Projects

Leah Curtis

Project: Anwar

  • Composer
    Reel Change Film Fund Cohort

    Leah Curtis

    Composer Leah Curtis writes contemporary classical music, scores for international cinema, and fine art installation. Limelight describes her music as both 'groundbreaking' and 'deeply human.' Leah crafts intricate musical landscapes exploring the nuances of orchestration, and seamlessly weaves solo threads, into lush, immersive textures.

Leah Curtis

Project: Anwar

With the Reel Change funds, I embarked on crafting a live acoustic score characterized by intricate and exposed textures. Recognizing the paramount importance of collaborating with top-tier Los Angeles musicians, I curated an ensemble with extensive experience in major film soundtrack recording, who are also leading figures in orchestral and chamber music.

In the studio, supported by experts including scoring engineer Ben Tolliday and the film’s director Fawaz Al-Matrouk, I conducted the ensemble, capturing the essence of individual string textures through a meticulous blend of close-mic and distant room microphone techniques at Evergreen’s scoring stage. The fusion of these techniques (as used in both film score and contemporary popular music recordings) highlighted the nuanced detail and emotionality of the score.

The Reel Change grant facilitated the assembly of the ensemble on a world class scoring stage, and allowed me to compose and grow in my work with the vision of the film’s director. It deepened my love for recording, my commitment and desire to work with brilliant musician collaborators, and to facilitate a fully engaging and enjoyable creative process for all involved in realizing the score. This project required orchestrating a multi-dimensional musical endeavor with innovative techniques and genuine care for the magic that is possible in the recording studio.

Noteworthy musicians, including Armen Anassian, Luanne Homzy, Erik Rynearson, Charlie Tyler, Nathan Farrington (strings), Steve Kujala (flutes), George Doering (guitars, oud and hammered dulcimers), and Alan Steinberger (piano), contributed their exceptional talents. The recording, conducted and orchestrated by myself, took place at Evergreen Studios in Los Angeles, with the skilled guidance of music recording engineer Ben Tolliday, Score Supervisor and Creative Advisor Savannah Jo Lack, Assistant Engineer Hannah Kacmarsky, and the collaborative efforts of an adept team in the studio.

Creating the score for this film was a deliberate process rooted in narrative significance. Director Fawaz Al-Matrouk envisioned a lullaby as the emotional thread binding the relationship between Mona and her son Anwar at ages 8, 18, and 80, with Mona remaining eternal. The idea of a lullaby symbolizing, anchoring and these nurturing roles within the film resonated deeply with us both.

After a pivotal meeting with the director, actor Kerry Bishé (Argo) joined the project as Mona and independently suggested incorporating a lullaby. Engaged by this shared vision, I composed our film’s song during pre-production. Director Fawaz Al-Matrouk then introduced William Blake’s Ecchoing Green from Songs of Innocence of 1789 as a possibility for the lyrics. The alignment between Blake’s text and the emotional subtext of the film became evident, and the song became a true foundation for the score.

I envisioned a diverse ensemble, including string quintet (with double bass), piano, guitars, hammered dulcimer, oud, and flutes. The detailed textures of bowed strings, the breath of a multitude of flutes, and shimmering plucked textures of acoustic guitars and hammered dulcimer created embodied, resonant, and woven magical threads for the sound of the score.

The lullaby emerged as a powerful anchor on-set while filming in a rainy Northern Californian forest. The entire cast, guided by vocal coaches Fiora Cutler and Kelci Hahn in pre-production, embraced the lullaby, infusing it with a shared emotional resonance.

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Composer Leah Curtis writes contemporary classical music, scores for international cinema, and fine art installation. Limelight describes her music as both ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘deeply human.’ Leah crafts intricate musical landscapes exploring the nuances of orchestration, and seamlessly weaves solo threads, into lush, immersive textures.

She wrote the Variety-acclaimed ‘first-rate’ score for Sundance feature thriller Killing Ground, and her orchestrations can be heard in projects by leading film composers, including Reinholdt Heil, Johnny Klimek (Sophie Schöll) and Alex Wurman (Something Borrowed).

She was a Fulbright and visiting composer at USC, and holds a MA Hons from AFTRS. Recent orchestral highlights include the premiere of Infinite Possibilities with conductor Jessica Cottis and the CSO. Her music has graced marquee festivals including Dubai, Sundance, and Aspen.

Leah’s music navigates the delicate balance between historical depth and ambient allure. Her compositions go beyond traditional confines, creating a sonic experience that is both evocative, emotive, and rich in storytelling nuance. Her expertise spans composing, orchestration, producing and recording. Australian born, she works internationally out of Los Angeles often in collaboration with musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers.

NewMusicUSA Grantee Event

Before It All Goes Dark

May 25, 2024 | 7:30 pm

Studebaker Theater, 410 S Michigan Ave.

LACO Presents Departures: Montero + Mozart

May 25, 2024 | 8:00 pm

Alex Theatre

NewMusicUSA Grantee Event

Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) Ends Season with a Free Memorial Day Weekend Concert, May 25, 2024

May 25, 2024 | 8:00 pm

NEC's Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA

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