Ariel Marx, composer of "The Tale" #Sundance

Featured as one of ASCAP's Composers to Watch and recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Henry Mancini Fellowship, Ariel Marx is an award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist for film, TV, and multimedia. Most recently, Ariel completed the score for two projects that will premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Jennifer Fox’s “The Tale” starring Laura Dern, Jason Ritter, and Common and “Hair Wolf” a short film that takes places in gentrifying Brooklyn. She has also scored dramas “West of Her” and “By Jingo.” Outside of film, she has scored television series including comedy series “UnChartered” and “The Pioneers.” Ariel has additionally contributed to “Blind” starring Demi Moore and Alec Baldwin, and assisted composer Marcelo Zarvos on Showtime’s “The Affair” starring Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, as well as, Amazon’s “Z: The Beginning of Everything” starring Christina Ricci and “Wonder” starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson.

Her scores have premiered alongside films at national and international film festivals, such as Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW—winning awards at several for her musical contributions. Ariel draws from many different genres and often combines orchestral and folk instruments with electronics to create unique worlds of sound. Ariel earned her Masters of Music degree in composition with a concentration in film scoring from New York University's Steinhardt program, and is currently an Adjunct Faculty.

We had a chat with Ariel, here are the excerpts.

  • What's your process of composing music for a film. Do you read the script, collaborate with director, and what more/else?

It really depends from project to project, and what stage of the process I come in at. For instance, on a film I’m currently working on, I was able to read the script before it was filmed and visit the set. With “The Tale,” the film had already been shot and edited, so I was working with a final product. Regardless of what stage I come in at, to me, the most important step is determining the palette. What is the tone of the score? What instrumentation? What sort of presence will it have? After these larger aesthetics are established, I dive into writing specific themes and scoring individual scenes, always keeping the bigger picture in mind. 

  • What was the most challenging part of working on this particular film?

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of scoring this film was to convey the complexity of the mechanics of memory and perspective through music. I ultimately settled on writing a score that had several individualized, self-sustaining motors — or spinning gears — that could interlock and separate and join again, transformed — just like our memories, and perceptions of them. 

  • What are your favorite films (from music perspective) and your favorite composers?

This is a hard question because there are so many incredible working composers. This answer could really change from day to day, but in this moment, my two answers are the collaborations between composer Jonny Greenwood and director Paul Thomas Anderson and director Joe Wright and composer Dario Marianelli. 

  • What's your advice to other aspiring musicians and composers who want to break into this business?

The best advice I received was that no one gets into this business the same way — there is no formulaic strategy to success. This has always inspired me because there is no uniform checklist of pre-requisites, and therefore you have to be your own trailblazer. All of the opportunities that have come my way are from connections I made with new filmmakers in New York City while I was in school. My best advice is to develop a unique and authentic voice, find kindred collaborators that create stories that inspire you, and push yourself to grow as a composer and collaborator.