In the same way that a sound or melody can make us recall experiences from our own lives, John Williams' film compositions have left an indelible mark on the memories of fans around the world. The five-time Oscar Award winning composer has undoubtedly influenced and inspired a great number of composers, like Canadian native Shaun Chasin, as well.
Chasin, who has found incredible success as a composer, says, "The two biggest influences that finally led to my choice of becoming a composer for film and video games were the Star Wars movies, with the fantastic and legendary scores by the great John Williams, and the video game "The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time," with it’s score by Koji Kondo."
Chasin's dynamic creative talents as a sound designer and composer are more accurately brought into perspective when considering the astonishing diversity of his body of work. Like Williams, Chasin has liaised between composing for films and video games with ease thanks to his refined understanding of how each musical composition uniquely affects a viewer or user's overall experience.
In the film industry some of Chasin's accomplishments as a composer include the films Ice Cream Man, Last Patrol, Nancy, Promises, Visitant, Salad Days, The Time Traveler and many more. In the world of video games Chasin's work has helped bring users into the virtual realities of games like "Pot Break," "A Hobbit's Quest," "Lama Drama," "Visage," "Geometry Saga," "Lodu Queue," "Adrift," "S8 Bingo," and "Hektor."
"At the end of the day, I have a strong relationship with film and games because I have an intrinsic need to be a storyteller," explains Chasin. "My music in all of these cases helped to heighten the emotional context of what was happening on screen. The goal is to help in telling the story without being obtrusive so that the final product is one cohesive thing."
Chasin's ability to create music that strikes a subtle balance and effectively drives home the emotional aspects of a story without dominating a viewer's senses is immediately apparent in Andrew Wood's film 11-Minute Mile, which aired nationally across the U.S. on PBS earlier this year.
The film follows an arrogant day-trader who is forced to take a pause and reevaluate what matters in life when his flight is delayed due to the Boston marathon bombings, leaving him stranded with his thoughts as he worries whether his best friend who was running in the marathon made it out alive.
"This was a particularly moving project for me to work on. I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston so I lived there for about 4 years. I had many friends there at the time of the bombing," admits Chasin. "For the score, I looked to the emotional potential of synthesized sounds to try to create the feeling of the main character’s inner turmoil and worry. The music was heavily inspired by Sigur Ros."
There is a huge difference between a composer's work that is intended to stand alone, and that which is intended to accompany a film, television project or video game. Over the course of his career Chasin has refined his skills as a film and video game composer with an acute understanding of not only what style of music is best for a project, but also, when to include music in order to intensify the story, and when to let silence speak for itself.
"Silence in the music can be a very powerful story telling device and create a heightened sense of realism in a moment," says Chasin.
Whereas Chasin best executed his work as the composer for the film 11-Minute Mile by allowing the necessary space for the main character's inner turmoil and understandable panic to come across through vital periods of silence, the six-part documentary series Ho Yaqeen required Chasin to take a completely different approach.
Directed by Oscar Award winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Ho Yaqeen follows the contributions of unsung heroes in Pakistan. The fact that each episode featured a new individual and consequently, a totally different subject matter, Chasin says, "allowed each episode to have a different and unique musical sound."
The first episode of the series follows Sabina Khatri who founded a preschool in the violent neighborhood of Lyari five years ago as an educational segue for the local youth to escape the gang afflicted area. Chasin brilliantly engages viewers with a strong and steadily rising drumbeat accompanied by bells and horns that magnify the rapid pace of the people on the streets of Pakistan in the opening scene. As the episode progresses and the interviewer goes further in depth into the story interviewing the children about their experience at the school and the myriad of ways this opportunity has changed their future for the better, Chasin adjusts his score accordingly. By transitioning his composition to the sweet and subtle sound of piano as the children disclose their experiences, he helps create a feeling of hopeful whimsy driving home the fact that their futures are full of endless possibility.
It is this ability to adapt and patiently decipher the needs of each individual project that separates Shaun Chasin from the plethora of other composers working across the globe today. And as his work continues to be recognized across continents, and filmmakers and game designers clamor to land him as a contributor to their projects, fans can bet that they will be seeing, or rather hearing, a whole lot more from this young composer for decades to come.