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In addition to talent and hard work, empathy can be a tool that opens a door to wonderful ventures. It worked for alumnus Daniel Gadd ’14G, author of the score for the film The Girl from the Song, released earlier this year in Spain He mirrored himself on Eric, the film’s primary character, inspiring him to compose the main song and impress director Ibai Abad and producer Marta Rodríguez Coronil.
“Eric is a singer and guitar player and I am, too, and I think Abad and Rodríguez Coronil could tell right away that I related to the character and the story,” Gadd said. “All in all, I think it was a good first impression, and … we were on the same page and … could work together well from the beginning.”
After graduating from Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, with a Master of Music in Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games (SFTV), Gadd returned to his hometown of Cape Town, South Africa, where he recorded and released the album “As If in a Dream I Drifted at Sea. In July 2015, Lucio Godoy, program director of the Master of Music in SFTV, was contacted by Rodríguez Coronil, who wanted to take a Berklee alumnus on board.
“We provided them with a list of names,” Godoy said, “and when Daniel met with the director they understood each other straight away.” Gadd was thankful for the opportunity. “Living in South Africa and being able to pitch for a film being produced in Spain was quite unexpected, and I’m really grateful to Lucio for making that possible,” he said.
The film tells the story of a young musician who travels to Burning Man, a psychedelic festival in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, in an attempt to win over the impetuous girl with whom he has fallen in love. Gadd explained that the film was shot in London and at Burning Man. “The main feature of the score is the acoustic guitar, as it represents Eric’s character and its sound develops with him on his journey,” he said. “In the beginning of the film, he is in London studying classical music, so we wanted the music to be pure, innocent, and a little naive as he’s in a kind of sheltered world.”
As Eric heads to the festival, the score transitions with the journey. Gadd brought in electronic instruments, synth leads, and pads, as well as adding acoustic sounds, to find a way to musically describe this unique world. “The idea was to create a delicate balance between moments of fear of the unknown and moments of wonder and awe,” he said. The guitar gets swallowed up by these sounds and disappears, but gradually emerges as Eric grows more confident at the festival.
Working with the crew was a back-and-forth process. Gadd explained that the main song was based on the script, and by the time he started working on the score he already had seen a rough cut of the Burning Man part. He said Abad and Rodríguez Coronil had a strong and clear vision for the film, which he found very helpful. “If some music wasn’t quite working for a scene, they would point to specific moments and describe what they wanted the audience to feel at that point,” Gadd said, “which made it so much easier to figure out what the music needs to be doing there.”
Watch the trailer of The Girl of the Song feating Gadd's original compositions:
Time management was a big test. Gadd had to juggle moving to London; working as a freelance developer for a sample library company; teaching piano lessons; assisting for composers and orchestrators; and recording and mixing for the film. “It all got done and ended up being a hugely rewarding experience, as I learned about ways to improve workflow and speed through processes,” he said. “All of the trial and error is valuable because it means that the process will only be better and improved next time.”
Gadd said his education at Berklee Valencia helped him gain confidence throughout the process. “I knew what to expect at every stage, and even though it was a new experience working on something of this scale, I always felt like I was prepared enough to be able to handle it,” he said.
In his view, this is a major benefit of the Master of Music in SFTV program. Students are able “to do everything, from demo writing and parts preparation to recording, engineering, and mixing,” he said. “It maybe seems like a small thing, but when you start to work on a big project for the first time, just having an understanding of what is going to be involved can give you a lot of really valuable confidence—which frees you up from worrying and lets you focus on being creative.”