Recently we spoke with the composer Georges Streicher on his career in television, film and video games and on his new orchestral album Halloween, music of the macabre.
Horror Geek Life: Let’s get down to business and talk about your orchestral Halloween album live music of the macabre. Where did the idea to put this together come from?
George Streicher: Honestly, it happened in 2020 during Covid; I was stuck at home for seven months. When fall came I was hit with a lot of Halloween memories from when I was a kid, I started rummaging through old boxes and found Halloween CDs and tapes to go with. I grew up and was inspired to try and do something that could possibly sit alongside these. It all reminded me of things I loved as a kid, Halloween, movies, books, TV, theme parks, etc.
Horror Geek Life: Did you have a creative structure for this album, or did it change on the fly?
George Streicher: It definitely changed on the fly, although I knew I wanted to make the album a combination of full orchestral pieces and then smaller sets of duets and trios and things like that. As for the different styles I wanted to try out and capture, initially I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted. I wanted a lyrical album.
You could write a Halloween album with lots of strumming strings and drones, but I wanted it to be a Halloween album that wasn’t from the classic repertoire we’re so used to and wasn’t taken from a film. These plays are all written for Halloween. They have strong melodies and are easy to listen to.
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Horror Geek Life: What kind of memories do you have of the horror genre and the music behind the movies?
George Streicher: I remember growing up I had a CD called Crypt ClassicsI think it was RCA or something, but my first exposure to horror music was “Night on Bald Mountain”, “Dream of a Witches Sabbath”, “Symphony Fantastique and Funeral March of a Marionette” , who is the Alfred Hitchcock presents adjust. I listen to them now, and they’re not very scary (laughs), but when I was a kid, that stuff terrified me, it was really scary.
Then I remember discovering the brilliant and being exposed to this modern concert music, which is really weird, and we still hear it today… and the “Monster Mash.” (Laughs)
Horror Geek Life: Horror movies and their music have a very loyal fanbase. Was it daunting to take on a project like this in the genre, or was it more of a labor of love?
George Streicher: A great labor of love, but it was really hard. I did things that I had never done before, and I just tried things that I had never tried before. Of course, working with a large orchestra can be complicated. When you get to writing this kind of music, it can be complicated, but I really tried to find a way to do everything.
For example, there’s a track on the album called Scherzo for a Harvest Moon and what I did for that was I took, I found out in a lot of film scores that they used “Chopin’s Funeral March” as the basis for a lot of melodic and harmonic material, the most famous is the imperial march. Another is the theme of Hocus Pocus. I took that and tried to build my own track out of that, so I tried to keep things in the world and connect them harmonically. Even if you don’t notice it, it’s there.
Another great example of a labor of love and trying to find your way around and attract Halloween memories is there’s a creepy, shaky ghost from the 80s and 90s everyone knows the sound, and I took it and used it as a kind of nostalgic love letter to Halloween from my childhood. I was surprised how many people immediately recognize this sound, and the piece works because of it. It’s kind of a wistful Halloween longing when I was a kid, I guess.
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Horror Geek Life: Becoming a composer is no ordinary childhood dream. How did this interest develop for you?
George Streicher: Movies, one hundred percent movies. I come from a rather musical family; we have all played or played instruments and studied music in one way or another. My father was an amateur and my mother played the flute, but for me it was always through the movies. Movies introduced me to so much music.
Of course, everyone knows John Williams; he ushered generations into the romantic era of big orchestral sound. My father introduced us to Henry Mancini and Crypt Classics and everything, but movies have always been my connection to it. It wasn’t until much later that I started to take music seriously and appreciate it for the music, instead of being attached to anything else, and that’s what I wanted to do with this album. , for Halloween lovers.
Horror Geek Life: Was it hard to make a career out of composing?
George Streicher: It was extraordinarily difficult. I know a lot of people who have been in this business much longer than I have and are much more successful, and it’s still very difficult for them. It’s constant competition. You really have to be on top to grow, and you have to be on top of trends and, of course, technology, which becomes easier and easier the more you are exposed to it, like with phones, for example . But yeah, it’s really hard.
I remember when I started and got on YouTube, and people found it. I can’t imagine trying to do that now. There are now a million composers on YouTube with these huge followings, tutorials and such. I wasn’t hired to do this album or anything. This is where I find the greatest joy: writing music, expressing myself, having an idea, and following it through, not waiting for a project to come to me. That’s the beauty of being a writer, you can sit on your own and write as long as you want, as big as you want and whatever you want, and you don’t have to wait to get hired to do it, because opposed to say a director, which would be a little more difficult.
Horror Geek Life: There’s been an infusion of interest in live orchestral music, thanks to the new concert series where you can watch a movie with a live orchestra. Did it help or make the competition more difficult?
George Streicher: Personally, I was not impacted by this. Most of what I do is still synthesized virtual orchestra, which is almost everything today, an unfortunate but realistic development. I also go to a lot of these new concert series, and I see a lot of young people there, so hopefully in the next decade, or whatever the next generation, there will be a love for orchestral symphonic scores for movies. I hope these new concerts will remind people how important this is.
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Horror Geek Life: You’ve worked in television, film, and video games in your career. Do you have a favorite medium to work with??
George Streicher: Film, of course. I like to tell an extended story and I like to be able to develop the music through a longer form. You can do it with TV, but I just like the idea of sitting down with something, living with it, seeing the whole picture in front of me and mapping it all out. How the melodies will change with the changing characters is really fun for me and what really interests me the most.
TV is fast and the TV stuff I’ve done is very eclectic. I had to do a lot of different styles, which have their charms but can be very boring and frustrating. That’s crazy, and I guess that goes back to your competition question. Now, I have the impression that you have to know how to do everything.
Production feels like it’s constantly changing, especially with pop music, so with TV, when I’ve had to do this stuff, I yearn to be able to sit down with a feature film and map it all out, and you usually have more time with film than you do with TV.
Horror Geek Life: What does a typical workday look like for you?
George Streicher: It depended on what I was working on. If I was making a film, I would be quite structured and organized. You build your Q sheet, where all your music is going to go and where the timings are based on the movie. Then you determine, with the music director, editor or whoever, what kind of music will go there, its function, etc.
One day I could take any priority scene, I would sit down and watch the scene over and over, sort of plan it out, and then just start playing around with ideas. Sometimes, and this goes for writing for something other than a movie, I go straight into my Pro Tools, start playing the piano, or go straight into Sibelius, a notation program, and start drawing in there.
Usually I have an idea and I run with it, piecing it together here and there and building it up. Then listen to it a million times, hate some things, and replace them with what I think are better things. It really never ends (laughs).
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Horror Geek Life: Besides the Halloween album, what other upcoming projects do you have?
George Streicher: Right now I’m doing some additional music for a few anime shows for Nickelodeon, and I’ve also just finished doing additional music for the Harry Potter mobile game, which was fun. I’m not taking any feature films for myself right now, I’m taking a break after this album, but I’m pushing the album, trying to get the word out. I’m also thinking about what I might put on a follow-up album if that happens.
A lot of people asked if this one was on vinyl, which it isn’t, but the tapes sold out, which was really cool. I did not expect that. Analog is really all the rage right now, so maybe I’ll do a vinyl of the Halloween album next year. We will see.
I want to thank George for taking the time to chat with us.