Born in 1980, award-winning film composer, Marc Timón Barcelo, who is considered to be one of the most brilliant and active Spanish composers of his generation. Timon is often described as a “comprehensive musician,” as he is a composer, conductor, and player. Known for combining composition of genres such as cinema and documentary soundtracks, musicals, symphonic productions, choral, and chamber music, Timon’s inspiration can be attributed to both Mozart and John Williams.
Grit Daily: Before becoming a musical composer and conductor, you had your own adventures. Spill the beans!
Marc Timón: I would love to say that since I was a little child, my dream was to become a film music composer and an orchestra conductor — but I would lie. Even though I got my piano career from an early age, my true passions were soccer, meteorology, and writing, which is why why I got my journalism degree and began working on national TV in Barcelona.
However, when I was a teenager my emotions used to fly very intensely when playing Débussy, listening to Mozart’s Requiem or John Williams compositions.
Williams soon became someone very important to me. People used to tell me that my melodies and my style with the orchestration reminded them of the much admired composer. So, I started thinking about that. Then, in my twenties I realized that my love for cinema and for telling stories was bigger than I thought.
Films offered to my eclectic tastes, a great opportunity to compose music using many different styles and genres such as orchestral, electronics, pop-rock, jazz, musicals. I realized as well that I was a communicator above all, and music and arts could be an excellent tool to express my nature.
Meanwhile, my love for the art of conducting an orchestra grew quickly. Conducting an orchestra is the closest way to do magic in the human world. It’s so amazing and powerful the sensation to gather the energy, the talent and the light of every single musician and to create a common message in form of music to give it to the audienc.
Conducting is about psychology, empathy and about listening to yourself inside and outside. I adore it.
GD: Of all places to live and culture to experience, why did you settle in Los Angeles?
MT: I felt (and I feel) that I wanted to change the world surrounding me, I wanted adventures. I wanted to leave my comfort zone and explore. I wanted a meaningful life full of culture, sensitivity and new experiences, which included learning about the American culture as well.
Europeans often have the wrong idea about Americans, simply inferring from Hollywood films and certain news coverage. You asked me why I moved to L.A.? It’s because it had all of my passions, wishes, and of course the gorgeous nature of California, which includes its awesome mix of people from over the world.
With all of these thoughts in my mind, I decided to move to Hollywood after winning the International Jerry Goldsmith Award, with a very small movie competing against powerful international productions. I wanted to check how special, brave and talented I could be, and I wanted to live all of those adventures in my skin.
I must confess that an unexpected romantic relationship delayed a few years of my decision. When you crazily fall in love, even a life project such as this can be sacrificed. But real life doesn’t usually end with the Hollywood “happy-endings” that we are accustomed to seeing. Inevitably, after our sudden break-up, I finally moved to L.A. on October 5th, 2015.
I’m not as naive, and I already knew that L.A. was full of people thinking that they are special, but I trusted my inner light. Success was just to jump no matter where and how to fall.
Success was just to go to a new place where I didn’t know absolutely anybody. Success was to leave the comfort of my house, language, friends and my European career to become just a small ant in the L.A. forest. I love challenges, and that was the big one.
GD: Tell us about your very first project when you first moved to Los Angeles.
MT: When the great composer Christopher Lennertz called me to work in Sonic Fuel Studios with his team on the Marvel’s Agent Carter’s soundtrack, I realized that I was where I wanted to be.
We composed the music during the week and we recorded it at Warner Brothers Studios during the weekend with an amazing orchestra. I learned many differences in the creation process between Hollywood and my European experience. It was really stressful, but beautiful. I feel very grateful and fortunate for that opportunity. I generally dislike the cheesy sentence “dreams come true” but I could apply it in this case.
I lived in Pacific Palisades and the Sonic Fuel Studios are located at El Segundo. Both on the ocean, separated by 13 miles. I’m a sports guy and for the first few days I decided to ride my bicycle, enjoying the beach path and the wonderful sunsets. It was a crazy powerful training which I abandoned very soon because it was killing me every day (the round-trip: three hours riding).
Looking back now, I can imagine Christopher Lennertz laughing about the strange composer from Barcelona that he hired, who rode three hours per day to work on a Marvel TV Series. However, riding was a good start to know Los Angeles. After a few days I realized that I needed a car. Of course I needed a car in LA.
However, these first weeks in Los Angeles and Sonic Fuel Studios were difficult because I lost two of my grandparents in Spain. I feel that this beginning made me stronger.
GD: You won a string of Goldsmith awards and also got the nomination for Best Young Composer of the Year — for The Little Wizard. Categorically a “children’s film” — how do you think about your audience when you compose?
MT: I always think about the message that I want to give and about who will be the recipient of this message. After that, you can find the tone to express yourself, regardless of whether the composition is a soundtrack for a movie, a classical work, a commercial, a pop song or a musical.
Everything is about communication. Everything is about catching the reality and transform it inside of you to give it to this audience with your personal voice. Audience in arts is essential, in my opinion. Not necessarily to give them what they want or what they need.
Maybe you want to break that and do the opposite.
Maybe you want to transgress the audience rules.
However, you must be aware of this audience because you are the alchemist who will transform the reality for those who want to experience it in a movie, a symphonic concert or in many other circumstances.
Where Do You Shelve?
For Timon, whose won more than 30 national and international awards for his work in the field of film music and for his concert pieces, staying humble is more important.
However, our curiosity revolves around where he stores them all!
“The answer is my mom,” he explained. “She bought a museum showcase and she has all of these awards in our living room (some of these statuettes seem to come from a horror film; we could talk a lot about who designs them). It becomes a little bit embarrassing for me when we have guests at home but that makes her happy. I guess that I should feel grateful because she’s proud of me.”
But there’s more to it than winning an award, according to the award-winning composer:
“Awards do not mean anything at all. An award is the subjective opinion of a group of people. However, I couldn’t say that I don’t like them because in the Facebook and Instagram era everyone loves and needs recognition, especially when your job implies to work every day with your ego.”
He continued by emphasizing the importance of recognizing it’s subjectivity:
“But at the same time you have to be aware of that subjectivity because if not you can get confused and hurt. Even though, I’m proud to have received them because they come from very different disciplines and musical styles. It means a lot for an artist who wants to have a voice in many different artistic expressions such as writing, conducting or composing for films but also classical or electronic music.”
Injecting Spanish Culture Into His Tune
While based in Los Angeles, Timon was born in Castelló d’Empúries, Girona (Spain).
GD: How does your Spanish heritage help influence your music?
MT: During 25 years of my life, I have been performing and composing Catalan folk music, which is very different and specific compared to the Spanish traditional one.
However, what I did with the Catalan music from an early age as a composer, was to apply my influence and taste for John Williams and soul/funky music.
I remember when I was 18-years-old, an older gentleman told me at a concert to “just move to New York to write this crap and stop destroying our folk music!” My folk Catalan music sounded American. I loved Benny Goodman and George Gershwin and they gave me the tools to orchestrate my compositions for Cobla using the big band style (Cobla is the name of the traditional Catalan Ensemble).
That said, it’s clear that my roots have never been a strong influence for my music. I’m sure that in the past it worked like that and where you were born determined a lot your musical influences but nowadays the paradigm changed with internet, Spotify, recordings, etc.
GD: Who did you look to for inspiration?
MT: My first influences were the Chopin Nocturnes, because my mother used to play them in the car during summer on the way to the beach.
Débussy became another important influence because I played his works on the piano and I loved his magical tonality.
I also learned a lot from Rachmaninov’s darkness. One of my other biggest influences comes from the epic symphony music. Orchestral music is enormously rich in terms of color, texture, variety, power, passion, rhythm and subtlety.
Today, I would say that any authentic music can be inspiring for me. There is a lot of noise as well but if you keep your ear open you can learn a lot from the mixture and the fusion that surround us these days.
That said, regarding the Spanish influence I love Flamenco. Flamenco gives you some of the best rhythmic resources in the musical world. There is a traditional flamenco, beautiful but more conservative and really genuine, and then we have this amazing mixture when flamenco meets jazz or other modern expressions.
GD: For the uninitiated, what is the “Tible” — this ethnic woodwind instrument you play?
MT: The tible is a Catalan shawm, an oboe-like woodwind musical instrument typical of Catalonia. This Mediterranean shawm reminds the oboe sound but wilder. I always compare it with a wild horse. It’s very difficult to tame, especially its volume and intonation, but when you are able to do it it becomes extremely tender and sweet.
Usually it’s played at the Cobla Ensemble with other similar shawms. The Cobla uses to perform sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, but it can perform classical music as well.
However, I became a tible soloist to explore its possibilities in the field of contemporary, jazz, electronic and classical music. I wish that someday I could introduce the tible to the soundtrack world, maybe in a Hans Zimmer movie. Zimmer already put a lot of ethnic instruments in his films and I’m sure he would love the tible.
In my country I’m called the “enfant terrible” of the tible and the sardana because of my compositions and performances with the tible, less conservative and always open to the fusion.
In my opinion, as a creator you must learn with a huge respect from the tradition, the roots and the past to evolve them elaborating new forms of expression.