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  • Writer's pictureKaTania Brown

Meet the Neighbors: Composer Lara Golan

In the next part of the Meet the Neighbors series we will be chatting with Belonging in the USA co-composer Lara Golan. She is the creative musical mind that creates the powerful compositions that are a perfect compliment to our project.

Q. Can you share your musical background?

A. I grew up in a musical family. My dad Joseph Golan, was the principal second violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as many different types of freelance gigs. My father had a huge musical influence on me as a musician. Within the family my brothers were also musicians. Of course, I would marry someone with a musical background. My husband Doug is a guitarist/singer/songwriter, we have explored the amazing world Although I dabbled with clarinet for a while, I was drawn to piano. The clarinet opened the door to playing with all sorts of musical group activities in high school and college, such as the marching band, wind ensemble, jazz band (on piano), playing in the pit orchestras and school musicals.

Before I finished high school I knew I wanted to focus on composing. After the completion of college, I received my masters in music composition at Northwestern University.

Q. How long have you been composing?

A. Well, in a way since I was a kid. I used to make up songs and melodies quite a bit. But of course it became more formal in both high school and college. I wouldn't have considered myself a professional until 2005. I've done a real mix of random compilations since then such as educational video game music, work for the Redmoon Theater, music for a comedic operatic group called Forte Chicago, as well as a wide variety of genres for documentaries/films.

Q. What drew you to this project?

A. I knew I wanted to collaborate with Arielle at some point but it worked out that I really loved the concept for Belonging in the USA and I really loved the subject of Michael D. McCarty. I was even more excited to learn that it is going to be a series with particular interest due to the current state of the political climate.

Q. What is your normal process for your compositions?

A. The first thing I do when I start a new project (that is a collaboration and involves a visual piece or a storyline) is to ask if the director has any particular ideas or vision for the music. If so, I’ll watch/listen to anything suggested and start bringing the desired mood or style into my conscious process.

If I have creative control, I simply watch the film and see what comes up! I often have music in my head as I watch and just start taking notes about the ideas that pop up. Soon after that, I’ll start messing around on the keyboard as the scenes are playing, testing out my ideas and recording rough takes. I rarely work from beginning to end, but start with the scenes that jump out at me as having a clear calling for a certain type of scoring.

Q. What is your creative technique?

A. To be honest I don't adhere to a particular technique. In fact, I often feel like I am more of an improviser than a composer. Music just seems to pour out of me and it with works or it doesn't. If it doesn't, I start all over. I really don't think about it much and just get into a zone and see what comes up.

Q. What was the most challenging part of the project?

A. The most challenging part of working on a documentary like this, is trying to find a balance between writing music that is interesting and dynamic but doesn't distract or compete with the dialogue or visuals.

Q. How long did it take to you come with the concept for this project?

A. I always dive right into a project, full-speed ahead. I have been told I work very quickly. I typically don't have to spend a great deal of time planning or considering things, I watch the footage and begin writing the same day.

Q. What emotions do you want the viewer to come away with?

A. I don't like to overplay my role as a film composer and use the music to insist the viewers feels a certain way. I do try to capture the emotions that the films stirs up for me personally. This documentary has such a wide variety of emotions embedded in the story! Fear, suspense, sadness, strength, love,

happiness, frustration, relief and many more. In that regard it really has been a truly interesting project to be a part of.

Arielle Nóbile & Lara Golan January 2019

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