“What got me interested in Alexander Held and his work was his diversity and proficiency with electronic sounds. It has also been evident that Alex is very eclectic in his compositional approach and has mastered many styles of music, but is keeping his own musical voice…His unique compositions have attracted the attention of the international music festival circuit and have had their debuts worldwide: in New York, in the Czech Republic, in Germany, just to name a few—Petr Kotik, artistic director of the Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble, which has performed at Carnegie Hall”
Alexander Held. Is one. Busy music composer.
Germany-born Held has been getting commissions to create music for professional ensembles worldwide since he was in College. Brought up on listening to the likes of music legends such as Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Fausto Romitelli, Gerard Grisey, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, now Held’s prodigious talents have made him extraordinarily in demand.
Indeed, alongside his ongoing commissions, he has participated in huge international festivals including: the International European Composers Slam 2022 where he was “immensely honored” to represent his country and have a large piece performed; at various shows like the Composer Orchestra Concert, Manhattan School of Music, “Apply Triangle” Ensemble Tour, Goho Ol Ollog Lincoln Center Performance, SinusTon Festival, and the Ostrava Festival. Additionally, there was his contribution to that Zodiac Festival in the French countryside, about which he recalls “was a great change of pace from the usual busy City life.”
“We were thrilled to have Alexander participate in our Zodiac Festival, as we are well aware of his reputation and significant achievements as a composer. Alexander has made headlines in his native Europe, but also has made big waves in the United States, where he has worked alongside high-profile Hollywood Film composers—Kliment Krylovskiy, the Artistic Director of the world-renowned Zodiac Festival, who has also given performances at the White House and Kennedy Center in Washington, DC”
Overall, internationally recognized composer Held enthuses that it’s always thrilling to get commissioned to write pieces for a festival or ensemble. But he’s also been expanding his repertoire, as he’s been working in Hollywood on film composing. He insightfully talks about the importance of music to the storytelling involved in movies: “Music has always been a core part of storytelling on the big screen. The best first example of that would be Max Steiner who composed the music for the early blockbuster movie King Kong in 1933. Without the score the movie would not have had the scary effect the director was aiming for. Ever since then, music has become an integral element of any film.”
So very true.
Moreover, Held notes something that Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg once said about legendary music composer John Williams' music: “Without John Williams, bikes don’t really fly, nor do brooms in Quidditch matches, nor do men in red capes. There is no Force, dinosaurs do not walk the Earth, we do not wonder, we do not weep, we do not believe.”
We huddled with Alexander Held to talk further about his background and inspirations, his take on music as a major element of storytelling on the big and little screen.
It is very different from most other music out there, not following most musical conventions such as diatonic harmonies and steady rhythms. The way that those pieces are usually written are for classical instruments, such as the Cello or the clarinet, but I have included playback, live processing and synthesizers into my pieces to create a more unique experience.
I am very interested in music tech in general and it is a very vast field. From the digital world that includes digital audio workstations such as Cuebase and Logic Pro to write music, and Pro Tools for recording and editing. But then there is the gear side of it that I really love such as electric guitars, synthesizers and drum machines that take you away from the computer and offer a more haptic experience. Speaking of guitar, the instrument helped me re-discover my inherent love of music in my later teens, and then I knew that this is what I wanted to do in life. Indeed, guitar still plays a role as one of my most recent projects has been working on the SoundLinks Festival piece called “Prism” for the Cologne Guitar Quartet.
I believe in having a strong sense for complex harmonies, such as distorted “overtone spectra” and “symmetrical constructs.” Having studied contemporary music, which is less intuitive when writing it and more conceptually constructed, might be something very exciting to bring to the table of storytelling. In cinema this has already been used by brilliant director Stanley Kubrick who used the music of contemporary concert composer Geörgy Ligeti in films like Eyes Wide Shut, with Tom Cruise, back to The Shining with Jack Nicholson.
One can only dream big, but I just want to say that I am so happy and fortunate to be doing what I love. Working in music is a wonderful privilege by itself. I have had many great opportunities all over the world so far, having my music performed in some very esteemed venues. I hope that I can continue living off of writing music and can continue creating it. The wonderful thing about the arts is that there are so many great possibilities and chances one can take, so the sky really is the limit, whether it’s a short piece played in front of a tiny audience or bringing my musical language to film and scoring a big Hollywood blockbuster. My dream is to experience the whole spectrum!
Here's to Alexander Held helping to make brooms fly in Quidditch matches, and may the “Force” be with composers like him.
Ashley is an award-winning journalist/author/blogger who has written for Playboy, Toronto Star, Movie Entertainment, Sports Illustrated, Maclean's and others. He's interviewed various "leaders" in their fields, including: Oscar winners (Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lawrence, Alicia Vikander, Jane Fonda, Mira Sorvino, Geena Davis, Anthony Hopkins); Grammy winners (Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Ice Cube, Pete Townshend); MVPs in sports (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Kobe Bryant); and, business leaders (Amazon's Jeff Bezos). He has an upcoming novel, REJEX, coming out on Pulp Hero Press. And he has written several episodic TV shows, appeared on CNN, and blogged for Mademan, Medium, GritDaily and HuffPost.