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Interview with Composer Ken Chan Kar Yip
Creative process from Six String Guys to SPL 1/1 - Page 2
Author(s) : Jean-Louis Ogé
Date : 11/4/2006
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Comfort Chan Kwong Wing
Barbara Wong Chun Chun
Wilson Yip Wai Shun
Movies :
Sha Po Lang
Six Strong Guys
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Page 1 : Presentation
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Page 3 : Hunting HK Music scores

HKCinemagic : How do you work with Chan Kwok Wing?
Ken Chan : When we work together, I do enjoy the experience as I think we usually complement each other. We both have different cultural backgrounds and that is sometimes evident in the music we compose. As I worked more with Chan Kwong Wing, I discovered that it's quite interesting to see how a different composer would work with the same material. One of my best memories is working together with Chan Kwong Wing on the trailer of the movie Six Strong Guys (by Barbara Wong). We both bounced ideas off of each other how it should go and I think the end result was very satisfactory for both of us. It was a very productive learning experience for me. Chan Kwong Wing is great in terms of giving advice as to what could improve music cues that I've done, especially in terms of the Asian market. It all gets interesting when we work on the same movie (separate cues), as we have to make sure that we both have the same idea in terms of style or else the music would be too disjointed in terms of style, pacing, theme, etc.
HKCinemagic : Which director has a strong understanding of music writing and has helped you a lot for your work?
K C : I think all the directors I've worked with had a good idea of the music that they wanted but I did find it quite rewarding to have worked recently with Wilson Yip with his movie SPL (Sha Po Lang). I believe he was very particular about the music and had a certain direction that he wanted to go in, yet at the same time was still ready to listen to different ideas.
HKCinemagic : What music score are you the most proud of? Why?
K C : Again, SPL comes to mind. Mostly because I feel that there are some scenes in which the music collaborates well with what's happening on the screen. I think the film was edited really well, and sometimes that makes the job easier for the composer too! Also, the film was quite focused in terms of its atmosphere. It's not surprising that Hong Kong films sometimes try to tap all emotions – funny, suspenseful, romantic, etc. – all at once. I can tell you that this is quite the challenge for the composer! SPL was mostly consistent in its mood, and it allowed for me to compose longer and more emotionally interesting music.
HKCinemagic : Do you compose before, after, or during the shooting?
K C : Usually after. There have been a few exceptions where the music cue is being heard by the cast, so a rough music track has to be done so that they can synchronize movements with the sound track – making it easier to edit later on.
HKCinemagic : About the creative process, how do you work with a director to create a soundtrack? Do you watch some rushes or merely use a script?
K C : Usually we use the cut where it's maybe 80 – 90% completed. For example, some special effects may not yet have been completed in the scenes or some scenes may still undergo some minor editing. Usually, I'll watch this rough cut with the director and roughly discuss the cues' timing and content before setting out and actually composing. There is usually some temp music as a rough guide as to what the director is looking for.
HKCinemagic : Where do you draw your inspiration from?
K C : This is a difficult question to answer – as the answer is “I Don't Know!”

I am somewhat of a pain to go to movies with as one half of my brain is listening to what the composer is doing. I think that subconsciously all that music I've absorbed from listening to different genres of music and from listening to other great film composers may form sort of a “well” for ideas. What inspires me more is the process of composing – it's like sort of an empty canvas and you're slowly “painting” music onto the scene. When you're really “in the groove”, it almost seems like the composing of the music is being “guided”. You sort of get a sense of layering the music onto the scene until you feel it's complete.

I find that process very inspiring and satisfying.

HKCinemagic : Do you also write songs? For whom?
K C : In terms of commercial songs, I haven't had much chance to do so unfortunately. I have had some songs released in the past but it is my goal in the next few years to improve my songwriting repertoire.
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