Q&A with Tess Tyler, Composer and Lecturer
Tess Tyler M.M. ‘14 learned how to come to terms with the difficulties in pursuing a career in media composition at Berklee Valencia.
“The support, kindness, and passion that I felt during my time at Berklee has carried into my social and professional life to this day. Personally, I think that this is a unique quality that cannot be replicated anywhere else.”
Tess Tyler M.M. ‘14 is currently composing and developing a contemporary re-score of the 1920s Soviet film Man with a Movie Camera with Women Make Music as well as scoring a series of short horror films directed by Chris Cronin. Previously, she composed the score for the LEGO® Marvel’s Avengers and LEGO® Worlds video game franchises and had the opportunity to collaborate with her idol, Imogen Heap, in the creation of the single “Marble.” In addition, she is a degree-level tutor for production techniques for visual media and music for video games at dBs Music Bristol in England.
Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in Berklee’s Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games program at the Valencia campus?
In the year approaching my time at Berklee, I was teaching singing at a musical theater academy, writing my own songs, and getting a few gigs here and there as a jingle writer for TV advertisements across the United Kingdom and Europe. At this point, I knew that visual media was where I wanted to be, but I found it next to impossible to get involved with projects that I found interesting or that would help to enhance my future career. I looked at many master’s degree programs all over the globe and found that Berklee offered the most “hands on” experience for a composer pursuing a career in visual media. The opportunity to record at an internationally renowned scoring stage was enough for me; the rest turned out to be a huge bonus.
What’s the most important lesson that you learned at Berklee?
The most important thing I learned was how to come to terms with the difficulties in pursuing a career in media composition. I remember our program director, Lucio Godoy, saying to us all, "If you think you can pursue a career in anything else, you should probably go ahead with that because this is very hard.” After pondering this statement for a while, I realized that there truly was nothing else I could envision myself doing long term and genuinely enjoying it. That’s when I knew that I was in the right place with the right people. All of our faculty managed to be supportive and realistic at the same time.
How has your Berklee experience influenced you as a professional?
There are lots of ways that Berklee has influenced my current working life; however, I would say that the technical knowledge I gained (from using a variety of digital audio workstations to setting up various studio sessions) was perhaps the most valuable. The ability to create realistic-sounding mock-ups, develop a fast workflow, and have a comprehensive knowledge of music technology (in addition to being a good composer) is an invaluable and expected skill set in this industry. It’s also very important to mention that during my time at Berklee I developed a very strong network of friends and peers. I didn’t expect this upon my arrival, nor did I know how wonderfully important their support was until I had experienced it.
Why would you tell other students to come to Berklee’s campus in Valencia to study?
The most obvious answer to this question is the high level of knowledge students will absorb from their fellow classmates, faculty, and experiences on campus. However, despite the educational preparation it gives students for their desired industry post-graduation, it perhaps more importantly provides the opportunity to build a close network of like-minded friends and peers. The support, kindness, and passion that I felt during my time at Berklee has carried into my social and professional life to this day. Personally, I think that this is a unique quality that cannot be replicated anywhere else. Oh, and it's worth mentioning that the abundance of sun, wine, and tapas are also an absolute delight.
What is your fondest memory of your time at the Valencia campus?
There are two memories that I can’t quite decide between. The first was hearing one of my pieces being played back to me for the first time at a remote recording session with the Budapest Art Orchestra. My heart was in my mouth the entire time. I’ll never forget it. The other was when I saw my composition “Amygdala” being performed in collaboration with the masterfully elegant choreography of Berklee’s very own Clara Barberá. I have a background in dance, so it was particularly special to see and hear this very unique work come together so beautifully in front of an audience.
Tell us about your work for LEGO®, and where has it been featured?
My compositions for the LEGO® video games are featured as part of the Marvel’s Avengers and Worlds franchises. In collaboration with the composer Rob Westwood, we wrote scores for full orchestra with additional electronic elements. I felt particularly privileged to work on these projects as we got to record them live with the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra. It’s so great to hear orchestral works come to life after you’ve been locked in a studio for months on end with the mock-ups. My work has been broadcast on Classic FM’s High Score radio show, presented by my dear friend and mentor Jessica Curry. A specially arranged medley of the LEGO® Marvel’s Avengers score has also been performed across Europe by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and their fantastic conductor, Pete Harrison, as part of their Heroes and Legends series.
You developed the project entitled The Life of a Song alongside Imogen Heap, and as a result you composed, performed, and produced the single “Marble,” which was released in November 2016. Can you tell us more about that experience and working with Heap?
The respect I have for her as an artist, innovator, and general human being is unprecedented. She’s been my idol since I was 14, so having the opportunity to work alongside her was almost like having a week-long out-of-body experience. One standout moment for me was when we were trying out various vocal top lines for the single we were writing. After a while of experimenting, I realized that Imogen was harmonizing with my main vocal melody. She was harmonizing with me! I still can’t quite believe that happened.
Are you still lecturing in the visual media undergraduate course at dBs Music Bristol? What aspect of this work do you enjoy the most?
I do still lecture at dBs. The best thing is that through teaching you’re always learning. My students are amazing at challenging my perspective on music and its role within the audio-visual industry. I learn from them probably just as much as they learn from me. It definitely keeps me on my toes, which is super helpful when remaining up to date with the ever-developing industry. The feeling I get from imparting knowledge of my craft, and seeing it materialize in others is so unbelievably rewarding. Composing can be quite a solitary job, so working with lots of fresh and passionate minds is very valuable to me and my wellbeing.
Are there any other projects you have been involved with that you would like to share with us?
I’m currently working with the Women Make Music fund by PRS for Music Foundation to compose and develop a contemporary re-score of the Soviet film Man with a Movie Camera (1927). We’re hoping to take this project on tour across the U.K. next year with a small jazz ensemble. I’m also working on a terrifying series of short horror films with the lovely film director Chris Cronin. Soon I will begin work on a new and exciting independent video game, too. Unfortunately I’m under strict instructions not to divulge any information on this just yet.