COMPOSER & MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST
“there’s sort of an endless stream of music in my head. I think the actual labour in making music is turning ideas into tracks that have some sort of dramatic evolution.”
Finnish composer and multi-instrumentalist, Arttu Silvast talks to us about taking the leap into media composition with the utmost of support, the importance of rest for bringing forth new ideas and the exciting projects he has in the works.
We’d love to hear how it all began. How did you get started as a music composer?
Well, it started in the 1990s really. My parents forced me into a music school to learn the piano (which I absolutely hated at the time) and were able to keep me there a few years more, offering me drums as a side instrument. When the theory parts started, I couldn't take it anymore.
After quitting music school, I started messing around with sample-based Trackers (early software sequencers). From there, my musical activities evolved into songwriting and playing in bands. I practically lived at our band's rehearsal place during my high school years.
Eventually, I went to study musicology at the university. That led to a job as music editor and a music journalist at the Finnish Broadcaster Yle, which later evolved into a career in digital marketing and communication; I started realizing that I’ve gotten a bit sidetracked from music.
Several years later, and half a decade living in South-East Asia, I finally had the courage to take a leap to the unknown and start working as a full-time media composer. Thanks to my lovely supportive wife I had plenty of time to concentrate on studying composing, music production, mixing, and mastering.
My first serious gig was a soundtrack for a TV series called Big In Finland (Yle) directed by my old colleague and friend Mika Niva. From there on, jobs started slowly coming in and I’m nowadays very busy most of the time working with TV soundtracks, podcasts, and audio branding.
What moment(s) in your life do you feel helped form the artist you are today?
I never thought of myself as an artist, at least not before I released my first album ‘Polarity’. And even after that, I sort of think of the artist brand as a mandatory thing to maintain. As dull as it may seem, as a media composer, I need an (hopefully interesting) artist brand to represent my taste and ideas to stand out.
I used to struggle with my identity, which is nowadays so strongly bonded to the digital presence. The easiest way to get through is to just think of it all like work. Even if you post a picture of your dog on Instagram, it can land you a gig somewhere. It’s all about building a brand and a personality through digital media, for me, it gets complicated if it feels fake or if you have to start referring to yourself in the third person.
Your debut album, ‘Polarity’, was released in April of 2021. Can you tell us a bit about your writing process for this album and how it all unfolded?
‘Polarity’ was sort of a rite of passage for me becoming a “real musician”. It’s also a very personal album; there’s a lot of emotional burden I just had to put out in order to continue moving forward. There's a lot of homesickness and longing there; I wrote most of the album still living in Asia away from my family and friends.
On the other hand ‘Polarity’ is also a representation of my musical DNA. I've gone through a lot of musical styles and phases in my life and the album is sort of a combination of all those elements; electronic music, progressive rock, ambient, Thai country music and some sort of nordic classical. We also made a road trip to northern Norway before 'Polarity' was released. Lots of the album's soundscapes are recorded there!
I think that trip really had an impact on the overall "frozen" feel of the album.
How do you approach collaborating with others?
I work alone most of the time, so collaboration is always a treat, even if it doesn't concern music directly. I think we spend too much time writing music in our cellars and bunkers. Another person always makes a project feel more meaningful. And, there’s of course, always a thing or two to learn from another musician.
Do you have any methods or practices that help spark new ideas?
My ideas usually spark from pre-planning and concepts. That means I first have to set the boundaries for the project I’m working on.
The music itself comes very easily after that; there’s sort of an endless stream of music in my head. I think the actual labour in making music is turning ideas into tracks that have some sort of dramatic evolution.
If I want to get new fresh thoughts and ideas, resting and regression help a lot. Some might even call that laziness.
Walking in the forest or cycling do very good for the brain as well!
We’re honored to have you as an Emergence Audio user, how do our instruments help in your creative process?
I very often start a composition by creating simple harmonies with Cello Textures or Violin Textures. I'm totally in love with their exquisite sound and their combination of movement and texture. The Quantum offers me tools for creating movement in the lower end as well as thick sounding pads. I think the Quantum and both of the string libraries mix very well together, for ambient but also for all sorts of hybrid style underscore.
If I want to create something unpredictable, I turn to the bird whistle. There's always something unique coming out of the instrument.
Overall Emergence Audio instruments are an important part of my toolbox both for production and composing.
What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on my first nature documentary film soundtrack, which I’m absolutely thrilled about! I finished a few documentary soundtracks this spring and will continue working in a few more later this year.
In the meantime, I’m composing for my next full-length album that’s set to be released early next year. Before that, there'll be a few singles and a collaborative EP with a British friend and colleague.