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Soundhive Sessions: Composing the blues with Christopher North

The renowned film composer reveals his workflow

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Watch Christopher North share how he discovers the perfect sound with the Seaboard RISE.

Film composer Christopher North visited our Brooklyn studio for the latest ROLI Soundhive Session — a series that explores the cool projects that ROLI artists are working on right now.

Christopher North is a prolific, polymathic musician. He’s composed soundtracks for over 20 feature films. That only covers a fraction of his compositional work which extends to television, plays, dance performances, and chamber music. Not only does he play multiple instruments from the double bass to the piano to a panoply of synths. He’s also a classically trained, Grammy-nominated singer. And in his spare time he’s a music educator and mentor at New York’s 92nd Street Y.

Composing for film is all about feeling out musical ideas in real time, he says. That’s where the Seaboard RISE comes in.

“My production process is two-pronged. First I think about sounds and getting the right tone and vibe for the picture. Then I think about notes, chord progressions, and rhythms, and I start sketching out my ideas. With the Seaboard you can often do this all at once. It’s all about the gestures, and how from the first time I play a sound it’s embedded with all this incredible 5D feedback that develops organically and intuitively into something else.”

In this Session he talks about his soundtrack for Two Trains Runnin', a documentary about civil rights and the blues. He played every instrumental sound in the track. Some are from acoustic instruments like the banjo and double bass. But the signature sound is a hammered dulcimer — which he loaded up in Equator and played on the Seaboard. Organically and intuitively, the sounds mesh together to evoke the heart of the blues.

ROLI Soundhive Sessions is a new film series that focuses on artists, their projects, and their specific ROLI workflows. Some of the films showcase performances. Others focus more on production techniques. All of them delve into the practical solutions that musicians have discovered when they create with the Seaboard, BLOCKS, and the ROLI software suite. Check out the others in the series: