Like many great Film/TV composers of our time, their musical journey began in Pop & Rock bands when they were a little younger. Fife composer Jeff Bernstein is no exception. Jeff began playing saxophone at school, but had a real desire to play piano. After some piano lessons, which helped with theory, he went onto teaching himself more and eventually ended up in Fife based band “White China”, who went onto singing deals with Island Records, MCA and Stiff Publishing. They also had TV appearances and toured with fellow Fifers “Big Country”.
Jeff recalls his time in the band.
“It was great fun and wouldn’t change it for anything. Long recording periods, plenty of gigs and touring with Big Country was a privilege. The TV appearances were a real eye opener considering the first time we appeared on TV (ORS 84) we didn’t have a deal and we were pretty skint ! I even had to borrow a keyboard stand from Tom Bailey, singer with The Thomson Twins ”
Photo Credit: David Ho
After some years, White China split and Jeff continued with his own music, developing his love of Orchestral & Film Score, which started when he was young, so he began learning to compose on his new DAW, using Cubase.
We asked Jeff when the composing bug first took it’s bite….
“I’ve always had the composing bug, although it’s become more prominent in recent years. I heard John Barry’s Persuaders theme when I was 7 years old and I’ve been hooked ever since. I then began buying the vinyl albums of soundtracks listening to Maurice Jarre, Ennio Morricone and Jerry Goldsmithamongst many others. At an early age I would listen to Jarre’s “Ryan’s Daughter”, “Dr Zhivago”, Barry’s “The Ipcress File” and Morricone’s “Once Upon A Time in America”. They were and remain real heroes to me.”
Jeff’s been composing, seriously, for around five years now and has composed for some Film Shorts and Features, as well as help other artists with Orchestration for their songs/music.
“I composed for the Scottish Noir film, “Blood’s A Rover”, a cast and crew film for “One Night in Flanders”, as well as helping a number of University students out with adding music to their independent films. I also tend to help with some orchestration on local musicians tracks. There’s a number of other opportunities that I’m currently working on.”
Jeff’s music on “Blood’s A Rover”, Directed by Tim Fraser Granados
Jeff’s DAW / Workstation
Jeff’s DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is Cubase, which he’s used for years and really likes. A far as Sample Libraries/VST’s are concerned, he uses EastWest, Ivory II, Omnisphere, Vienna Symphonic Libraries and a host of others.
We asked Jeff if he planned to upgrade or expand his current DAW / Libraries / VST’s or gear etc..
“I bought a second hand Mac about five years ago and it’s now starting to struggle RAM wise and I’ve fully used all the available slots to upgrade, so I may need to take the plunge and go for a more powerful Mac in the future. I always upgrade Samples/VST’s but tend to wait until there’s a sale”
Q: What movie/s soundtracks have inspired you ?
“Once Upon a Time in America, Cinema Paradiso, A Single Man, The Ipcress File, Capricorn One, Edward Scissorhands, A Beautiful Mind, Giu La Testa, Gladiator, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Still Life, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service…….the list goes on”
Jeff’s latest piece of music “The Sorrow Farm” is stunning. It has so much grace an eternal hope, yet has and undercurrent of pain and sadness.
Q: Composing for Film, or TV, or Brands etc….which do you prefer and why ?
“I really like both but I think Film stretches me a lot more as there’s so much to prepare for different scenes, so many textures and feelings to portray but I like the process of both, as well as a love for Filmscore, he also adores Classical too.”
As with songwriters. every composer is different, with different working methods which work for them. We asked Jeff what his processes are for new pieces, does he compose for his own, off the cuff (when an idea comes) or does he prefer to compose for a brief from a Director etc, which seems to focus and fuel composers ?
“I’ve composed a lot of tracks off the cuff, a lot of them are just sketches at this point and will probably never be heard, but some of them I build upon and they become properly polished and ready for some form of distribution.”
Q: Is it mostly Orchestral you compose ?
“Generally yes, although I’m working on a project with a singer just now, where we’re working on a track. I’ve helped some musicians with their songs too, which are more rock, but I tend to always return to orchestra whether that be full blown orchestra or piano and solo strings.”
Jeff is hoping to release an album later this year and continue to score for film and other related media, as well as work with others and help them bring their work to fruition.
Wishing Jeff every success in 2020….