Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eldad Lidor - composer, soundtrack designer

Israeli-born Eldad Lidor is a prolific composer and sound-track designer in high demand. He has created over 1000 compositions for theatre, films and television in Israel and overseas, infusing eclectic elements from ethnic music, jazz and other styles into his works. The recipient of several awards, he has also worked in Europe. I had the pleasure of interviewing Eldad on May 17th, 2009.

Pamela: When did you begin studying music?

Eldad: As a child I played the recorder and the accordion. Then, as a teenager, I took up the guitar, dabbling in rock-and-roll and accompanying myself in French chansons translated into Hebrew, a genre that had became popular in Israel in the late 1950’s. Apart from going to the occasional concert with my mother, I did not have much experience with classical music at that stage of my life.

Pamela: When did you begin to compose?

Eldad: At age16 or 17, I started to compose, mostly setting to music poetry by Yehuda Amichai and Natan Zach. I have always really loved Yehuda Amichai’s poetry but more about that later.

My family spent time in Paris and there I went to study electronics in order to be an electronics technician to see me through my army service. While serving in the IDF as an officer, I began to realize that what I really wanted to study was music, and began taking lessons in music theory and piano. My army service was extended due to the Yom Kippur War but in 1974, I was accepted to the Jerusalem Academy of Music to study composition and electronic music under Professor Tzvi Avni. As a music student, I supported myself by working in Kol Israel, the Israeli radio, as a technician.

Pamela: What did you decide to do on completing your music degree?

Eldad: Actually, I went back to Paris in order to study “Musique concrete”, a form of electro-acoustic music that utilizes recorded “non-musical” sound as compositional material, an aesthetic developed by Pierre Schaeffer from the late1940’s. It did not make a lot of sense to me and I returned to Israel a year later and took a job in Israeli radio in Tel Aviv, but, this time, in the sound effects room. That was where I really started to work with music in the drama milieu and learned much about studio sound. I worked with some of Israel’s best stage directors and we had unlimited time to produce work that was of a high artistic- and professional level. At that time – end of the 1970’s – the radio was an important artistic medium here, offering a variety of radio plays that featured Israel’s best actors and actresses. I would say it was an important “laboratory” experience for me and it was there that I met many of the people with whom I still work today. One important radio production was “The Queen of Sheba’s Visit”, compiled from poems by Yehuda Amichai.

Pamela: Eldad, would you like to talk about your own independent work?

Eldad: Yes. One of my early projects was “Shira’s Suiters”, a musical production of classical-style arrangements of poems and theatre pieces. Amichai, who claimed I was the best interpreter of his works, would take part in some of the performances, most of which were in kibbutzim.

An important production in 1989 was “Shakuf” (Transparent), a work Albert Amar and I wrote and arranged together, on the subject of Amar’s personal fight with drug addiction. That was the only time I actually took part on stage in my own work. We ran some 200 performances of “Shakuf”, it was one of the events in the Israel Festival and the various songs from it have become popular.

In 1986, I opened Q-Sound, my own studio; by the time I left Kol Israel in 1990, I was devoting my time to producing music for theatre, feature films, advertisements and animated films. Gil Zimmerman edits and mixes the sound. In animated films, an expertise of ours, we design all the sound and the music. Today I work with a MacIntosh computer, using a “Logic” program which has revolutionized our work: all sound and information is stored in it and is produced from it! I do, however, still work with players, most of whom have been with me for many years. I give them a musical idea and they use it in what might be called a “jam session”. Arranging it is what you might then call a jam session between the computer and myself!

Pamela: Can you mention some of your many successful theatre projects?

Eldad: Yes. I have produced work for all Israel’s major theatre companies – Beit Lessin, Habima and the Cameri Theatre, to name a few. With stage director Gadi Roll, I have worked on theatre projects in London and Poland. Some of my biggest successes are Shmuel Asfari’s “Wife, Husband, Home” and Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”, both Cameri productions and Ionesco’s “The Chairs”, and Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge”, both Habima productions.

Pamela: You are the recipient of several prizes.

Eldad: Yes. I won the Margalit Prize for the music and sound design I created for Manuel Puig’s “The Kiss of the Spiderwoman”, staged by Itzik Weingarten and an Acco Festival award for the music for “Tonight We Dance”, a play about the life of a cafĂ©. I produced and played the music for the Zik Theatre’s unconventional production “Charakruk”; we all received an Acco Festival prize for that job.

Pamela: And your other activities?

Eldad: Actually, I have branched out into two new fields. The first is education. I began teaching at Tel Aviv University and now teach students of stage production at the Kibbutz Seminary about music for theatre. We perform exercises in class with texts and music to get the students to react emotionally to the written word. Music is feeling. I also see them through their personal assignments in the subject and teach them how to work with musicians.

Another different, new field is designing sound for museums – for video, films and for the museum “space”. My most recent project of that kind was for the Rabin Museum. I have also designed for the Holon Children’s Museum and the “Harishonim” Museum in Zichron Ya’acov. I am presently busy with a sound-and light project for the Herodian Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Pamela: Tell us about your discs.

Eldad: I have put out three discs. The first two focus on pieces from my work with theatre. In my latest, “Closer”, all the pieces on it are instrumental and were composed specifically for the disc. It is an inner journey, also a journey of landscapes – I love nature.

Pamela: What are your future plans?

Eldad: To put together a stage production of my works and to be its stage producer. To travel….and to go to the sea for some early morning fishing!

Pamela: How do you see and connect to the medium in which you create?

Eldad: Music is like a drawing. I often think in terms of sound color rather than melodic lines. It is a story. My time in France has added a Parisian flavor to some of my pieces. I do not try to surprise myself; I work directly through my emotions, with no thought as to whether the result is good or not. I search for the right feeling. I have a need to be out in nature as well as a need for city life. Finally, I am much assisted by my wife, Shoshi, whose vocals are heard in my works.

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