Saturday 10 December 2022

Persephone: young film composer Veronika Hanl's lockdown project began as the stripped-back telling of a classic tale from Greek mythology

Veronika Hanl
Veronika Hanl
Veronika Hanl is a London-based Austrian-born composer and producer who has been working in film and television along with producing and amongst her recent projects is working with Isobel Waller-Bridge for the Apple TV series Roar, starring Nicole Kidman and Alison Brie. 

Veronika has been based in the UK for the past five years. She describes it as getting crazy expensive, but she fell in love with the city. It is the city to be. In Spring 2022, Veronika released one of her own projects, an EP Persephone created with Julia Romana, and Lowpines. It was something of a lockdown project, arising in 2020 with the singer/songwriter Lowpines (Oli Deakin), a British friend of Veronika's who is based in New York. It began simply with her, Oli and a ukulele telling a story about Persephone and Hades. They decided to make an acoustic version, and it turned out that the recording engineer, Tom Addison, was a pianist too so they made duo and trio acoustic versions of the piece.

Veronika describes the music as melancholic (she is a film composer and her work often has lots of drama), but it tells a sort of love story with Persephone and Hades as ships that pass in the night, two lovers who really want to be together. The collaboration began with Veronika creating instrumentals and vocal ideas, she then sent the result to Lowpines. He was stuck in the UK during the first lockdown and listened to Veronika's ideas on the beach in Brighton. He thought the instrumentals reminded him of waves, which led them to Persephone, and they built the piece together from there. Veronika is hoping that the two might collaborate again, she sees their styles as compatible and a low of Lowpines music is used on soundtracks. But collaboration will be trickier now that he is back in New York and she is in London.

Whatever music she is writing she needs a medium like a photo, a story or visuals from which to create the music, to access her emotions. She thinks this comes from having written so much for film and television. In Persephone, she started with an image of the sea in Greece. She used to be a clarinettist, and one of her dreams is to write for orchestra. Concert work is a very different approach to film work, and she finds the idea fascinating, the way of taking the music a stage further.

Her experience so far has been mainly assisting on film and television scores, a process that can be both a great experience and rather frustrating. She has found that she has learned a lot from working with older, more experienced composers and the bigger projects on which she worked would not have been accessible to her otherwise. But then if you have a good idea, your pieces are not specifically credited to your name. Yet, she admits that it was a massive learning curve and she is grateful for the experience. Whilst she will continue assisting, she will no longer be doing it full-time and is building her own company, creating a team of composers and writers to pitch music for ads and trailers, as well as expanding her network. Other irons in the fire include collaborating with Julia Romana on a song (which she describes as an RnB/Hip Hop collaboration) and there is the idea that writing songs with Julia Romana might continue.

She explains that you want people to come to you for things that you are good at, but it takes time to build this reputation; hence the various projects and the network building. And it requires teamwork so that when people work with you and find it positive, they come back. It is hard, and you need to keep at it.

As a teenager, she was focused on being a clarinet player, but she wrote her first piece when she was 14 and fell in love with listening to film scores by Hans Zimmer and others. There was a film project at school; she wrote the music for it and fell in love with the idea. She studied multi-media arts at university, where she majored in audio, so not just composition but producing and more. This makes you very versatile and she sees it as important as she can work with other singers as a producer. She came to London to work with Dru Masters, whom she describes as an amazing TV composer. Masters' work includes The Apprentice and Secret Life of the Zoo. She says that she learned a hell of a lot, both assisting and watching him. She learned more than just composing for film; she went with him to meetings, and he helped her to understand briefs and how to work to them. How to understand the whole business side.

She still loves the classical composers that she grew up with, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Dvorak. During her teenage years, film composers such as Hans Zimmer, Thomas Newman, Rachel Portman, and John Williams influenced her greatly. Her absolute favourite was James Newton Howard; she describes his style as being so versatile, and so dreamy that you can imagine you are there in the film.

Full details of Veronika Hanl's EP Persephone from her LinkTree on YouTube.

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