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Sound Design




KYLIE (2010)



TRO Musician, producer and composer Christian Schneider set up his music production company Pearls Music in Frankfurt in 2004.


Where is Pearls coming from? Are you a trained musician? Yes I am. Essentially, I am a session musician. In fact, I come from a musical household. My mother was an organ player in the church and at the age of four I started playing violin. This was followed at five with the flute; six with piano and at seven, I started the clarinet. But everything changed for me when I started to play saxophone in a rock and roll band at the age of twelve. Up to that point my musical education had been very classical. But following the ‘big bang’ of discovering Rock and Roll, I stopped playing the violin and going to lessons. Instead, I started to play the electric guitar and at fifteen, I was already playing with some well known bands from the Neue Deutsche Welle – the German New Wave. It was a long time ago but it was great fun. It sounds like a fantastically diverse musical journey. What happened next? When I was in my late teens there were no courses available in Germany where

CHRIS got to do a lot of big gigs at the Jazz festivals in Germany. you could learn an instrument as well as studying arrangement and composition. You can now, for example, in Mannheim and Munich, but back then, it was possible only to do such a course in Berklee College of Music in the US. So I did it! I went there for a few years and completed a Masters degree. At twenty-one, I came back to Frankfurt and started playing jazz rock which was very big in the mid 80’s. One has only to think of legends such as Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. With my friend Torsten de Winkel, a guitar player living in New York, and Kai EckhardtKarpeh a bass player who was playing with John McLaughlin, we created a band called X-Band. I was lucky as we

Some guys from the record industry then took notice of me and introduced me to Westernhagen, one of Germany’s biggest rock stars. Over a period of fifteen years, I was his Musical Director and played in the live band and co-produced and wrote a number of songs with and for him. He was very, very big in Germany. The band sold over 15-20 million records and went multi-platinum. We played at all the big arenas. It was a fantastic time. So what on earth was the bridge from 15 years of rock and roll to where you are now? In between there were a lot of session jobs! I started composing and a­ rranging

STIAN and at that time I played a lot of keyboards for Frank Farian (of Boney M and Meat Loaf). My career in production was kicked off by Frank. Back then, he had some commercial jobs to do and he did not like doing them, so he asked me to do them for him. Suddenly I was composing and producing for such a small amount of time – only 30 seconds. In the morning I could start with a heavy metal tune; by 12pm rock and roll and at 4pm a classical re-composition. It was amazing. The variety of composition styles and sounds was really great for me.

And the computer recording hardware and software was becoming much more powerful. I was one of the first in Germany working on early synthesisers such as Emulator sampling systems and PPG Wave Systems. I got a lot of jobs because of this, as well as the fact that I was one of the only session guys in Germany who was playing guitar as well as keyboards and saxophone. In the background, I continued writing, co-writing, arranging and doing commercials. I would say that during the last 15 years or so, I have done some productions for the music industry, but not so much and nothing big. But actually, to speak the truth, I don’t like it so much any more. I have become much more fascinated with acoustic identities and creating messages and moods through sound design and music composition and production. That is the

reason why I set up my own production studio in Frankfurt in 2004. What is it that attracts clients to come to you rather than someone else? I think this is because we are a ‘onestop’ service. Upstairs is video post production. We have digital, non-linear editing with an AVID operator and with 7 or 8 machines up there, we can do movie and post production alongside sound, composition recording, post production, re-recording and so on. We have everything here. But this is not the only reason we are attractive to clients. If you come to us, you get not only a good sound for your commercials but also advice on

s­ trategy and finding the right sounds that fit your brand. A lot of the time we are looking for moods just like the directors do in the movies, only we do it in audio – we are seeking the right sound moods. For example, if you have a 30 second movie for VW and the Director wants a driving rock and roll tune how do you know which is the right one from the many hundreds if not thousands that exist? We take time to choose ten and we then cut them under the film. This allows us to discuss things very quickly and directly with our clients. It is extremely time saving as you can discuss things before you start composing. This kind of strategy discussion is becoming more and more important as the budgets are not too big and the time available to do the job is not so big either.



That sounds to me like a form of prototyping – story-boarding with sound. Is it always done like that? Well yes. Sometimes it is like that, but sometimes not. I am not sure which is better. Sometimes you just have crazy ideas that are crying to be tried out. At other times you don’t get the chance. Sometimes you complete a pitch alongside three to five other c­ ompetitor composers and you mail it off to somewhere only never to hear anything about it again. Sometimes we just get a cheque with the money! These things can be different. Looking at the work on the website I was trying to get a feel for the overall voice you bring to your work. Can you talk a little bit about the creative

process behind the work and what is driving you creatively? What you see on the website is only a small excerpt of our output, but in any case, what we are looking for all day long is quality. That is very difficult. Because, what is quality? It is an ongoing discussion as in the end, no-one knows what quality is. But we are continually striving to find good sounds and competent compositions. We are looking for a form in the c­ ompositions and the sound designs with good voice-overs and good un-used sounds. If we are doing classical scores we try to have an orchestra playing that. That sort of thing. This striving is on-going every day. So number one is the quality. Whatever it is. Everyday, quality has got a new meaning. For one client quality means fast delivery, for another it means enduring compositions. Another one says, ‘I don’t care just do something’.

So it lies in the eyes of the people who are looking at it. But for us, there are certain criteria for quality that we work to. What are those criteria? Good sounds. Un-used sounds. To have a formal architecture in the work. For example, if you have sounds in the intro that will be modified in the main score and then appear again in the outro, you will have start A, B2 and then again A. This is important, as if you can talk about an architecture within the music, then everybody can talk with you – even people that don’t know about sound. Or who are not inspired by sound. For example, we did a lot of work for a major bank in Germany. The first discussions were very long and we started to talk with them about the books and films. Not about music. And at the next


E CKS Milka (2010)

Milka (2010)

meeting, which was only about ten minutes long, we talked about the architecture of the movie Black Hawk Down. And this with a bank! The commercial itself, in the end, has absolutely nothing to do with what we talked about. There is simply a little, driving jazz tune with plucked strings and a snare drum. And that is it. Architecture and form is a great way to talk about musical ideas. You call yourselves acoustic identity. Do you have to do a lot of work to help a client think about their identity, or do you work alongside existing brand strategies? We have one client that is a very old, established chocolate brand called Milka. They have their own Milka tune which was composed for them by Christian Bruhn back in the 70’s. He was very famous in his time. The international budget came here to Frankfurt and we had to provide all the international countries with the sound and the sound designs. The task was to optimise and bring the 30-40 year old tune up to date without cutting the roots.

As a brand, Milka is deeply focused on product quality. The brand is also tied up in their unique production processes and their origins in Austria and the Alps. Their acoustic identity is expressed through natural sounds and analogue sounds. So it is not possible to come to that with a jazz tune or a rock and roll tune and yet, that is exactly what we did!

We worked with the jingle that has been so consistent all these years and did remixes. We tried this to re-energise their acoustic identity. Now they have one movie with a techno tune. This shows a young boy in Germany sitting with his Grandpa. Both are eating chocolate. The boy says, ‘It’s cool man’ and Grandpa says, ‘Oh, it’s cool man!’. We took the sample of ‘Oh, it’s cool man!’ and made a techno hit out of that. It was fun. For the next movie, they invented a mammoth, a rabbit and a bear and there was a big orchestra tune on it like Star

Wars. A big adventure tune. But always clothed with the Milka melody. This is one example of acoustic identity. Another example is the outdoor sportswear brand SportScheck in Germany. They are strictly into modern sounds. Nothing analogue. Only electronic sounds and young voice-overs. No guitar allowed! They see themselves as a very contemporary firm. So every day another challenge. Looking at what you do for your clients it seems to me that sometimes the

identity that is presented through the sound and moving image seems to be far ahead of what their identity looks or feels like through other channels, for example their websites. It is as if your work is driving the brand ahead of itself. If I look at the beautiful piece you did for Schneider Kreuznach and then look at the website, there is quite a difference of expression. This was a challenging project as our work has helped the client to change their view of themselves – to be more open and to have a new more contemporary way of perceiving themselves.



Schneider Kreuznach manufactures high-performance lenses for all fields of ­professional photography through high accuracy optics and precision ­engineering. We needed to show that their business is all about glass and light and colour. Although it is very difficult to do, the idea became, ‘How can we show light’? It was a very low budget production with a very short time for creation and delivery. It had to be very idea driven. I had the idea to have the music starting with the notion of a caveman sitting in a cave and then, through the music, thinking about how we have come from then to the present day. In the movie, the man is dancing with the light and at the end of the film you see he has the light in his hands which morphs into the logo. Schneider Kreuznach has the light in their hands. They are now very much changing their strategy into light and they are thinking about how they

communicate themselves in a more contemporary way. That is great. What do you think are the biggest changes facing your industry in the next two to three years? I know that a lot of people in this field will tell you that everything is going down and there is no money. But I don’t want to say that. The market is liberalising. The production side is getting cheaper and cheaper and the quality is going up and up. This means that there is so much more that is possible and the challenge will be, who decides what will be used, when and where and why? There is a need for a strategy and mediating role which will become very important in the future. All the new firms, big or small, are already very specialised. A firm may have ten composers, but nowadays, they will also have five or six supervisors with, in such a case as this, two composers working for one supervisor. It is the

supervisor who talks to the commissioning agency and it is they who open up the world of what will be compositionally possible. This is a new development. What is next for Pearls? I have the impression that if we want to stay as Pearls, we will have some small work stations around the main house – in the agencies, in post-production – maybe in Amsterdam or London or South Africa. I don’t know. This would be the idea of the flying composer. Maybe it will be like that. Or perhaps, because we are always looking for talent, we will have some more students here. I don’t know. We will see.





DKV (2010/2011)






01 CHRISTOPH NIEMANN Illustration 2009 02 MICHEL MALLARD Creative Direction 2009 03 FUN FACTORY Product Design 2009 04 ANDREAS UEBELE Signage Design 2010 05 HARRI PECCINOTTI Photography 2010 06 KUSTAA SAKSI Illustration 2010 07 5.5 DESIGNERS Product Design 2011 08 NIKLAUS TROXLER Graphic Design 2011 09 JOACHIM SAUTER Media Design 2011 10 MICHAEL JOHNSON Graphic Design 2011 11 ELVIS POMPILIO Fashion Design 2011 12 STEFAN DIEZ Industrial Design 2012

PUBLISHER Design Friends COORDINATION Heike Fries LAYOUT Silvano Vidale INTERVIEW Michael Thomson COPY EDITING Nadine Clemens PRINT Faber Imprimerie PAPER Scheufelen (Heaven 42 softmatt) PRINT RUN 500 (Limited edition)

with Carrérotondes asbl MAPPING AUGUST. An Infographic Challenge 2010

ISBN 978-99959-717-3-1 PRICE 5 € DESIGN FRIENDS Association sans but lucratif (Luxembourg) BOARDMEMBERS Silvano Vidale (President) Arnaud Mouriamé (Vice-president) Nadine Clemens (Secretary) Heike Fries (Treasurer) Mike Koedinger (Boardmember) Guido Kröger (Boardmember) Pit Kuffer (Boardmember) Stéphanie Rollin (Boardmember) Anabel Witry (Boardmember)



03.28 CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER_FLYER 148x148.indd 1

24/01/12 14:35

This catalogue is published for Christian Schneider's lecture at Mudam Luxembourg on March 28, 2012 organized by Design Friends.

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