Composer Sean Tinnion talks “cinematic” new release




You may have heard the work of Perth composer Sean Tinnion without even realising it.

The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts graduate has produced the scores for documentaries such as Is Australia Racist? and the Secrets of Our Cities series for SBS, as well as the scores for the dance production Vincent and more than 30 short films.

Now, Sean has released his first album Timeless. Described as “written in a cinematic style for lovers of the film music genre”, this album has already received rave reviews from the likes of Aaron Wilson, Jessica Gethin and Bourby Webster.

We chat with Sean to learn more about his time at WAAPA, his work as a composer, and his phenomenal new album.

Hi Sean, thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at CutCommon, and congratulations on your new album! How does it feel to have a new release out in the world?

Thank you! It feels really quite amazing to be able to put something out into the world and to hopefully tune into people’s emotions. It’s a really unique and special feeling and I hope that people can take a little something away with them after listening to the album. There’s a lot of heart and soul in the music I’ve written for this, so hopefully that will shine through to audiences.

You graduated from WAAPA in 2015. How has this institution helped you become the composer you are today?

WAAPA was a wonderful experience for me. It certainly had its ups and downs, but what university course doesn’t? WAAPA really opened me up to new opportunities and created new working relationships. I met so many incredibly talented people during my time there, and so many projects I have had the pleasure of working on for the past two years since graduating have come from people that I met there. And I’m happy to say that I’m still collaborating with them, and most likely will be for the rest of my career.

WAAPA created life-long relationships for me, which I think is so important when entering into this industry. You really do have to try and make friends with all the right people in different areas of the creative business, because you never know who just might make it big one day. Working on lots of different projects during my time there really helped me find my own unique voice in film music and pretty much as a composer in general.

Your catalogue of work includes a wide variety of short film and documentary scores. Which scores have been the most rewarding to work on?

To be perfectly honest, I enjoy working on any score. I don’t really have favourites as I put the same amount of work and emotion into every project I work on. But in the sense of rewarding, I would have to say the feature documentaries I have scored for Joined Up Films and SBS have pushed me further as a composer, and has led to a lot more work from them. But all the short films I have scored have been wonderful to work on, too.

There are so many talented upcoming directors, producers, and writers out there – and it’s really rewarding to be able to say that I’ve worked on quite a lot of their productions and simply just helped to tell a story in my own way through music.

Would you consider the work of a film and TV composer to differ from that of a ‘traditional’ composer (if there is such a thing)?

In some ways, yes, they do have their differences. A film and TV composer isn’t just composing music for a concert or show. They are writing music quite tediously to match whatever is happening on screen. To me, it’s a very different ball game writing music for picture. With concert music or an album, you have a lot more freedom to work with. For film and TV, you’re – in some cases -restricted to certain ideas depending on what the producers and directors want. Sometimes, you can put your own swing on the score and take it in a different direction to what the producer/director wanted. But other times, they are more rigid on what they want the music to do. So you must stick to that and somehow work that into your own style of writing, and simply just make it work.

I have had some experience in writing concert music for the Perth Symphony Orchestra late last year, so I can see the difference between the two. Concert music is certainly something I would like to do more of!

Your album Timeless is described as “written in a cinematic style for lovers of the film music genre”. Without giving away any of your trade secrets, did you achieve such a style?

I think I did achieve it to the best of my ability. The album is basically a soundtrack without the movies to go with it. Each track is its own piece of music that could potentially be in a film. That was how I wrote the album. I tried to envisage each track with a film in mind while writing them. I can definitely say that this album will be the first of many from me in this style.

Who have been the biggest influences on your album, and on your career at large?

Majority of the time, I choose to listen to film music, TV series soundtracks, concert music, etc. But film soundtracks are at the top of my list. My biggest influences include Howard Shore, James Newton Howard, James Horner, Hans Zimmer, Alan Silvestri, Thomas Newman, Steven Price; the list really could go on, but that’s just to name a remarkable selection that frequently appears in my playlists.

Which tracks do you consider to be highlights of the album?

I would have to say the lead single from the album Forgotten Memories, as well as the main track Timeless and Gone But Not Goodbye. I enjoyed writing each and every track on the album and to me, each one is equally special as they all tell a different story. Not just to me, but to my listeners, as well. That’s the wonderful thing about instrumental music. There are no words to influence the listener on what to feel and think, but purely lets them decide for themselves what the piece could be about. It allows them to be completely open with emotion.

What do you hope for audiences to take away from Timeless?

My goal for this album is to try and show people how important film music and music alike is. It has the ability to add a whole extra layer of feelings and emotions to any movie/TV series or whatever the media might be. I think a lot of people don’t realise how much music can affect a production, and I think the more that people listen to film soundtracks, they can truly appreciate what it does. So, to release an album of this style, completely on its own without the accompaniment of a movie, is like a small step forward for me in trying to show people how powerful this genre really is and how emotionally touching it can be.

Sean Tinnion’s new release Timeless is out now.


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