Unreserved51:00Using music to inform Indigenous stories
It’s a brief trip to the office for Justin Delorme, whose home studio begins where his living space ends. The room is crammed with recognizable instruments — a drum kit, cello and guitar amongst them. However the tools of a composer differ from those in a typical music studio, and so there are also instruments corresponding to the pedal steel guitar, which Delorme says is a little bit of an oddball within the guitar world.
“It’s like a slab of wood with, on this case, 10 strings. And also you play it like a guitar but it surely uses a bar as an alternative of your fingers and also you operate it together with your feet and your knees,” said Delorme, who’s Red River Métis with Métis and settler ancestry.
The individuality of an instrument just like the pedal steel guitar adds to the immense catalogue of sound Delorme uses for his compositions for film, TV, podcasts and video games. With a double monitor setup for his computer, he watches a silent film or television episode on one side while controlling all of his recording tracks and virtual instruments on the opposite.
It’s how he produced scores for the lots of of movies and tv episodes already under his belt, which include scores in APTN’s Taken and the documentary Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On.
While technology is making composing more accessible to more artists, Delorme says there’s one other necessary shift happening: scoring Indigenous stories with Indigenous music — moderately than a cliché of rattles and drums.
‘Golden age of technology’
It isn’t what Delorme imagined the work of a composer to be.
“Once I was growing up, I might imagine Beethoven or someone with a wig and they might be fiercely writing notation on paper. But for me it’s, you already know, sort of sitting at the pc a whole lot of the time and messing around with sounds and recording them as I’m going and just piecing together a puzzle of various sounds to match what I’m seeing on the screen.”
The technology available to musicians and composers like Delorme is way more advanced than the studios of just a number of many years ago, and cheaper too. Delorme says it makes the world of composition way more accessible to Indigenous musicians like himself who’ve more studio options — in some cases situated in their very own homes.
The price of making a rating can be reduced by the applications of those studios: for instance, a pc program can simulate the sound of multiple instruments, often eliminating the necessity to hire multiple musicians for a recording.
“It is a golden age of technology straight away for musicians specifically … we’re capable of make music faster and higher than ever before with just a greater sound and, you already know, you possibly can get to the center of what you really need to be doing, which is making the very best music you possibly can do.”
Delorme says the opposite shift within the industry that’s bringing more Indigenous composers on the scene is the increased opportunity for Indigenous writers to inform their stories in their very own ways. Delorme cites filmmakers like Madison Thomas and Mary Galloway among the many young filmmakers leading the way in which.
A list of Indigenous music
Delorme’s work can be a part of a music library called Bedtracks utilized by producers and broadcasters, including CBC. In 2018, responding to demand for more Indigenous content, Bedtracks launched a small catalogue in partnership with the ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival.
Bedtracks’ first Indigenous catalogue was so popular that it quickly grew from a number of hundred to a number of thousand tracks. Now under the name Nagamo Publishing, the library is a centralized place to seek out Indigenous music for media productions.
“[The catalogue] got here specifically out of this need for an access point for music that was Indigenous, felt Indigenous, was capable of help tell these stories, but was actually made by indigenous people,” said Nigel Irwin, co-creative director of Nagamo Publishing.
“For the longest time that wasn’t the case. Essentially, people were just putting shakers and drums on things and calling it a sound,” he said.
WATCH | Why Nagamo saw the necessity for an Indigenous music library:
Irwin says the demand is growing, worldwide.
“The definition of Indigenous music is so excitingly broad. I might say there is a through-line between international communities that you could find a standard experience,” he said.
For Irwin, this network of Indigenous musicians and composers will shape the following evolution of music scores.
“Where it gets really exciting is when remix comes into play, where you have people from different communities and cultures — it’s sort of like remixing one another’s sounds in a way that is respectful and, you already know, consensual,” said Irwin.
Beyond flutes and rattles
In achieving that perfect rating, Delorme says his production notes often sound different when he works on Indigenous-led projects. For instance, he says Indigenous producers never ask him to make “Indigenous sounding” music.
“Sometimes a whole lot of the notes from non-Indigenous folks is: ‘Are you able to make it more Indigenous?’ which is a very hard thing to answer.”
Delorme says that while he understands why some production teams might include traditional instruments like flutes or rattles in scores that support Indigenous story, he likes to include a much bigger body of sound. And while he often gravitates to acoustic instruments for these scores, he says there is not any limits to what Indigenous music will be.
“I just worked on an Indigenous feature film that had a ton of synthesizers on it. Synthesizers will be Indigenous.”
The evolution of what it means to make Indigenous music requires an openness from mainstream media. It also requires the creation of secure spaces where Indigenous talent is valued. Irwin says this comes with fair pay but in addition making space for more Indigenous people on production teams.
“Personally, I’ve noticed that with projects which have a core Indigenous team, there is a level of trust there that I do not think you possibly can get from outside perspectives. It’s a very valued thing inside the creative team, ” said Irwin.
For Delorme, he says he’s still on a journey to raised understand what makes him different from other composers. And while he continues his work with media productions, there are other spaces to develop talent and a way of identity as well.
“I’m attempting to get into more projects that challenge me, that get me out of any comfort zones … mainly make the very best music I can and take a look at to inform the very best stories I can together with all my close collaborators and friends which are making movies and tv.”