Quirky and Light-Hearted

Interview with BUMA composer Tess van der Velde by Young Film Critic Zanji Sinkala.

My name is Zanji, and I am a journalist from Zambia, Southern Africa who takes pride in my proficient critical thinking and analytical skills. Throughout this festival, my writing will prompt various conversations and be something you, as an audience, can connect with. I hope to offer insights that may be thought – provoking, yet enjoyable to read.

Ahead of IFFR, I interviewed one of this year’s BUMA composers, Tess van der Velde, an Amsterdam based film/media composer and songwriter. Read on to find out about her personal insights and what inspires her as a composer.

Why did you choose to be a composer?

As a kid I wanted to become a writer, but after I started to play the piano with my best childhood friend, I changed my mind and dreamt of becoming a concert pianist. Then in high school, I started playing and writing music in a band and I decided I was going to be a songwriter. During my bachelor’s at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, I got to write a lot of music and play in a lot of different bands. I discovered that I actually enjoyed the writing/creating part the most and maybe wasn’t too much of a performer. During that time I started writing music for commercials and decided to do a master’s Composing for Film.

What I love about composing is that it is often a very playful profession. You can try whatever you want and create whatever you want. If you want to make your toilet seat into a drum set, you can. If you want to only use instruments starting with the letter ‘h’, you can. If you want your cat to be in the composition? It’s possible. There is nobody telling you what you can or cannot do and the options are endless. You have to try and keep it fun for yourself.

What type of work do you make?

I think my style is best described as quirky and light-hearted. I love strange and funny sounds, but I also love making more dramatic or eerie stuff. I like it when music surprises you. Besides that, I sometimes find myself writing pop songs for the projects I work on, which I also enjoy a lot.

What kind of films do you compose for?

Every film is different and the music I compose differs every time. But I do suppose I worked on a lot of coming-of-age films, which I really love. Because the way teenagers’ experience love, hate and sadness is just so intense and confusing. They’re feeling all of these things for the first time in their lives and, music-wise, I really like to find a sound or melody that best fits the rollercoaster of emotions they go through.

What’s the process like?

At the beginning, it contains a lot of staring out the window, maybe playing a couple of notes on a piano or a guitar, or singing into my mobile phone, disliking a lot of the things I come up with and starting over. It also involves a lot of coffee with some procrastination involved as well. Once I really ‘officially’ start and find something I like, I cannot stop until I’m finished and it is exactly the way I hear it in my head.

What inspires you?

I always like it when something surprises me and there is no way I could have thought of it myself. Like when I discover or hear something new that I have never heard before. When I find out that the limitless-ness of creativity seems to be even more limitless than I could ever have imagined myself? If that makes any sense.

What do you expect from this online festival experience?

 IFFR is a place to meet new people, get inspiration and feel more connected I suppose – even when it’s taking place online. I don’t see that many people in my day-to-day life. I’m mostly composing on my own, somewhere in a studio. Sometimes it’s nice to feel that you are not alone, and it’s great to hear and share stories and experiences.

Zanji Sinkala
Written for the Young Film Critics 2021