Oticons Faculty Music Competition: The Feedback

The quest to finding a unique voice.

I entered into the Oticons Faculty Music Competition this year (2021) and got 5th place(!), and well I’ve just received feedback on the music that I’ve submitted. Naturally it feels quite anxious looking at feedback as the thought of someone critically judging your music can be intimidating.

To my surprise, it was very well thought out and very insightful and a lot more than I was expecting. In a nutshell, this is what I received:

The Strengths

  • Great orchestration in general
  • Quality sounding mockups
  • Captivating melodies

The Weaknesses

  • With the exception of one of the tracks, they were not original and was missing a unique voice
  • Sometimes overwritten to the point that the melody is clouded as a result
  • Basic harmony that felt like it could be explored a lot more
  • Technical error of scoring the music as 4/4 with tuplets instead of something like 6/8 to avoid tuplets.

A Unique Voice

This was the main takeaway from the feedback. Finding a unique voice, especially with my orchestral music which got me thinking, who do I think has a unique voice? Well here’s just a few that come to mind:

  • John Williams
  • John Powell
  • Thomas Newman
  • Ludwig Göransson
  • Bernard Hermann
  • Mica Levi
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
  • Johnny Greenwood
  • Ennio Morricone
  • Danny Elfman
  • Mick Gordon

Now, how do they have a unique voice? It’s the sounds they choose, the harmony, and sometimes just little things that are a little different from the norm that makes it interesting and stand out. Let’s do another round. Here’s a list of great composers (that I admire) that I believe don’t have quite the distinctive voice as the composers above.

  • Brian Tyler
  • Alan Silvestri
  • Alan Menken
  • Christophe Beck
  • Michael Giacchino
  • Alexandre Desplat
  • Mark Mothersbaugh

Now to be quite clear, I am just as big of a fan, but in terms of claiming it’s a unique voice in that if I hear it I would recognise the composer who wrote it, I would have trouble, and I think this is something I feel I’m in this camp at the moment. But it just proves that you can make great music regardless.

After reflecting back on several other competitions that I had entered, and looking back now with now a jury’s perspective in mind, I do feel like the reason why it didn’t get anywhere is that there was no unique voice.

It feels like finding a truly unique voice is what will ascend my music to another level, and is something I’m going to be focused on from now. Will I actually have a unique voice? Well, my musical range has broadened significantly over the past year alone, which I’m not trying to brag, but just as an observation of getting older. As they say, lesser artists borrow, greater artists steal.

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