My name is Damien Walsh and I am a Business Development Manager for AYLIEN and a composer for Film and TV. I have always had an interest in technology from an early age and worked in a number of technology companies. I was looking for a new challenge though – when I saw the opportunity to work in an AI tech start-up and learn more about NLP and Machine learning, I was excited to speak with AYLIEN and develop my career there.
I have always played music. From the age of 12, I took up the guitar and haven’t stopped playing since. Oasis was probably the first band that got me interested in music and picking up a guitar. Once I started playing the guitar, my list expanded greatly to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, etc. I have always been interested in writing music, but mostly I was writing songs and played in lots of bands in my teens.
I went to college to study jazz in 2003, and I received my LGSM in Jazz Performance in 2006. I think this is when I first became interested in instrumental music and composition. I also had an interest in recording music – after completing my LGSM, I spent a few years learning about music production and recording before I got my first job writing for a short film. I have also worked as a lecturer a few years ago in The British & Irish Modern Music Institute, giving lectures in music composition for video games
and ‘music for image’.
I started my website, ‘Damien Walsh Music’, in 2008 with my first short film, Snapshots of a Village, which followed the lives of four teenagers living in a village in Zambia. The teenagers included a teenage mother trying to adapt to motherhood, a student struggling to find money to attend school, a student living with a sister with HIV, and a young man living away from home. Since then, I have found projects to compose in all kinds of places, from Facebook groups to Crowdfunding pages. Primarily though, I have found work through word of mouth and emailing every production company I could find when I started off – this has resulted in some great relationships and repeated collaborations.
When it comes to composition, my favourite instrument or group of instruments are strings – in particular, I love the cello. My sound can vary quite a bit depending on a film, but I would say my music works on the boundaries between notated and improvised music, electronic and acoustic sounds, refined timbres and noise. I like to mix traditional instruments with random sounds.
When I start composing for a film or television series, I generally start with a discussion with the director of the film to firstly understand if I am the right fit for the film. After that is established, I want to understand the sentiment and tone of the film and what the director is trying to express. You then watch the movie a number of times and begin spotting where the music should and shouldn’t be. The process of working with each filmmaker is different – some want to spend some time and sit with me in the studio until I’ve nailed the vibe; others will have temp tracks in the movie and ask for music along the lines of the tracks. Regardless, my favourite thing about composing music is being given the opportunity to collaborate with so many creative people and then watching the end product on the big screen.
The time it takes to compose the film can vary greatly – in some cases, the music is the last consideration, so you may have to score an entire film in 3-4 weeks. I think as well that a film and a television series can be quite similar to compose in some senses, developing themes that run throughout and creating an overall atmosphere. But I have also written for documentary TV series and in this case, each episode can be very different and require quite a shift in music styles. I recently completed work on a documentary series for Smithsonian Channel called Sacred Sites 2, which was really interesting. I worked on two episodes, Nazi Myths and Maya. I’m also currently working on an international feature film called The Zenith Protocol, which I expect to be released in 2019. This is an action/sci-fi movie, and is lots of fun to write music for!
I do see similarities between my music composition and my job at ALYIEN, as both require creativity, organisation, and focus. Music composition for media is all about being extremely organised and efficient – these are things I learned from working in a business environment, and I believe that has helped me a lot with pushing my music career forward. I’d like to think composing music has been a benefit to my technological career, as I’m constantly learning when it comes to music – it could be new compositional techniques or new software/hardware. It’s very important to keep up with all of the new developments, and I think this crosses over to my career in technology. I am always ready and open to learning new things as the more I know, the better I can be at my job. My advice to anyone looking to compose their own music in today’s industry is to be organised, learn all you can, and don’t give up when things are difficult. A career in music takes hard work, time, patience and, most of all, luck.
For more information about Damien’s music on his website, be sure to check out the following link: