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Meet Jurgen Beck, Composer

Sep 09, 2010

You might have heard about a new Christian film, Standing Firm, which has just been released on DVD.

standing firm

Jurgen Beck, composerI had a chance to sit down and talk with Jurgen Beck, who composed the beautiful music score to the movie. If you have ever been curious about what it takes to create a project like this, you’ll love getting this “behind the scenes” peek into this Christian artist’s life and talent. It’s simply amazing to see how God is working in the arts – and using talented people like Jurgen for his kingdom. Talk about COOL!

Jurgen, what is Standing Firm about?“Standing
Firm” is a film about David, a widower who blames himself for his
wife’s death and ends his relationship with the church in an attempt to
walk away from God. He is bitter and confused, with a burning question
inside how a loving God can allow such tragedy in his life. His son,
Steven, who is a committed believer, reaches out to his father with the
help of his grandfather and his best friend, Maggie. Even though his
grief and financial situation worsen, David seeks an answer to the
question that has haunted him since his wife’s death – Why? “Standing Firm” is a story about suffering, God’s purpose in it, and finding joy in the midst of it.One
of the remarkable aspects about this film is the fact that it does not
treat the topic lightly and does not end in the typical fashion of a
feel good movie. Although the ending is uplifting, it is more fitting
with the every day reality of the life that we all live. The movie
carries a strong message of hope in the midst of adversity.How did you become part of this project?Simple
answer first: God’s grand orchestration. I strongly believe in the fact
that He orchestrates our steps. I could point to a number of things in
my life that led to my being attached to this film project. However,
God’s timing and directing is so perfect that I could never look at what
transpired in my life and claim any of it as my doing.The
long answer is that I was on the home stretch of completing the score
for another movie, “The Penny”, when I received a short email from Kyle
Prohaska, the writer, producer, and director of “Standing Firm”. In it
he asked whether I would be willing to look at his film and consider
scoring it. Quite honestly, I think he was counting on my turning it
down. In a follow-up conversation he told me that up to that point he
had worked on the film for over three years and was looking for a
composer that could give him that special score he was looking for.In
my talking with him I felt a depth and understanding of how suffering
strengthens us that I found very refreshing for a young man of his age.
He was 21 at the time we started talking and to be honest with you, most
of us at that age think we are invincible and our lives carry on
forever. Not so with Kyle. He continued to tell me that during the
production of the movie there were so many loved ones, either friends,
or precious people he knew from church that had passed away. This struck
a chord with me, as my wife Shawn had just been diagnosed with breast
cancer and was looking at a long road of treatment and recovery. So, the
message of “Standing Firm” resonated very much with what we were
walking through as a family. It was not only an honor to work on the
film, but was also sort of therapeutic in that I was able to express
musically what we as a family were experiencing. Music is such an important part of a movie. What inspired you as you sat down to create the score?As
already mentioned, part of the inspiration for creating the film’s
score came out of our personal dealing with adversity. Until you
personally walk through those valleys it is harder to understand the
impact it leaves on you. So, in that respect the score for “Standing
Firm” carries a bit of that experience with it.It
has been said before that if film is the king, then music is the queen.
One can and does exist without the other, but skillfully paired
together they can capture, even rule the heart of the viewer.I
am a visual person. Beauty in images inspires me. The first thing that
impressed me about the film was the production quality that Kyle had put
together, especially considering the budget he had available.
Everything from lighting, to the acting, to the framing of the shots,
and the overall feel of the film felt natural and uncomplicated. That
beauty speaks a language I understand. It strikes the same chords of the
heart that music does.Music
impacts us in various ways and different music causes different
emotions. This is enhanced when watching visuals with the music, or
should I say, hearing the music with the visuals on the screen. To prove
the point, try to watch a great film with the audio turned off. It
loses a dimension of the film that we take for granted.”Standing
Firm” is a very emotional film, without getting sappy though. On the
low side it expresses honest emotions of grief, pain, hurt, anger,
bitterness, and frustration. On the up side there is joy, satisfaction,
love, humor, and a lot of what makes this life so precious. Those
emotions stir the creative juices and as a composer I let them fully
impact me. Then
there is the spiritual aspect. If this were a secular production it
would be much harder for me to create the music and I would have to rely
way more on my skills to produce the music. As with all the faith-based
productions I get to work on, “Standing Firm” resonated with me from a
spiritual perspective. Seeing Dave, the widower, struggle with his
relationship with God and how he ultimately works through it with God’s
help is significant to me as a follower of Christ. This
introduces an additional depth to the music that not only supports the
images on the screen, but causes the message of the film to reach much
further into our innermost being. It is an immense joy in the scoring
process when I discover that “sweet spot”, where the music works with
the visuals, but takes the message conveyed in that moment so much
further. There was a lot of that in “Standing Firm”. How
do you approach a movie score? Do you “hear” a tune that you build
from, and/or is there a discipline to building an entire score?
is different for every score. Before I get to work on a score,
directors often put temporary music from another composer into the
unfinished film so they can better judge the impact of the scenes. They
often pick the temp score based on the music they would like to have in
the film. In those situations there is often a clear concept of style
and form, even melodic elements, that I need to stay with.With
others, no temp score exists and I have the freedom to create the music
within a certain framework that I establish in discussions with the
normally sit down and watch the movie several times through, making
notes along the way and letting the story impact me. That sort of sets
the mood for me, which is what essentially influences the music I write.In
terms of hearing a tune versus applying musical skills and discipline,
they actually complement each other. I seldom just “hear” a tune. I may
start with some chords on the keyboard or piano, which normally leads to
some theme that inspires a melody. For action type scores, I may start
with some rhythmic elements that express what the scene is about. So,
the approach very much depends on the type of score I need to write. Where
the discipline comes in is in the consistent development of themes that
are used throughout the film. For example, in “Standing Firm” there is a
definite emotional progression that’s expressed in the music. We go
from a darker tone to a very uplifting one as the story progresses. You
can follow that progression by just listening to the score apart from
the movie. There
are also specific elements or objects, along with persons in the film
that may have their own melody or theme. Those all have to be developed
and normally make their appearance in various aspects of the score. This
can often be hard work. I have had moments where I work a complete week
on just a single cue. Nothing seems to work and I sometimes have to
come back to it later.So,
yes, there is definitely a lot of thinking and planing that goes into a
successful score. Time and space won’t allow going further into detail,
but this is a craft that requires time and devotion to detail, just
like any other art form.What is your personal favorite track from this movie and why?I
have a handful, but if asked to limit it to one or two in particular,
I’d have to say that the two that stick out the most are “It’s All
Yours” and “Prelude To The Future”.Without
giving anything of the film away, both of them were written for scenes
that are extremely emotional for various reasons. They each represent
pivotal moments in the story and have very powerful imagery associated
with them. Each of them show an expression of resolve, which I guess is
something that naturally resonates with me.“It’s
All Yours” emotionally reaches deep into the struggle that Dave is
going through with his wife’s death, the blame he puts on himself, and
his anger with God. The beautiful part is the hope that the scene
resolves to. Being able to show that musically was an extreme joy. It is
also the longest cue in the film. It’s always great to fully paint the
picture and develop musical concepts. Because of the nature of having to
synchronize the music to the scenes, this is not always possible. For
example, “Maggie” is a beautiful theme, but because of the scene that it
needed to fit, it ended up being way too short. I would have loved to
be able to develop it further.“Prelude
To The Future” as the very last track of the score picks up on that
same resolve that we see in “It’s All Yours”. It speaks of the hope and
future we have in a satisfied life in Him. We can’t tell what’s ahead of
us and there may be struggles on the journey, but we do know that if we
fully trust Him there is nothing to worry about. That track speaks to
the quiet joy and tenderness we experience when we truly consider what
He means in our life. As the final scene in the movie, Kyle did an
awesome job bringing this out and the music had to tell the underlying
emotions and story, which I believe it does. Interestingly, it is also
the second longest cue in the film. I guess I just like fully developed
musical ideas. How did you get started composing?This
is going to sound a bit funny, but composing in the truest sense of
creating melodies I have done since I was a little boy. I still remember
walking home from school and humming these songs that in my mind played
back with a full orchestra. They were never captured as musical
compositions, of course, and one could reason that they were just made
up songs by a little kid. However, what it does show is the presence of a
love for creating music from an early age on.I
trained classically on the trumpet (Fluegelhorn, to be precise), but
playing what someone else composed never fully satisfied the desire to
write my own music. This essentially led to picking up the guitar,
piano, keyboards, and bass. I also discovered a passion for arranging
music. My brain seems to be wired for creating the melodies and songs,
and then arranging them into full accompaniments.The
passion to create music though never fully blossomed until I discovered
film scores. Listening to them I could let my imagination run free,
whether I had seen the film or not. To me they represented a wonderful
world of emotions expressed in an intricate way. The fire ignited. I
wanted to create those myself. So when computers and software finally
appeared on the scene that allowed me to create my own compositions and
not break the bank in the process, the passion was burning strong and I
studied compositions and learned how to create scores using the tools I
had available.That
essentially led to creating music for actual movies. God allowed
relationships to form, which is an essential part in this business and
something that helped propel me to the place I am today. The bottom line
though, is that God’s providence and guiding has been there from the
beginning. He orchestrated every step along the way. He is the
originator of every creative ability I poses and without Him sustaining
it I could never create another single note.What projects are you working on now?I
am working on several projects at the moment. Among them are films,
documentaries, commercials, and other media productions. All of them are
very promising and exciting projects. However, one that I am extremely
passionate about is our own instrumental music series called
‘Reflections’. The music is composed in the style of film music and each
individual release is designed as a tool in your quiet time before the
Lord. The
first release is dealing with our relationship with God, The Father. We
are planing on releasing a study guide along with the album. The study
guide contains scripture and text, setting each musical piece in scene,
all designed to help the listener let the Holy Spirit touch certain
areas in their lives. It’s sort of a movie, except you are free to
picture the scenes yourself rather than a director deciding for you what
it may look like.The first release should be available by the end of 2010.As a Christian artist, what types of opportunities are you seeing for people who want to be involved in media arts?We
are rapidly moving into an age where all types of digital devices
bombard us with digital media. This is creating an ever growing demand
for quality content, including pictures, video, and audio that is
delivered primarily via the Internet. As Christian artists we have a
tremendous opportunity to be influential in creating that content.
However, it requires skills and talent, along with a good amount of
dedication to acquiring those skills. Too
often we settle with something less than adequate and my passion is to
help younger, less experienced composers and producers of digital media
to grow in their profession. We will see an increase in Christian
productions, which in turn require media artists that are not only
trained in their field, but also have the right passion for the message.
So, if you are a Christian artist wondering whether you should break
into the field of composing, or painting, or digital arts, ask the Lord
for the right direction and throw yourself completely into the game.
Your skills will be needed!What
would you like people to know about you?
from my relationship with my loving and caring Father in Heaven, the
most important aspect of my life is my family. What I do in creating
music pales in comparison to the love and devotion I have for my lovely
wife and our wonderful little girl. All of this could disappear today
and I would still be content with being called a husband and daddy. That
is where I am building my legacy. A few months from now hardly anyone
will remember what movies I contributed a musical score to (if they even
noticed start with…) When I reach the end of my life here on earth
I’d like to be know as an intense lover of God, a dedicated and loving
husband, and a daddy who would gladly give his life for his little girl.Thank you so much, Jurgen, for sharing your talent and your story with us today!
Jurgen’s official website is at http://jurgenbeck.com
where he writes about the music projects he works on and also blogs
about the process of scoring for films. You can also sign up on his
Facebook page at http://facebook.com/jurgenbeckmusic if you wish to follow the latest news on his music and film releases.

You can also sign up at http://www.reverbnation.com/jurgenbeckcomposer, if you’d like to listen to the preview clips for “Standing Firm.” The soundtrack will soon be available in itunes and amazon.com!