We had the good fortune of connecting with Daniel Sonabend and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Daniel, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
Stick to one thing and go with it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The best way to define what I do is composer and music producer, but it’s taken years to reach this definition. I always look for new things to inspire, challenge or distinguish my music, and today my main work is composing for films and TV, but it’s been a very long journey to get here. Right now I’m actually working on a big installation project which is something I never thought I’d be doing when I started out but I am loving it. It’s important to me to be making thoughtful music that I really like, so the platform doesn’t necessarily matter to me. Projects where I have room to conceptualise and get creative with the storytelling seem to come more naturally, but this can be applied to a TV series, an album or an art installation – a cool project is a cool project.
I love the psychology that lies behind the harmony or textures in music, and I am probably my happiest when I have room to create subtle movements in a piece of music that you will probably only notice subconsciously. It is quite important to me that my music has a deeper layer that is emotionally engaging and doesn’t just feel “over the surface”. Melodically I like to keep things simple so I guess you could say I’m quite minimalistic, but not necessarily in the traditional Steve Reich / Philip Glass kind of way.
I’m a musician at heart but I also love playing with sound within my work. My musician half loves harmony and orchestration, and my sound designer half loves found sounds, electronic processing and synthesisers. The middleground between these two worlds really excites me. At the moment I’m also really enjoying playing with ideas that are more chance based, like tape loops or aleatoric and generative techniques. Gear wise I’m at the stage where I’m less interested in plugins but am much more excited about rare or bespoke instruments. Also my most recent obsession is different tuning systems like Just Intonation or non-western tunings, but that’s a whole different world that I am only just getting into.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If the weather is good then we’d probably go to a park and my favourites are Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park. Isabella Plantation in Richmond is particularly beautiful and Hampstead Pergola is lovely too.
Design Museum and Somerset House are great for exhibitions and the new Science Gallery is pretty interesting too. I also love going to the Barbican for exhibitions and there’s usually great concerts happening there, or at summer we would probably go to a BBC Prom. For films I’d choose an independent cinema – my favourite is BFI Southbank.
There’s good pubs everywhere in London but I’m a bit of a foodie so that would need to be well thought out! Violet in Hackney is the best bakery so we would go there, and I love a good food market so both Broadway and Victoria Park markets are nearby. Not far from that there is Netil House market which is smaller, but my friend has a falafel stall there called Pockets which is the best falafel you can get outside of Israel. Also we would probably visit my studio at some point and there’s delicious and super cheap food places nearby, like the Indian takeaway next door which sells the best samosa in London for… 40p!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ve been really fortunate to have some amazing teachers and mentors throughout the years, from Dina who was my Russian classical piano teacher at age 7, all the way to film composers who I learned from on the go whilst assisting. A partial list would include Dr. Shirley Thompson, Natalie Holt, Arie Volinez and Aviya Kopelman. There’s also other people who really influenced my thinking in more recent years, whether with their books or with their teaching and retreats. These include Martine and Stephen Batchelor, Sam Harris, David Whyte, and Joseph Goldstein, who are all very helpful and inspiring figures.
Other: Listen to Sandscape (side project with Eliza Shaddad) on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6OppCnFkEHsuA8o1L2SykF?si=YA-zgoUpTLyO6Zqckc74Sw