Film Composition with Max Knoth

25 February, 2016

Max is a composer, arranger, orchestrator and sound designer who was born in Hamburg but now lives in Berlin.

He studied at the Hochschule für Musik Hamburg and the Film & Television Academy (HFF) “Konrad Wolf” in Potsdam-Babelsberg and now works almost exclusively on projects for movies, concerts, theatre and recording sessions.

We were thrilled to have Max join us at BIMM Berlin for a very unique Masterclass session where he outlined his film composition career, demonstrated his musical ideas and arguments by giving inspirational musical examples, and discussed his time working on both Hollywood and German movies with talents including musician Lou Reed, composer Danny Elfman, film director Tom Tykwer, theatre director and filmmaker Christoph Schlingensief, as well as fellow film composers Rachel Portman, Alan Silverstri and David Newman.

The session began with Max describing how he got started in the music industry. Before he became an established musician, he planned to be a guitarist, and never expected to follow a composer/arranger career path because he didn’t consider it to be an option due to lack of these type of schools in Germany. Instead, he created his own band which sparked his initial interest in composing music.

Max discussed how he undertook a Bachelor Degree in Music in Stuttgart and later finished his Masters degree in Potsdam, where he also worked as an audio engineer. It was here that he first began working with an orchestra, which he loved, and started to investigate the intricacies of classical music, before deciding to specialise in composition and arrangement for films.

Max discussed the freedom of creativity composers have when rearranging songs and gave an example to the group by playing one of his songs and describing how he arranged it ­–­ layer by layer. He then played two versions of the same song – one at the very beginning of the process and then another after he had improved the arrangement.

Our BIMM Berlin students then had the opportunity to ask Max a series of their own questions, and a discussion arose around the changing approach to the use of music in film. Max expressed that he believes the role of music in cinema is not to illustrate the action on screen, but to go beyond this and suggest things to the audience that can’t be revealed by picture or script alone.

Max also gave the audience advice on how to compose a song from beginning to end – how to start it, how to add variety, and how to make it more vivid ­– and used ‘Our House’ by Madness as an example.

The Masterclass was a roaring success for the BIMM Berlin audience, with Songwriting student Ramon Manas Corbenos stating:

“It was really interesting and inspirational, and I got some really cool tips for my own song composition process.”

A huge thank you to Max for coming to visit us and taking us through the finer points of composing for the medium of film.


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