Christian Howes isn't just one of the world's top jazz violinists, he's also pioneering new recording techniques that are poised to change how composers and producers create music.
With shrinking music budgets and increasingly better orchestral samples, many composers don't get the opportunity to work directly with real string players. Those who have know the difference.
Christian's approach capitalizes on the human elements of music that can't be replicated with samples, helping us all to realize just how powerful the internet can be as a creative tool.
You recently faced controversy in an online forum with Hans Zimmer. He questioned your marketing tactics, your integrity as an educator, and your overall sound. Do you feel your service undercuts the pay of working orchestral musicians?
"It shocked me when I saw the diatribe from Hans Zimmer which compared my work to that of 'high school' musicians, and especially when he tried to imply that I lack integrity because I'm commodifying music and undercutting players. Really, did he have to be that extreme?
I mean, I'm not trying to over inflate myself, but clearly I'm good at what I do, and there's no evidence to support such a dismissive, insulting position with regards to my work as a musician, or my integrity as a businessperson. But his extreme and ridiculous positions were also obvious when he started to talk about how the best orchestras can only be found in LA, so at least it wasn't all directed towards me. I think most discriminating readers, if they see the original exchange, will be surprised to see 'the real Hans Zimmer' (username Rctec) come through in his self-satisfied musings at my expense.
He's obviously a huge success, and must live a very comfortable life, so it's at least ironic that he's going on a 'pretentious rant' about how commerce shouldn't come into play, let alone how we should value the live/human-to-human musical experience. I thought he built his career essentially as a salesman for those old sample libraries.
It really bothered me at first. I tried to respond to him in a diplomatic way, but it became clear that he's like the emperor that's wearing no clothes. He just must love to hear his voice reverberating around the internet while his yes men tell him what he wants to hear.
I am providing good work for U.S. based live players, and it is undercutting none. Some of the players on my team studied with me when I was an Associate Professor at the Berklee College of Music. They are improvisers, arrangers, composers, producers, and players comfortable in multiple styles, unlike most classical string players who focus exclusively on playing classical music well. My players enjoy the convenience of working from their home studios on flexible schedules, getting paid well and getting to be an active part of the process.
We all take enormous pride in providing such a meaningful value to our clients who could not otherwise afford to have their works performed by live players. Recently we were featured in the movie 'Don Jon'."
What can a composer provide to get the most out of the recording process?
"Detailed instruction is very important. Whether it's PDF charts and MIDI references, or verbalized instructions via a voice over recording on a separate track, I work with all sorts of producers and composers, some of whom have little knowledge of 'lingo'. That's one of our services, frankly, i.e., to translate across the cultural divide between classical string players and producers who learned on their own.
In traditional scenarios, you'd have to hire an arranger and conductor. With us, you can simply have a conversation with us or ask us to transcribe your keyboard reference, and we'll spend time figuring out what your vision is and making sure we get it down, whether we're arranging the strings or just tracking them."