Darling of the Decks: From Lush Strings to Dirty Beats

It’s more fun when it’s a collaboration and everyone brings in a fan base who is then being exposed to the work of other local musicians.

22 Jul 2016

Movie scores to dance floors

Alistair Marsden is just as at home in a sweaty club as he is arranging a cliffhanger string section for the silver screen.

The aspiring musician, who pathwayed from the Diploma of Sound Production into the Bachelor of Contemporary Music Practice, hasn’t waited for graduation day before starting his career.

In his first year of study he’d written a Q Music Award-winning dance track, Days of Doom, featuring fellow Brisbane muso and vocalist SASKIA, and has since gone on to compose musical scores in six independent movies, one of which is currently touring the festival circuit in the US.

“It was the first single I put out under the solo project that I do called AJ,” he said.

“SASKIA suggested putting it into the Q Music awards, so we did and then this happened. Since then I’ve just been working on getting a lot of material together for an EP, that can be used for a live show.”

Though Alistair had a musical background, playing guitar, piano, violin and drums in his early high school years, it was the discovery of technology that allowed him to thread together mixed tapes, paired with a love of entertaining, that lead him to consider a career in electronic music.

And though his two projects may seem worlds apart, he believes that working with the rich orchestral elements used to make complex movie scores, has helped him find his own “sound” as an electronic musician.

“It’s quite hard trying to find your own sound in music,” he said.

“You know when Calvin Harris is being played on the radio and you can pick a Skrillex or Avicii song just by how it sounds.

“Dance music and film scores use the same musical theories and I definitely find myself writing orchestral sections and using orchestral instruments in dance songs as well as film scores. They go hand-in-hand and it helps me expand my musical sound as well.”

Though technology means musicians can create, produce and distribute lush musical landscapes in their own bedrooms, Alistair believes collaborating with other musos is what makes his art magical.

“I’ve collaborated with a rapper/singer called Calligraphy, who’s an amazing lyricist, on another single,” he said.

“I have another singer that comes in and I do a lot of writing with him too – it’s more fun when it’s a collaboration and everyone brings in a fan base who is then being exposed to the work of other local musicians.

“Within my classes at TAFE I’ve worked with a heavy metal drummer and a death metal guitarist and it’s interesting hearing their take on your genre or how they perceive their genre and getting their feedback on different elements being used in each other’s music. We definitely work together.”

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The Bachelor of Contemporary Music Practice is a University of Canberra degree delivered in partnership with TAFE Queensland at our South Bank, Brisbane campus. 

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