Hi everyone, I was going to wait for a couple more projects to be under my belt before doing this, but since Reddit seemed to be upset with the Morgan Freeman / Oblivion AMA last week I figured now was the time! We are all incredibly proud of this film and I'm so excited to be able to finally share it with you - OBLIVION

While also composing music on my own, I've had the great pleasure of collaborating with the likes of M83, Daft Punk, Mike Shinoda, Moby, 3Oh!3, and more incredible artists. Find out more about me here-



I've been lurking here for quite a while (I would probably have much more music written if not) so please be gentle! Or not.




EDIT:::: no publicists involved and nobody from the film knows I'm doing this!

EDIT:::: back to the studio everyone, thank you so much for the love and support! yours, joe

Comments: 150 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

taurenlegend28 karma

It's true! I'm his publicist and I had no idea he was doing this. Joe - What is your favorite sushi place in LA?

joecomposer28 karma

Hahahah hi Chandler! Sushi Ike!!! Now you have proof it's me!

Frajer21 karma

Have you seen Daft Punk without their helmets on?

joecomposer30 karma

I wish I had $1 every time I get asked this question. I usually say "no" which is hilarious but people believe me what I say it.

In all seriousness they are amazing people and I'm honored to have worked with them. I'm a better person in every way because of them.

seanxfitz12 karma

A couple technical-ish questions regarding composing:

  1. Do you use composing software? I.e. a DAW with VSTs etc etc, and if so what are some of your favorites?

  2. What is your process for composing? Do you write a piece using synths/samplers and then record all relevant parts with actual instruments? Do you begin with just a keyboard part or drums or what?

  3. What advice would you give someone looking to get into composition? I sometimes have trouble getting what I have into my head out onto my keyboard, any tips to help in this regard? Are you trained on any specific instrument?

Thanks for doing this!

joecomposer17 karma

  1. I use Logic, ProTools, Plogue Bidule, and Ableton Live. I'm about to switch (or try anyway) to Cubase from Logic and Nuendo from ProTools.

  2. I begin with writing at the piano for thematic and contrapuntal work; to write a whole cue I use a piano patch within the sequencer to write the whole cue; then I arrange / mockup from there. I'm much faster this way rather than if I try to play with sounds and orchestration while writing.

  3. Play lots of keyboard music by other people. Learn how to read music if you don't already and devour as much Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky etc etc etc... just sit down at the piano and see how the masters did it :) I would (and still do) spend hours at the piano going through music.

I used to play bass trombone in orchestras, it was super fun and I learned a lot about orchestration by just sitting in the back of the orchestra.

tom_riddler6 karma

What are your reasons for switching from Logic?

joecomposer18 karma

-automation problems

-clocking / sync unreliability

-Apple not caring about pro support

insidethemagic9 karma

It's a shame Tron: Uprising ended as soon as it did. Were you disappointed? Had you ever been in discussion to continue work on another season? (Thanks again for the autographed soundtrack!)

Looking ahead to Oblivion, will fans of your Tron work hear anything familiar in that score?

joecomposer12 karma

Yes, the ending of Tron:Uprising was a great disappointment. Not for me personally but as a fan of the artists. We had an unbelievably amazing crew of people who were 100% in sync with the Tron universe. Steve Lisberger said to us that it was everything he had ever wanted Tron to be. So to not be able to continue expanding his universe is really the saddest part.

Fans of Tron will very much enjoy Oblivion! Oblivion is so personal and close to me as a composer. Very proud of it.

underdabridge-8 karma

Sorry. Can't watch it. Stars Tom Cruise.

joecomposer16 karma

Tom is an amazing actor and human being. Being closed minded is a terrible thing.

Minifig819 karma

Ok, Honest question; Do composers still write down music like Mozart and others used to do, or is it all digitally done now by computers? EG; you tinker around at an instrument and then the computer transposes it on the fly?

joecomposer16 karma

Computer can barely play back the notes we put into it; writing in a computer is just like writing on paper, it's just a medium.

For example, Do you use a word processing doc? Does it just write essays and articles or letters for you? The computer can only do what you tell it and it's the same thing for music.

Minifig816 karma

That makes sense to me. :)

Thanks for the answer. If you've got time for another; I've got another question:

I hate most dubstep because I have Musical Instrument Synesesia, and harsh drops tend to cause really terrible clashes in colors. I'm usually more fond of subtle music, think things like Father and Son, or on the harsher end, Son of Flynn in Tron Legacy.

Any pointers on what kind of music (composers, etc?) I should be looking into if I'd like to get into the newer forms of music that are coming out?

joecomposer10 karma

Check out original dubstep from the UK, so much more artsy and sparse, you'll like!

There is a lot of cool electronic music coming out that is not dubstep-y (like Chrome Canyons or the new DP stuff). Spotify, Pandora and Rdio are your friends :)

Minifig814 karma

Chrome Canyon? Great! Thank you! :D

joecomposer8 karma

Oh also Senking

I imagine that would be amazing if I had Synethesia

rumorhassett9 karma

I've been personally curious about this for a long time because I am a big fan of movie soundtracks, but where do you draw your inspiration from when you write your music? Does watching the movie inspire your composing or is it something else?

joecomposer15 karma

I got drawn into this job because of the movies I grew up with a kid. Top Gun, Star Wars, Ghostbusters. If you put pictures in front of me I get inspired. Working with Joe Kosinski has been especially thrilling because he brings us in very early in the process--- I got to read the Oblivion script early on in the process, I met the designers and artists, Anthony and I visited the set, and we even set up a studio at the editing suite. Very inspiring all around!

Taikomochi8 karma

What are your thoughts about the prevalence of this "epic" trailer music style of film scoring that seems so popular today? It seems to stem of Hans Zimmer, though his work is generally more interesting than those cliches, but not always. I think I read he contributed to the synthesizers for Tron: Legacy. I detected elements of said style in Tron: Legacy, though in more interesting incarnations than usual. Do you avoid this style? Embrace it? Try to make it your own? Is this something you'd even have control over?

joecomposer10 karma

Hans Zimmer was not involved with the production of the Tron: Legacy score.

I embrace anything that helps tell the story I'm working on! Hans has influenced everyone greatly and rightfully so- he's an incredible artist.

Anytime you have to embrace the stylistic elements of another artist-- whether it's Giorgio Moroder or Williams or Morricone or Rota-- it's important to find ways to make it your own. There are so many cases in film music where somebody is just trying to rip off the temp and that is what it sounds like. Look for a way to make it your own.

ryuugah6 karma

Hi Joe, I currently just graduated from Musicians Institute but I'm very passionate about video game and film scoring. I would like to intern for composers but how do I get about doing that. (M.I. is more of a performance school so I couldn't ask someone like Scott Henderson to refer me to video game composers..)

Or maybe you could tell me how you got your first intern. or tell me stories of other composers getting their intern that you know of?

joecomposer9 karma

I sent my resume into a studio via Craigslist. Somehow I reached the top of about 40 other people. I think it's because I had lots of skills already--- throughout school I taught myself all sorts of software and computer stuff. It's important to keep in mind that people are looking for you to help them do stuff, so prepare yourself as best you can!

ryuugah3 karma

Thanks! its good to see success stories that stem from CL sometimes. I have most of my Theory and harmony and ear training knowledge from school and working on my production and writing skills (shameless self advertising http://youtu.be/z0iikQIpYhU <- rearrangement of Contre Jour tune by David Ari Leon) I'm really striving to get an internship for a real composer cause i feel I need the guidance/mentoring to bring me to the next level (and to be in that "circle")

Thank you for the advice!

joecomposer7 karma

great start, keep at it!

motionless196 karma

In all the movies you've done work in, which one has your personally favorite soundtrack?

joecomposer18 karma

It's really impossible to pick a favorite! Each one is a different challenge. If you put a gun to my head I'd have to pick Tron: Legacy since it was a big break for me and Daft Punk taught me so much.

odvioustroll8 karma

thats actually the only movie soundtrack i've ever bought, when i have the grandkids in the car they always ask me to play "the movie music". it's not often you come across a cd you can play from start to finish over and over again and enjoy it as much as the first time. good job, thats something to be proud of.

joecomposer16 karma

thanks odvioustroll, I'm still in disbelief that stuff I've worked on is out there making people happy. that is perhaps the best thing about what I do.

odvioustroll4 karma

are there any works of music you feel people should listen to, regardless of genres or artist?

joecomposer6 karma

You should follow with your heart and mind regardless of genres or artists.

SixPathsofPein6 karma

Could you elaborate a little bit on the differences between recording a movie soundtrack with Anthony (Oblivion) and Mike (The Raid)?

joecomposer14 karma

Sure. Anthony and Mike are very different artists. I'll answer more generically about working with artists in general--- this can be said about any collaboration--- it's about getting inside their head / syncing up with their vision. I try to put my ego and personal goals aside and let the goals of the artist and the vision of the director lead the way. If I'm able to sneak in some of my personal goals too that is awesome. But first is the artistic vision of my collaborators

ruloaas5 karma

Joseph, thank you for the AMA!

What are Daft Punk like? Do they make you call them "robots"?

joecomposer8 karma

see above, they are amazing!

CarnegieFellon3 karma

Hi Joseph, I am (kinda was, at this point) an aspiring composer. I went to school for music composition and have (had?) aspirations of breaking into the film industry. I'm four years removed from college, haven't done a single thing with my degree and really have no idea how to get to a place where I could, or even at this point IF I should. Do you have any advice as to how to break into the scene? I'm not so naive as to to think I'd be starting off scoring a film, but a way to break in would be greatly appreciated.

Secondary question, aside from Finale/Sibelius and iMovies, do you have any hardware recommendations that would make working easier/feasible?


joecomposer4 karma

You need a sequencer where you can produce good mockups and arrangements and run picture.

Also, interning and assisting is very important.

campermortey3 karma

I just wanted to let you know that Tron Legacy is one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. I listen to the whole thing at least once a month.

Also, how are the guys in M83? I don't know too much about them but love their music.

joecomposer8 karma

Thanks campermortey! Honored that you enjoy our work on Legacy.

M83 is Anthony Gonzalez. When he tours, there is a set group of musicians that join him. Anthony is a great artist. His work is really evocative from the moment you hear a demo... I could immediately grasp onto his writing, it was really fun to help produce and arrange.

campermortey2 karma

Thanks for the response!

How is he as a person? I wonder if his recent success has gotten to his head or anything. Hopefully not!

joecomposer4 karma

No he is an awesome guy and I'm actually seeing him later today and tomorrow to hang out :)

campermortey2 karma

Awesome!! Keep up the great work. Hopefully you'll have something to do with the next Tron movie. I'm going to watch Oblivion just to hear your music. And I also like Joseph Kosinski (share the same first name!!) a lot. Good luck!

joecomposer8 karma

all the music people call Kosinski "Joe K" and all the production people call me "Joey Traps" that's the only way to stay sane

Horsejacker223 karma

Who was your favorite group to work with? Thanks for doing this AMA!

joecomposer6 karma

I've been so lucky, they have all been amazing and I've learned so much from them. I can't choose--- I'd work with all of them again (and again!)

joecomposer3 karma

Hey guys this has been lots of fun and I look forward to doing it again one day. I hope you have a chance to check out OBLIVION this weekend, I am so proud of the work and our whole team who made this possible. Yours, Joe

acid_wash_farts2 karma

How did you get into film composing? I mean this as a very comprehensive question, like what did you do for training, and how did you break into the film market and get experience/exposure?

joecomposer3 karma

I trained classically in high school and then went to Manhattan School of Music, a conservatory. Formal training was always important to me but I was also always playing with synthesizers and computer music. This was very important from the beginning to me.

When I got to LA I worked as an intern for a few months and then a few years as an assistant to several film composers. It's a slow build but as long as you are patient, persistent, and always eager to give your best to a project, there is a way.

Apophis_2 karma

I really loved Oblivion soundtrack! Great work! But is it possible that we will ever hear those "demos" that Anthony sent you when you both were working on Oblivion? You said on Google Hangout, that you had to cut a lot of his stuff to fit the music into the movie. Was it good? And what happend to this - is it gone, like, forever? I just hope someday Anthony will let us hear those. (let him know somehow that we need moreeee of M83-ish epicness :D)

joecomposer6 karma

Anthony's demos are evocative, unique, and amazing. My job was to make it work with the film, and to do that we had to break them down and re-build them, just like you would with any song that would have to fit in the movie. There is a Led Zeppelin song in Oblivion and I think they had to pay the band more because we had to make some cuts to the song to fit it against picture. That always happens!

Any music written for a film is owned by the studio so go bug Universal :)

spishfry2 karma

Hello Joe,

I went through the classical training and orchestral route (violist here, insert joke at will) and I am becoming somewhat serious about composition. What is your creative process when you are starting a brand new score?

joecomposer4 karma

I try to absorb as much as possible from the film, the creators involved, any artwork / visual material, music references that inspire the director... anything that can help me do a better job. After that I try to think of a sonic palette that will help me convey the proper emotions. Assembling and creating those sounds takes a bit of time. Then the writing begins, usually at a piano far away from those sounds. Arranging / mocking up is about combining all of this together. It's fun!

What's the difference between a viola and a trampoline? You take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline.

RDJesse2 karma

Oblivion music is the best, I've always wanted to thank the composer so thank you!

joecomposer3 karma

Honored that you enjoyed it!

R3ckl3ss2 karma

What's a question you wish people would ask you but never do?

joecomposer5 karma

this is hard!!!

I guess I always get asked about how to get work. That's like asking "what's on the test?" Getting work is secondary. Improving your skills both musically and professionally (social, etc) are tantamount.

Absolute_Bollocks2 karma


joecomposer7 karma

It depends on the project. Tron: Legacy was super unique because we started 2 years before the movie came out--- even before shooting! It's crazy. They would play demos on the set. That rarely happens.

For my first feature I had to write 80minutes of music in a week and a half. It was awful but I did it! And that happens sometimes, it's not fun.

I really like it when we start early on in the process even before filming because I get to absorb all the artwork and get in sync with the director. It's super helpful and it leads to better work IMO

R3ckl3ss2 karma

What do you think about Anthony's Pitchfork interview? he seems a bit disillusioned with working on film vs. working on an artist album.

Have you seen this reaction with other artists and the studios? How did Daft Punk react to notes on their Tron work?

joecomposer6 karma

It's super hard to work on a film, especially for a big studio. We get notes from not only the director but producers, executives, editors, actors... everyone and their mother. We have to boil it down to simple elements and storytelling and try to make the best choices for both the art as well as the box office. This is why I love Hollywood---- it's both artistic as well as business--- I get to make a living from my art!

Anthony is an amazing artist who is just starting to get used to working in film. I completely understand where he is coming from but this is what Hollywood is and I take great honor from being able to work on amazing movies like Oblivion with legendary people like Joe Kosinski and Tom Cruise.

joecomposer5 karma

Oh yes and DP worked very well with the studio, it was an inspiration to me to see how two timeless artists interacted with Hollywood

yesiamzack2 karma

Joe! Thanks for answering questions!

Music is always evolving in this world, especially in Film. There's a pattern where a style overtakes the soundscape of film scores for a period and then something else comes in. (The synthy & jazz scores gave way to the Williams' renewal of grand Romanticism for example.)

Is there something that you've noticed a change in since you first started/college days?

joecomposer7 karma

Yes, because of digital editing films are never really locked any more. I need to have an amazing music editor around (shoutout: Bryan!) to help manage all the updates. We have to record everything in separate passes (strings separated from brass separated from percussion etc) so that we can edit the music after we record.

It also helps to write and record things in a sort of modular form. I think this is why the Zimmer crew is so successful, everything is in one key and one tempo so it's easy to edit!

RakoGumi2 karma

What is the Best Perk of your job?

Do you know music and motion production?

What is your favorite band?

joecomposer3 karma

best perk--- working with amazing musicians and then sitting in a theater taking it all in (still can't believe it happened)

music and motion production--- is that my friend Lucas?

favorite band--- right now its Eagles but it changes week to week depending on what I'm listening to... electronic, rock, country, classical... anything!

RakoGumi1 karma

Thanks for the answers!

Yep MuMo is Lucas and Steve :) Awesome peeps!

OTher question: How do ou get your inspiration? Any ritual or habits?

joecomposer2 karma

No rituals just try to surround myself with great people and great art.

fanboyvalor2 karma

How did you get started? Right now I'm taking a course in highschool that is helping me with my audio skills in producing and recording.

joecomposer3 karma

find great music / composition teachers and learn all the basics- theory, harmony, counterpoint, orchestration etc. etc...

then put all your ego aside and INTERN! every job I've ever had can be traced back to my first two internships.

good luck :)

donrick_formciotti2 karma


joecomposer7 karma

Oooooh hard. How about a list?

Blade Runner, Top Gun, Ghostbusters, Aliens, Empire Strikes Back, Spinal Tap, Raiders, Terminator... that's my childhood!

R3ckl3ss2 karma

desert island: LASS or Cinematic Strings?

joecomposer3 karma

Hahaha I just bought Cinematic Strings and haven't had a chance to try them yet. Ask my assistant!

hyperfuzz2 karma

what type or genre of film would you want to compose for next? What artists would you want to collaborate with on a film in the future?

joecomposer6 karma

I am very excited about what's next for me, I can't talk about it yet but it's a slight departure for me, which is thrilling.

I love Jay-Z and Kanye. Love Morricone and Williams. Love Justin Timberlake and David Bowie and Terry Allen and Woodkid and John Carpenter and... so many. But you never know when the phone is going to ring and where from. I never ceased to be amazed or surprised. Am very lucky!

thedinnerdate2 karma

What is your favorite sandwich?

joecomposer3 karma

I miss the Father's Office burger, I gave up meat :(

But avocado and mushrooms make up for it. Almost

8870quatela2 karma

Just one question Joe, how was working with Daft Punk?

joecomposer6 karma

see above, DP is amazing!

mayoho2 karma

I saw in one of your responses that Zimmer writes most of a soundtrack in one key and one tempo so it is easier to edit when the cut of the film is changed. I am pretty aware of the soundtrack when I watch movies and I have never noticed.

What does one do to keep music interesting and emotionally variant despite these restrictions?

Also, what is your favorite feeling to express in a soundtrack?

joecomposer2 karma

I avoid those restrictions you mention, sometimes to my detriment late in the process! We may have to re-record or stretch audio to match edits to picture. But to me it's worth it--- I find varying tempo, key, and phrasing to match emotion and pace is vital, and I think it helps the film. Other than that I like using counterpoint to break the monotony that is expected of film music--- I love counterpoint and find that there is a great lack of it in current writing.

I love expressing the depth and power of love. Oblivion was amazing because of this. It's a beautiful love story wrapped in a sci-fi action film!

TheStabbingHobo2 karma

What has been your favorite soundtrack to compose, and what has been the single piece that you've composed that you're most proud of?

joecomposer4 karma

It's so hard to narrow it down. I'm very happy with the track Radiation Zone from Oblivion, especially the opening. It's one of the most powerful scenes in the movie.

Clarketk2 karma

I started following you on Twitter after hearing your remix of "Something to Fight For" in the "Iron Man 3" trailer. Will the version used in the trailer be released? Also at first I thought your name was just your performing name. I thought you were making a portmateau of trap music and Japanese. Do you make trap beats?

joecomposer3 karma

There is a town in Sicily called Trapani, that is where my father's family is from originally.

Thanks for following me on Twitter! That was a fun piece of music to write and I'm honored that Marvel stumbled upon it for the IM3 teaser. An incredible experience. The rights are owned by Sencit Music, they distribute the composition and recording. Maybe they will do a release someday!

Creative_Circlejerk2 karma

Hello Joseph, just wanted to express my appreciation for your work; I watched Oblivion a few days ago in the cinema, and while the film has some shortcomings, both the music and the visuals stood out to me - I don't often pay special attention to the soundtrack of a film, but I really think that your compositions tied the film together - reminded me a bit of the soundtrack in the Mass Effect series (an RPG game in case you don't know).

joecomposer3 karma

I'll have to check out Mass Effect. I wish I had more time to play video games! Just bought the new Call of Duty (well, new to me) and I haven't even had a chance to open it.

Rockdio2 karma

Hey Joseph, thanks for doing this AMA.

I've always been a big fan of composers, both for movies and for video games. (My belief is that movies and video games would not be the same without having a musical score, and thus are an integral part in telling the story, and setting the mood.) A few questions for you.

How was it working with Daft Punk for Tron? (Did they wear their awesome robot costumes when they work?) What are some of the biggest challenges for you as a composer for making music for movies?

joecomposer4 karma

-DP is inspiring. They are such consumate artists and professionals I try to be more like them every day. Yes they wore they helmets, I've never seen them :P

-The challenge is usually how to best help the director tell is story- when to be big, when to stay out of the way, how to manage pacing (how much or how little movement musically--- how much to push or pull against picture and where to build), and how to pull the emotions of the audience without making them feel pulled. It is a long process that takes a lot of trial and error and lots of meetings!

ARealHoopyFrood1 karma

Do you think TRON:Legacy was more of a technical exercise than a fully fleshed out installment of the franchise?

joecomposer4 karma


bellibones1 karma

What was your favourite film you worked on? Not your work, but everyone in generals?

joecomposer7 karma

Favorite film I've worked on---- is usually the most recent... Oblivion was amazing, 90pc orchestra, tons of synthesizers, weeks of mixing, hanging out with Tom Cruise...doesn't get much better than that! I should reitre!

Everyone... hmmmm Chinatown, Empire Strikes Back, Good Bad and the Ugly, The Fountain, Sunshine, Close Encounters of the Third Kind... so many more!

Pinwurm1 karma

The fountain is one of my all time favourite flicks!

You should call up Clint Mansell and collaborate. That would be an eargasm.

joecomposer3 karma

I still don't understand the Fountain but will be happy to watch it any day because it is so damn beautiful

underdabridge1 karma

Are you as sick of Danny Elfman as I am?

joecomposer4 karma

Danny is an amazing writer and I am always eager to hear what he is up to. One can never tell what a composer has gone through on a project so I always hesitate to judge til I learn more. Sometimes we are forced to copy the temp as closely as possible, other times the director or studio just wants us to copy another score we've done. Have been lucky to not be in this situation before but eventually it will happen.

Moist_Lipwig1 karma

You oblivion movie link needs http://www in front of oblivionmovie.com

like [OBLIVION](http://www.oblivionmovie.com)

Also: I've heard that sound in movies-sound effects and musical accompaniment-are essential but often unnoticed-they are key to a good movie, yet the audience often gets so absorbed in the experience that the music is interpreted as a tone for the scene rather than as a standalone piece. For a lot of movies, I've found this to be the case-I get the experience of the music, but don't' really think about the theme itself in a conscious way.

For other movies, though, the themes stand out! In Star Wars, Inception, any number of Miyazaki films, the music seems to have a life of its own, and feels as unique as the film itself.

So my question is, I guess, what makes a good soundtrack? Is it important that the sound should feel unnoticed, like it's embedded in the film, or should it aspire to rise above it as an independent artistic achievement? Are these two equal paths or is one better than the other?

joecomposer7 karma

Thanks! Just figured it out, whew!

I love it when the movie reviews are great and nobody mentions the music. That means I'm doing my job--- helping to make the film better but going unnoticed. Tho I've had a fortunate position of being involved with some amazing film scores and artists who do stand out. I don't think there is any one way to make a successful film, and I've enjoyed both films where the music is very very minimal (like Network, Drive) and where the music plays a huge role (Star Wars, Good Bad Ugly).

My favorite scene both sound and music wise is the Italian Restaurant in the Godfather. Notice the lead up to Al Pacino shooting the dirty cop and the mobster.... there is a train SFX that gets louder and louder and louder! When he shoots, the train disappears! After a second or two of pregnant silence, big operatic music comes in. Amazing moment in film.

joecomposer10 karma

Plus my friends at Skywalker Sound just told me that was the first scene Coppola cut... he was about to get fired in the middle of filming and cut that in one weekend. Saved his job.