you any experience scoring a full length feature?

KY: Absolutely; though quite infrequent. I’m quite comfortable scoring an 80-minute film or a 6 minute short. I’m just not getting any work. I really do need representation; it would help my hustle just a tad-bit more. I find a lot of work opportunities, and I get close to it; but if I had proper representation, I could close those deals.

Ati: What is your DAW of choice? What DAW’s do you work with?

KY: My main axe is Digital Performer. It kicked my ass getting over the learning curve! There’s a few shortcuts I can still learn, but I’ve got it down now. I’ve tried Cubase, but I’m not a fan of it. I did most of my old Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement albums with Cubase; with much success. Depending on the project, I may work in Studio One or Pro Tools. I’ve got lots of options here. I may sit at the piano and sketch into one of my Moleskine’s, and then input that either into Sibelius, or via step record into DP or Studio One. It depends on how I wish to work. I may also start in Sibelius and then spit out a music XML file into DP, or sync Sibelius via rewire with Pro Tools. When I’m scoring to one of those film clips I mentioned, I can choose any of these options. Then there are my options as to how I want to stream the video. Do I want to run it in DP, or do I want to slave Pro Tools to DP? Do I wish to run picture in Sibelius and compose? In Studio One and compose? I’ve got choices, and I love the flexibility of choosing, because when presented with a real scenario that might force me into a corner, I can at least remedy the situation quite fast. At least I want to think so.

Ati: Are there any sound libraries that you prefer, certain instruments? With your background as a hip-hop producer, it was customary to build your own, unique sound palette. Do you maintain that practice now as a media composer?

KY: Absolutely! When I think of all the composers whose work I admire, they each have a unique sound/style. I’m a big fan of “self-borrowing”, because that sound, that repetition of tonal/sonic identity is one’s style. So, maintaining the long practice of creating unique sounds for oneself remains important. There are so many libraries out there too. I really love Spitfire Audio! I’m a Spitfire junkie! They’ve created the perfect community for media composers in my opinion; not just sound libraries. Other sound libraries I really dig are Strezof-Sampling, 8Dio and ProjectSam; oh, and East/West. I’ve always been big on synths too; so I’ve got a large arsenal in that department. I also play several instruments, which contribute to my overall sound as well.

Ati: Are there any film directors whose work you admire?

Ahh…I thought you’d never ask. I always think on this. Here’s a few, but definitely not my full list; just the top of the stack: Antoine Fuqua, Tomas Alfredson, Denis Villeneuve, James Cameron, and Dan Gilroy.

Ati: You may be closer than you think as far as your film scoring pursuits go Kerwin. It’s been a great honor interviewing you, and I’m certain that this is the first of many to come.

KY: Thankyou Namhiya. It’s been an honor to share with you a few hours of our life.

Kerwin Young Sets the Record Straight

Posted: August 28, 2018 in Press

Contrary to belief, and due to much ignorance by interviewers who constantly reject publishing the facts I give them, I come from a traditional music background.

I may not have had piano or violin lessons, but I was first chair alto saxophone in my elementary school band for four years, where I learned how to read music. I also studied with my dad, who was a legendary trombonist, and he taught me how to transpose parts and read both alto and bass clef when I was a pre-teen! I also sang in a church choir (to my reluctance) from 1977-1983, and we performed at Carnegie Hall.

I was in my school’s band from 1979-1983, and rap music was in full force (The Treacherous Three, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow, Sequence, Crash Crew, Funky Four, Run DMC etc…). I was feeling the current music scene a whole lot more than Sousa. I was feeling pop music in general, and not just rap music. So, quite naturally I discontinued playing in band.

I did, however, resume playing the saxophone in 1994; but I switched to tenor saxophone (heavily influenced by John Coltrane). I was also mentored by famed drummer Roy Haynes, who was a local resident in the neighborhood.

Yes, I was a professional disc-jockey, which did launch my career spinning alongside DJ Tommie Allen at the Spectrum Café, in East Meadow, Long Island, five nights a week (August 1988-Spring 1990). I was an under-aged dj in a grown up environment. Everything was overlapping. I graduated high school in June 1988, and I had already begun working with Public Enemy a year earlier.

Here’s An Unknown Fact: I actually began needle dropping and making mix/pause tapes in 1978! That’s one year before Rapper’s Delight!! My eldest brother would bring home party tapes in 1977 and ’78, so I was well aware of the beats used underneath the mc’s. I had a thorough knowledge of pop music since the age of 4, and my dad always kept me with a musical instrument since that time as well. I grew up when the radio was not stylistically segregated and splintered as it is now. The playlists were quite diverse. AM radio was popular when I was a youngster. FM didn’t become mainstream until 1979, and that’s when the division became more and more apparent. I was exposed to all genres of music as a child, and I was also fascinated by movies and film music.

I began composing to paper in 1994, and by 2000, I had completed 2 large orchestral scores, and was writing my first symphony (symphony no. 1 took ten years to complete). In 2002, I enrolled at the Paris Conservatory, and they told me that I was too old! Stunned by this, I spent the next six years off the grid, disgusted; though remaining creative. In 2009, I enrolled at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance to resume my studies in orchestration and harmony. However, at that time, I had an enormous body of work already.