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Pokemon film composer goes to ANU School of Music

Ken Lampl

Professor Ken Lampl. Image by Stuart Hay/ANU

Monday 8 August 2016

A composer of more than 70 feature films, television series, short films and video games, including the first two Pokemon movies, has joined The Australian National University (ANU) School of Music.

Professor Kenneth Lampl began as a jazz saxophonist before switching to composing, training under the legendary John Williams. He’s excited about sharing his music composition, technology and audio engineering expertise with ANU students.

“The experience of discovery is very much an integral part of my teaching methodology,” Bronx-born Professor Lampl says.

“When someone discovers something for themselves, it’s something that they’ll never forget.

 “I think the most that we can do as professors is to create an environment for students to discover things on their own and find their own voice be it as a classical composer, electronic music artist, multimedia composer or audio engineer.”

Professor Lampl, whose teaching experience includes the Juillliard School, the Shanghai Conservatory, the Danish National Conservatory, the USC Film Scoring Program and Hofstra University, says his classes are hands-on, be it helping students compose a piece of music or mixing and engineering using music software.

“I give them the chance to dig in and have their ‘aha!’ moment themselves, because while you always remember your ‘aha’ moment, you won’t necessarily remember the content of the class.

“The ‘aha’ and discovery moment is integral if you’re teaching people to be artists, because that’s how you know what you’ve done is good… that they can find truth and authenticity in their own work.”

Professor Lampl’s own extensive work history spans jazz, classical orchestras, choir music, numerous television series and films including Frontera starring Ed Harris, the multi-award-winning Kandisha, and on the team behind the Pokemon movies.

Composing for film differs from other types of composing in that your music has to be approved by someone else, Professor Lampl says.

“You have to write in the musical vocabulary that speaks to the broadest possible audience,” he explains.

“For me there’s a great joy in working as a team of people writing the kind of music that touches a sort of universal nerve and has a universal resonance among the audience.”

Professor Lampl enjoys ambient music, dubstep, and artists like Skrillex and Kill the Noise, and the late rapper Tupac.

 “I listen to a lot of rap and hiphop because I’m very interested in the audio production. I think audio production is part of a vocabulary that composers need to know, whether you are an orchestral composer, chamber music composer or an electronic music composer.

“I’m always listening to something that both touches me emotionally, and music that  I can learn something from be it composition or  audio production.”

Despite having been in Canberra less than a month, a community choir has already accepted one of Professor Lampl’s choral pieces and will perform it in November.

That energy, that eagerness to be involved in local scenes wherever he lives, forms part of why Professor Lampl has never stopped loving and creating music since seeing his first jazz saxophonist improvised performance when he was nine.

“My mother brought me to the local library to see live jazz, and my mind was blown because as I watched that saxophonist improvise, I could not understand where that music was coming from and that fascinated me,” he recalls.

“My entire life from that point on has been trying to figure that out and no matter how much education I have and how many thousands of hours of music I’ve written, I feel that I’m no closer to finding the answer to that question.  What I can say for sure is that the same enthusiasm and curiosity I had as a child is undiminished and burns just as brightly now as it did then.”

Hear Professor Lampl explain all about our music programs at ANU Open Day on 27 August.

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Updated:  24 October, 2017/Responsible Officer:  College Dean/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications