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Scoring in Cubase with Guy Cuyvers

Belgian composer Guy Cuyvers has lately been basking in the limelight after being commissioned to compose the score for the sequel of Laura’s Star (the original title is Lauras Stern), a German-Chinese animated feature based on the popular children's book by Klaus Baumgart. Cuyvers is treading in the footsteps of multi-award-winning composer Hans Zimmer who wrote the score for the first film. Both film score composers are avid Cubase users. Coincidence? We think not.

Besides having established a reputation as an accomplished composer over the past two decades, Guy Cuyvers formerly pursued his early vocation as a classical guitarist with uncompromising intensity. Today, Cuyvers composes film scores, writes and publishes arrangements for guitar and performs with his band Lunes, focusing on traditional music from Spain, Portugal, Mexico and Brazil.

Tell us a little about your musical background. What have you recently been up to?
I finished my first commission for Warner Bros, writing the main part of the score for Lauras Stern 2, a German-Chinese 3D animation movie. I succeeded Hans Zimmer, who wrote the main part for the first movie. In 1995, my career as a film composer made a successful start with the American production Sea Fever. This first film score led to a commission to write the music for the international co-production Into the Rising Sun, screening worldwide. The soundtrack was recorded with The Flemish Radio Orchestra and Choir and released by PolyGram (now Universal). The recording of Sea Power followed a year later with the same orchestra, resulting in the release of the Sea Suites CD. By autumn 2001, I finished writing the music for Setting Sail, a four-part international television series on maritime history. The Setting Sail soundtrack was released in May 2002 with the support of the Antwerp Port Authority. In 2003, I started performing with my newly formed acoustic band Lunes. Our first album was released in May 2005. By the end of 2008, I had finished writing the film music for Tokaido as well as completing my fifth book for guitar. As a guitarist, I took private lessons with Angel Romero and Pepe Romero. I was laureate in a master class given by José Thomas in 1984 and finalist in the Belgian national television’s Tenuto competition one year later.

Won’t you elaborate on your musical training and education?
I majored in music at the Royal Flemish Conservatory of Music in Antwerp and at The American University in Washington, D.C. In Antwerp, I obtained first prizes of solfege, guitar and chamber music, certificates of music analysis, musical form and pedagogic. In Washington, The Master of Arts program I followed supplemented my training in guitar, advanced composition, orchestra conducting and musical arts management.

What was the moment or the deciding experience which made you want to dedicate your life to music?
Hearing Paco de Lucia for the first time — I had been playing the guitar for a couple of years and devoted my life to playing the guitar from then on. At that time, I was 16 and conducting and composing hadn’t come to my mind yet.

Are there any other musicians who have influenced you a lot?
As a classical guitarist, it would have to be Paco de Lucia, but also the Romeros and Julian Bream. As a composer, the musicians are too many and too diverse to name. If I have to name three, I think it would be Ravel, Grieg and Yes.

What was the first concert you went to?
Apart from classical music and guitar recitals, the first concerts I went to were Yes and Queen.

Could you try to describe the style of music you make?
Most of my first compositions were written for chamber music, choir, guitar, musical and band, before actually starting my career as a symphonic film composer.

Why do you do music?
To make people feel good.

How do your ideas for a composition come to you?
My ideas can pop up anywhere: in the car, on a plane or even while I’m asleep. So, I always carry blank music sheets around with me.

How do you realize your musical ideas?
If we are talking about symphonic film music, I present my layout to the producer with Cubase 5 and orchestra plug-ins. That way the producer gets a clear idea of how the music will sound when it is recorded with an orchestra.

When did you hear about Cubase for the first time?
I started using Pro 24 a long time ago on an Atari computer. As far as I know, Cubase derived from that and I stuck with it.

Which parts of the program do you use most intensively?
I use Cubase as a sequencer and for printing scores, sometimes to make audio demo recordings as well.

Do you have any tips for our users?
Read the manual. It’s a good one.

Do the possibilities that open to you through Cubase affect your music in any way?
Yes, it is great to be able to hear what you are writing. 20 years ago, we used pencils and paper and we needed a lot of luck to have an orchestra or band play it. Now, with the touch of a button, you can even transpose your instruments.

Which virtual effects and virtual instruments do you use most frequently?
I use the effects that come with the instruments. And I use following instruments: EWQL Symphonic Orchestra, EWQL Symphonic Choir, RA, Silk and a combination of Garritan Personal Orchestra, MOTU Symphonic Orchestra and, of course, HALion Symphonic Orchestra.

What kind of equipment do you use?
Nowadays, we don’t have that much hardware anymore. I used to work with sound modules the likes of Proteus, had my Roland XP expanded four times, and I used a 20-channel Fostex mixing console. Now it’s all standing around somewhere because Cubase has everything I’m looking for. I use a small keyboard for my MIDI inputs which comes with an interface and all the extras — no more huge keyboards and programming needed.

What is your computer configuration and studio environment? Describe your studio setup.
I have two setups. One I use at home while the other one’s portable. At home, I have a quad core with 8 GB of RAM running a Windows 64-bit system. Then there’s my MacBook Pro with 4 GB of RAM. However, since 4 GB of RAM is not enough to use the EWQL samples, I mostly use HALion Symphonic Orchestra on the Mac. These samples are only about 1/20 of the size of the EASTWEST samples and still sound great. Thanks for having made this!

What do you think about music on the internet and the internet as a medium for publishing music?
It’s all going too fast for me. I am amazed every day of what can be done and once you get to know and understand it, there is something new.

To what extent do record companies and/or management influence the way you work as an artist?
They don’t do enough. In addition, my country is too small to get something done. We don’t have one single management that represents composers for film music.

What goals are you after in your music?
I want to continue writing symphonic film music and having it recorded by great orchestras.

What is your next project?
I will be writing songs for my band.