AMAS Faculty Spotlight: Q&A with Music Production & Composition Experience Coordinator, Stephen Ridley


What are you most excited about this summer at the symposium?

The main thing I’m excited for is the audio production track. It’s so stacked with talent this year. It’s hard to believe, even more than last year and the previous year. Everybody on faculty is so good, so every session is going to be must see. There might be time for only one session with a certain person, like Fred Emory Smith, who is actively composing for TV shows, and we may only have time to have one talk with Fred. That’s how we’ve grown. Unlike like the first year where I did three talks, this year I’m only doing one. All these other heavy hitters are doing one, maybe two, but every single session is going to be amazing.

What projects are you working on right now?

I’m working on an album and producing multi-track recordings of my pieces. One of those is my piece called “Symphony For Percussion”. Which is like a ridiculously large percussion ensemble playing a symphony, which is long and difficult.

Coffee or tea?

Gotta’ be coffee. In the morning it’s a hot one. The evening it’s iced. Typical California Starbucks deal.

What band or artist has caught your attention this past year?

Flying Lotus and Childish Gambino. I already liked Donald Glover’s music and he already had some weird videos, but then the video for “This is America” came out the other day, and I was blown away. I would like the song without the video, but the video is really incredible.

Any session highlights you can give us before the symposium?

We’re gonna’ be focusing on video game music for the first time. During the Arcadia SPARK sessions we did in Arizona and Colorado, I got so many questions about game music. We’re gonna’ be talking about the creative side and technical side and we’re getting people involved in the industry to lead these sessions.


Nightly Routine

I get really creative at night and I don’t fight it, even though I have to get up early like a lot of people. I just don’t fight it. I do a lot of playing the piano and playing the marimba up ‘till 10 PM. And then I do mixing and writing from 10 PM to 2 AM, and I have a room I can be loud in, which is great. I dunno why, I just kind of get in the zone. I am not very creative in the morning, and I wish I was, so I stopped trying that altogether.

Time you go to bed

I always figured I would do the old people thing where I would go to bed early and get up at 5 AM, because I’m older now, but nope.

Lunch Routine

Right now, instead of having lunch, I’m eating protein every two hours. (laughs)

Productivity Tool

I’m excited about Evernote. I can use it on all platforms - Web, Windows, Mac, iOS - so good. Clear App is an old app, and maybe people forgot about it. But it’s just a really cool and fun to-do-list. Between those two I’m good. I don’t need anything fancy.

Email Strategy

Triage - don’t feel like you have to write back to everybody right now. Triage it, and the other piece is brevity. Just get right to the point.

Personal Mantra

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.

I think this is a really good quote for me right now and all of us. This era we live in right now is clearly an era of distractions. 200 years ago when people were writing music they were probably bored. There wasn’t much to do. Not like there is now. There is so much to do. Nobody is bored anymore. People would probably write music to entertain themselves or each other, but now if you want to write music, you need to focus. I feel like by repeating things like not doing social media, not spending two hours on email - but instead repeating the discipline of composition, playing, and reading music constantly is how you’re gonna’ get better at it.

How do you deal with the news?

I do pay attention, because you should pay attention, and it’s OK to have an opinion. But then you gotta’ do the Obama shoulder brush. Cause sometimes you have to be better and take it as an opportunity to be a good person. That no matter what is going on, or whatever you’re shocked by, do the Obama shoulder brush, and then do a nice thing for someone else, be kind and extend that courtesy. I think that when you do a random act of kindness to anybody, it offsets something bad. So if everyone does that, it does a lot of good.

Guilty Pleasure

Iced coffee and “Star Wars: The Old Republic”. I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. That’s clear. That will be like a Saturday morning for me - coffee and Star Wars.

If you had to describe something that is definitely "you" that is present in all your creations, what would it be?

I like to have a lot of controlled proportionality in my pieces. Phrases where there is a lot of time and space between major events. This “definitely" correlates with my every-day desire for a slow pace and plenty of time for thought & incubation. Of course, not many days are actually like that!!


Stephen Ridley

Composer Stephen Ridley has created music for ABC's Academy Awards promos, HBO short films, animation reels and feature films. Stephen's unique sound is created by combining acoustic percussion, electronics and the traditional orchestra. He is based in Los Angeles and did his graduate work at UCLA, where he was a student of the late, great Jerry Goldsmith.

Learn from Steve and many more at the Arcadia Symposium.