Hochstein Alumni Portrait: Philip Klein

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Hochstein Alumni Portrait: Philip Klein

Philip Klein began his Hochstein education by playing trumpet in both the wind ensemble under Corky Fabrizio and HYSO under Nancy Strelau when he was in high school. During this time, he also studied composition and conducting with Mrs. Strelau. He went on to study trumpet performance at Northwestern University under Barbara Butler and Charles Geyer, but eventually altered his major to focus more on composition and film.

Since then, Klein has become a compelling new voice in the film music world.  He has provided music for several feature films, TV shows, video games and short films, including 2008′s Hangar No. 5 which was awarded the ATAS Foundation Emmy Award for Best Music Composition. Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, Klein began an orchestration partnership with composer/orchestrator Penka Kouneva (Elysium, Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands, Transformers 1,2, 3), who has mentored and been an instrumental force in his career ever since. Klein also worked closely with composer/orchestrator Conrad Pope (Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Life of Pi), assisting and proofreading on several projects. In the summer of 2011, Klein was offered a fellowship at the Sundance Institute Feature Film Composing Labs. Following the labs he began working with composer Harry Gregson-Williams (Shrek, Chronicles of Narnia, Man on Fire), providing additional music and arrangements for Arthur ChristmasMister PipTotal Recall, the upcoming The Equalizer and video game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Other recent credits include co-scoring the indie feature Growing Up and Other Lies, additional music for seasons two and three of ABC’s Revenge with composer Fil Eisler, additional arrangements for composer Carter Burwell on Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, and orchestration credits in films such as Ender’s GameThe Tales of Despereaux, the Oscar nominated score for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 9, and videogames Starcraft 2, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and Gears of War 3.  Klein is also an active conductor.  In addition to several engagements in Los Angeles, Klein traveled to New Zealand to lead the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for the recording sessions for Mister Pip, Prague, Nashville and Sofia, Bulgaria where he guest conducted the 150-piece Classic FM M-Tel Orchestra and Choir in a concert featuring the film music of John Williams.


1.     How did you begin to study at Hochstein?

I was studying trumpet through Eastman’s community education program. I remember seeing an audition notice for the youth ensembles in the hallway. I hadn’t played in any ensembles outside of my school, but was eager to try.


2.     Do you have a notable memory or two from when you were at Hochstein?

Narrowing it down to just one or two is difficult. The first few rehearsals with Mr. Fabrizio were incredible, I had never been in a group of such talent before. His energy and flair were inspiring and brought the best out of the wind ensemble. It’s hard to express how many life-changing experiences I had with Mrs. Strelau and the youth orchestra. Beyond the opportunities we had to play throughout Europe and in Carnegie Hall, there were some magical performances. Tchaikovsky’s 4th and Dvorak’s 9th will always stick in my head as special. They were performances that sent the audience to their feet once the last note had sounded.


3.     What do you take away from your Hochstein education?

Hochstein was the foundation from which my entire career is built upon. Everyone from the teachers, to my peers and the staff were there to nurture the students and make music. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a safer environment. I could experiment and fail miserably but still feel like it was for my benefit and I was supported.


4.     When and how did you first become interested in composing? When did you decide to compose professionally?

I had always loved film music, but mostly because the brass was allowed to play louder! While I was in high school I started to get more interested in how the notes I played were actually put together. I had written some smaller works, mostly for trumpet or brass groups but after I started taking lessons with Mrs. Strelau, I became more serious. As my education evolved in college I started writing more and more. A friend asked me to write some music for his film and I fell into it pretty easily. Given that there were only a handful of composers at Northwestern even remotely interested in scoring films, the fields were bountiful. I began scoring as many films as I could, learning (and messing up) quite a bit along the way. Once graduation rolled around I was pretty set on continuing on with scoring.


5.     Do you feel you have developed a particular sound? If so, how would you characterize it?

This is a tricky question. As film composers, we’re often called upon to wear several different hats, even within the course of one score. Furthermore, we often battle with temporary music (temp score), which is pre-existing music added into the film early in the process to help the filmmakers get a feel for the pace and how the music will stand against the film. Even though it’s meant to be replaced by the film’s composer, the temp score often ends up strongly influencing the filmmakers because they’ve lived with it so long. Consequently, it’s not rare for composers to write music that tiptoes between our sound and the temp score sound in an effort to please the filmmakers. Developing your sound, or your brand takes years of work and is perhaps slightly longer to mature under these circumstances. I’ve had people tell me they can recognize a cue I’ve written for one reason or another in a film but I don’t think I’ve molded my own sound yet. I try to write as honestly as I can and follow my emotional response to what I see and feel on screen. I’d like to think that my music has a soul to it that is unique, but I do believe it will evolve as I mature as a composer.


6.     Do you have any current projects we should look forward to hearing?

I’ve contributed additional music for the upcoming Denzel Washington film, The Equalizer as well as the video game, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Each was for composer Harry Gregson-Williams. I also just returned from recording an orchestral album in Prague set to stories from a well-known fantasy novel. I can’t say much more than that at the moment, but the album should be completed by the end of the year.



1.     What instrument[s] do you play?

Trumpet and a servicable piano.


2.     Have you had a favorite project or performance?

Yikes, another hard one to whittle down. I have a long list of amazing moments in my musical life, but the first film I worked on with Harry Gregson-Williams, Arthur Christmas, was particularly special. It was the first major studio film I had contributed music for and was recorded in Abbey Road with London’s finest. I also have a soft spot for animation; it allows composers to stretch their wings and really write. I will be forever grateful to Harry for affording me the opportunity to be part of the project.


3.     Have you ever used unusual instruments or combinations of instruments?

Albeit cliché, we did write for a Theremin in a section of the score for Arthur Christmas.  It’s a very unique instrument that most people have probably heard but haven’t realized it. The two metal antennas, one for volume and the other for pitch, sense the relative position of the performer’s hands and create electric signals which produce the sound. Think: aliens and Klaatu.

Much of the percussion we use on Revenge is built from scrapyard finds— old alcohol kegs, pieces of metal, shelves, plastic tubs, typewriters, car parts, etc. We spend days recording and manipulating them into loops to incorporate into the score.


4.     What kind of music do you listen to in your spare time?

I find myself often listening to whatever music I’m interested in learning more about. I was working on a film for Harry last year and it was very electronic so I was constantly listening to heavily programmed music, both popular and film. We don’t give our ears enough credit as composers and musicians. We assimilate an enormous amount of information through them. I remember my trumpet professor in college telling me, “if you like a player’s sound, then listen to it as much as possible and try to sound like them”! Much of the influence and sound in my writing is a result of listening to artists, absorbing their structures, orchestration, harmonies, etc., and then attempting to work that style into my own. I’m not talking about aping or copying them, but rather learning from their music and allowing it to compliment and hone your craft.


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