A multifariously talented artist in the world of music, Argentinean Daniel Raijman takes the concept of being well rounded to the next level with his extensive resume as a leading guitarist and film composer.
His skill as a musician has been eminent since his youth, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have to work to make it to where he is today. As a child at home in Argentina, Raijman was enthralled by jazz and blues, and over the years he has trained with world-renowned musicians such as Walter Malosetti, Javier Malosetti, Oscar Giunta, Hernan Jacinto and Pino Marrone.
With unceasing passion and perseverance, Raijman’s has reached an extraordinary level, with six-time Emmy award-winning composer and conductor, Mark Watters, putting him “in the top 1% of young composers currently working in Los Angeles.”
As a film composer Raijman has an unparalleled gift for expressing more than what you see on the screen, but also what beats in your heart. His ability to compose scores that connect with audiences has helped films like “An Opening to Closure” do extraordinarily well on the film festival circuit, with this film in particular being chosen as an Official Selection of the 2015 Asian on Film Festival, the 2015 Las Vegas Lift-Off International Film Festival Lift-Off International, and the 2015 Hollyshorts Film Festival.
To find out more about this musical genius, make sure to check out our interview below, as well as his website: www.danielraijman.com
Where are you from? What was it like growing up there?
DR: I’m from Buenos Aires Argentina, a very culturally rich city that has a strong jazz scene and known for its big names Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel who brought Tango to the world. Often, I would go to the Teatro Colon, the main opera house. The city flows with musical inspiration and eminent figures in the music industry that grew up there, such as Gustavo Santaolalla and Lalo Schifrin.
Buenos Aires gave me the opportunity to be influenced by, and play with, some of the most influential musicians in Argentina, such as Walter Malosetti, Javier Malosetti, Oscar Giunta, Hernan Jacinto and Pino Marrone, among others.
How and when did you get into music?
DR: I always loved music, especially jazz and blues. Since I was a little kid, I created melodies and composed songs. By the age of 8, I began learning piano and when I turned 11 I switched to guitar, which is my main instrument. During high school, it was very clear to me that I wanted to become a musician, so I continued to study guitar privately. At age 17, I pursued that dream by enrolling in Escuela de Musica de Buenos Aires to get my bachelor’s degree.
After I graduated, I continued to take private guitar lessons with highly esteemed instructors in Buenos Aires. I took private lessons in jazz guitar with Pino Marrone, Franciso Rivero and Walter Malosetti, composition with Guillermo Klein, counterpoint with Edgar Ferrer and orchestration with Gabriel Senanes. I also took orchestration classes at Berklee, Boston with a focus on music for film and TV.
How many instruments do you play and how long have you been playing each?
DR: I’ve being playing guitar, which is my main instrument, and piano since I was a kid. I also play bass and various string instruments.
Who are some of your music influences, and how have they influenced you?
DR: I’m from the late 80s and I was lucky that I could listen to everything available at that time. I used to spend hours listening to Michael Jackson, who I was truly lucky to see perform in Buenos Aires in 1993. I also listened to Joe Pass and his wonderful chord melody arrangements as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Hendrix who were also big influences.
Of course, I grew up watching all the Steven Spielberg movies that John Williams scored and that definitely influenced me a lot too.
When I started studying guitar, I was very influenced by the sound and harmonic choices of Pat Metheny. Though, one of my most important influences is Luis Alberto Spinetta, an iconic figure of the Argentinean rock scene. He is one of the most important Argentinean songwriters of all time and one of the first artists to bring Spanish lyrics into the rock genre in all of Latin America.
How would you describe your personal music style?
DR: I usually pay special attention to harmonies and I’m especially concerned about writing good melodies. Once I heard Bill Frisell -one of my favorite guitarist and composers- say, “The best you can do is to learn as much as you can and then forget it.” That totally makes sense to me. I use everything I’ve ever listened to on the projects I’ve worked on, and I still learn from them. I feel like my style is constantly developing.
I would say that, whether working on an orchestral piece, writing for a jazz group or scoring a movie, all the ideas come together and fit with all the music I have been influenced by, along with every project I’ve worked on, past and present, to create a unique style that I call my own.
Which bands and or projects have you played in?
DR: My first group was Quinta Estacion, a contemporary Jazz quartet. We recorded our album in 2008 and played actively in the Buenos Aires jazz scene. I played guitar and composed the music. Sebastian Kauderer played piano and also composed, Manuel Jauregui played bass and Tomas Finkelsztein played drums.
From 2006-2009, I tour around Argentina and Uruguay with Orquesta Kef and in 2010 I formed the group Pentafono, a contemporary jazz quintet. I composed most of the music and played guitars, Gaston Poirier played Alto Saxophone, Lucas Pierro played piano, Nicolas Fernandez played bass and Gustavo Chenu played drums. We recorded the album “Pentafono” at SoundRec studios, one of the most renowned studios in Buenos Aires. We played regularly at Republica de Aca, an iconic theatre in Buenos Aires and also organized a Jazz Festival, where some of the most significant jazz musicians participated, such as Ernesto Jodos and Carlos Alvarez.
In 2012, I worked as a producer and produced Rosario Barreto’s first album, “Imagem Imortal.” I also played with Gastón Poirier and Gabriela Echevarria at the Raijman-Poirier Duet Show.
In 2014, one of my songs ¨Lo Que Mueve Las Cosas¨ was included in Echevarria´s second Album “Alli.” I also played guitar and co-produced with Orlando Perez Rosso, “Música Ocañera Volumen 2” which recreates some of the most iconic music from Ocaña, Colombia.
Besides my work as a guitarist, I’ve composed original music for different national commercials for brands like Fibertel, Epson, American Airlines and Hair Recovery, among others.
What motivated you to pursue a career as a composer for film?
DR: I always wanted to compose music for film. I grew up watching some of the most wonderful movies scored by John Williams, Danny Elfman and Alan Silvestri. I love film and music, and together they create art that is unique.
What kind of training have you done in this field?
DR: I studied orchestration for film and TV at Berklee Collage of Music and graduated from the UCLA Extension Film Scoring Program with special mention. This program is one of the best film scoring programs in the world.
Not only did I get to learn about the craft of being a film composer but I also met some of the biggest composers in town such as Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. I got the chance to compose and conduct music and as well as the honor to have my music played by some of the most prolific players in the world.
When did you first get into film? How did you feel about it then, and what relationship do you have with the medium today?
DR: I first got into film in Buenos Aires writing music for commercials and building relationships with filmmakers. When I graduated from the UCLA Extension Film Scoring Program I start building relationships in Los Angeles with filmmakers and composer and worked with them.
In your own words, how would you describe the way the score brings a film to life?
DR: Music is often used in film to describe what is not on the screen but rather in your heart. It describes the emotions; what the audience feels, what the characters feel and how they feel it.
This is what makes music in film different than other genres. In a film, the scene gives the structure of the music. When a great score is fully integrated into a film, the magic of this art can be experienced.
Why is it such an important element in addition to the visual and narrative story unfolding before the audience?
DR: It is important to help to tell the story by making the audience feel what is happening on the screen. Music supports what you are seeing and can give you a clue to things that you see that aren’t as clear.
How did you land your first job in the industry?
DR: My first movie in Los Angeles was a drama and romance film called “An Opening to Closure” directed by Angelo Agojo. I composed the music and also played guitars for this project.
Can you talk about a few of your other film projects?
DR: I composed original music and played guitar on the score for the documentary “8 Seconds: Humane Decision Making of the IDF,” which was an official selection of the 2015 11th Annual USC School of Social Work Film Festival. The film, which was directed by Alexi Biener, was intended to spread awareness about the humane qualities of IDF soldiers who undergo ethics training during basic training, and how ethical decision-making is important in life altering situations. This project was especially interesting for me since I know the topic very well. I was very touched by the interviews and I immediately knew it would be a great project.
Composing three completely different cues to match the different part of the film was challenging. One of the cues had to represent the military part of the story so it had to be very intense and fast. I approached this cue as if it was a gigantic Hollywood opening title using a collection of percussion and brass in the low register, and using the horns to drive the melody; and in the end it reminded me of tracks by Hans Zimmer or Brian Tyler.
The next cue had to correlate with Israel and the authentic sounds that come from the music of the country. I used a lot of Middle Eastern percussion and woodwinds like Duduk, and composed the melody around the Phrygian major 3rd mode, which is always related to Jewish music.
For the last cue, I had to compose music that matched the soldier’s feelings. I accomplished this using a lot of strings accompanied by Middle Eastern percussion played at a slow rhythm. I truly loved working on this documentary.
I had a great experience composing an original score for director Zack Wu’s short film “Violet,” about a young man, Michael, who moves to a small town. His unexpected encounter with a beautiful girl named Violet was love at first sight, which make his dreams come true. Over the course of one night, romance blossoms as they head back to Michael’s house, revealing that the beautiful girl seems to want more than just romance.
Composing wall-to-wall music for this film with only a few days to deliver was a bit of a challenge but a great experience for me. To set the rhythm of this score, I started with the heartbeats of the character then looked for a rhythmic structure that would fit the film as a whole. I decided that I needed to establish a key and then play dissonant and poly-chords to match the contour of the scene, programming synths and multilayer pads to create complex textures that matched Violet’s complex character.
When you see the film, you can tell from the beginning that the music is telling the story and that something isn’t right between the couple. At the end, I used a clarinet solo to express the feelings of the characters. For the credits, the characters are relieved so I chose a lot of percussion and harmonies that would express that hope.
“An Opening to Closure,” a film directed by the talented filmmaker, producer and writer Angelo Agojo, is an excellent example of an original score I composed that tells what is not seen on the screen. The key in this film is the complexity of the relationship between Jake and Jessica, where one dinner meeting opens up all past wounds for an ex-couple at the most inconvenient of times. As well as composing, I played acoustic and electric guitars using all kinds of different guitar effects, in addition to synth programming. In the beginning of the film I focused on matching the opening cue to Jake’s movements as he plays his acoustic guitar.
Also, there is a love scene in which there is passion but at the same time, sadness and regret. I decided to match the groove of their breathing to an electric guitar rock solo, along with programmed synths. With the progression of the scene, I increased the distortion and the effects of the guitar. The music grows in intensity until there is clearly a feeling of sadness and loneliness. Then, by keeping the groove and letting the guitar fade out, the motif is introduced with a piano solo. I absolutely loved making music for this film.
What did your work add to the overall outcome/impact of the individual projects you listed above?
DR: I always try to put the best of all of my knowledge in every project I work on. When you have worked on so many different projects, you know you can deliver great work no matter what the style is. More importantly though, you learn from each project, and in the process you are able to give something back.
You have worked on a vast scope of productions over the course of your career, what makes you want to work on a project?
DR: What I look for in a project is a relationship– a collaboration between myself and the people I work with and the potential of the project. Then, I look for something interesting that I can learn from. Sometimes I just take a project because I think I will enjoy it a lot. It really depends on the each situation.
As a composer what upcoming projects will you be working on?
DR: I do have projects that I’m working on right now but I can’t say much about them. All I can say is that they are great and I look forward to delivering great music!
As a musician, do you have any upcoming releases?
DR: I’m working on my solo album, which is a combination of songs and instrumental music. I have some of the best players in town that will be recording with me.
What is your favorite genre of projects in terms of composing? Why?
DR: When I compose for groups, I like jazz because it gives me the freedom to express my ideas easily. It has no limits in terms of structure and style.
When I compose for film I especially like genres where the music plays a big role like comedy, drama and action films.