Tag: ReelChange

Kris Bowers: In Love With Accompaniment

Kris Bowers

Kris Bowers is one of the humblest and most introverted composer/performers I have ever encountered. This is astonishing considering his accomplishments—winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition at 20, a daytime Emmy four years ago, and now one of the most in-demand composers for film and television, most recently scoring the Netflix sensation Bridgerton. And yet it all makes sense when you begin exploring Bowers’s incredible versatility, his openness to all genres of music, and hear how attuned his music is to whatever project he is working on as well as all the musicians he has worked with.

“As a jazz pianist, one of the things that I fell in love with was accompaniment,” he acknowledged when we spoke with him about his music and career back in October. “I’ve never really wanted to be the center of attention in a performance space.”

  • I’ve never really wanted to be the center of attention in a performance space.

    Kris Bowers
  • I’ve always been into different styles of music.

    Kris Bowers
  • I always like giving myself limitations or rules, or a box, and then going wild within that space.

    Kris Bowers
  • I have a lot of family members that I don’t agree with… But, at the same time, I have a profound love for them.

    Kris Bowers
  • Until I started doing scoring sessions, I wasn’t able to have a group of musicians of a large size, play my music since college.

    Kris Bowers
  • I felt just as much kinship with John Williams as I did Quincy Jones and Terence Blanchard.

    Kris Bowers
  • I realized I would rather be up until five in the morning at home working on a score than getting on a bus to go to the next city.

    Kris Bowers
  • I have maybe a week to ten days to turn around the score.

    Kris Bowers
  • Whenever you hear a musician’s album, you know whose album it is by who’s the loudest on that album. … I didn’t want that.

Scoring films and television series might be the ideal medium for Bowers since it allows him to immerse himself in the characters and plots which should be foregrounded rather than the music. Nevertheless the music he writes is always attention grabbing and works well as a listening experience independently of whatever it was originally written to enhance, whether it’s the score for the 2018 motion picture Green Book, which was based on the life of composer/pianist Don Shirley, or the 2019 EA Sports videogame Madden NFL 20. Whatever project he is working on, Bowers always operates from a zone of empathy.

“That’s the only way that I can really get to something honest,” he explained. “I think that it’s more likely that it will reach other people if it’s something that came from an honest and emotional place for me.”

Considering his need to relate to the characters he creates music for, it’s somewhat surprising that Bowers also composed the score for Mrs. America, a 2020 Hulu series about the conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. “I actually really loved needing to represent this human side to this character that I didn’t agree with,” he admitted. “It even helped me understand or remind myself that those people that I might disagree with politically, especially in a time like this, that they’re humans at the end of the day. And that’s something to keep in mind and to really remember.”

As a Black composer who works in a medium that is still overwhelmingly dominated by White composers, it is also important for Bowers that his music not be typecast and the fact that he has worked on such a wide range of projects, in which he has explored an extraordinarily broad range of musical styles, is testimony to his music being impossible to typecast at this point.

New Music USA · SoundLives — Kris Bowers: In Love With Accompaniment
Frank J. Oteri in conversation with Kris Bowers
October 22, 2020—12:30pm EST via Zoom
Via a Zoom Conference Call between Los Angeles CA and New York NY
Produced and recorded by Brigid Pierce; audio editing by Anthony Nieves