In celebration of Marvel Studios’ newest feature film, Captain Marvel, we sat down with composer Pinar Toprak who created the score for the film. Pinar has brought versatile stories to life from epic orchestral scores for superhero sagas to custom created sounds for one of the world’s most popular video games bringing a unique sound and mood across medium, genre and tone.
Check out our exclusive Q&A with Pinar who has some inspiration for aspiring composers:
Q: What is your musical background and what kind of training do you have?
A: I am from Istanbul originally. I went to a conservatory when I was a little kid and I have loved films since I can remember. I came to the United States and figured out a way to study film scoring at Berklee College of Music through grants, scholarships and loans. Because of the conservatory, I tested out of many of my classes and ultimately graduated when I was about 19 years old. After that, I moved to Los Angeles and started work on my master’s degree in composition and garnered an internship opportunity at Paramount Pictures. I was on the lot and got to go to scoring stages every day, which was a remarkable experience. After that internship, I worked for amazing composers William Ross and Hans Zimmer until I ultimately started working on my own. It was a big risk, but I wanted to be on my own and try to get my projects my way and I’ve been lucky ever since!
Q: What are some skills you think are most valuable for aspiring composers?
A: I think the most valuable thing in life is to have a curious mind because if you’re curious about learning and evolving, you’re going to improve continuously – because education just never ends. When you’re really passionate about what you do and true to yourself in doing what you want to spend the rest of your life doing, you’re going to just give it your all. I tend to think that most people that have a plan B end up doing plan B, so I never wanted to have a plan B. I kept going in my life, pretending that I would never do anything else and interestingly enough I have been doing this from day one.
Q: What is some advice you have for young musicians looking to compose as a career?
A: Besides actual music theory - the fundamental knowledge and skills - technology is such a huge part of it, so they need to get really great at producing mockups and being able to have that well-rounded education with different styles of music. I always think that your main instrument - your primary instrument - is your ear and everything else you play or sing – that’s all secondary. Because if you can’t hear the music, you can’t make it. The beautiful thing about the human brain and our ears is that you’ll retain what’s relevant and all of those things over the years help in writing and becoming a better composer.
Q: How does it feel to be the first female composer for a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
A: It feels great, because it’s my first Marvel film I got to score something that meant a lot to me and hope that it can inspire others to pursue their dreams and goals. If that inspiration makes its way to the right people, I think that’s the most rewarding thing about this entire experience. I’m really grateful to be part of the Marvel universe and to get to share my music with so many people.
Q: What challenges did you have scoring the film?
A: I didn’t consider it a challenge, more like a puzzle. As we go through the entire process, the main thing was to figure out the Captain Marvel theme. I was at the studio for a couple of days trying to figure something out and I think I was psyching myself out about it because I couldn’t come up with anything that I liked. I went out for a walk and I just started humming and looking like a crazy person in the middle of the street and I finally came up with this theme. So, I made a voicemail for myself and that theme is still on my voicemail and is now the Captain Marvel theme.
Q: How involved were you in the recording process of the actual soundtrack?
A: I was involved heavily all the way. Being in the studio with all the musicians coming in and that very first downbeat - the very first note that they play - with a 90-piece orchestra, that sound is heavenly. Hearing the music first time, realizing in real time with all the musicians, hearing all the things that I came up with by myself in my studio is a surreal, beautiful feeling and one of my most favorite parts of the process.
Q: Is there any other advice or anything else you’d like to share with aspiring composers?
A: There’s so many things, but the biggest thing is: if you know this is what you want to do with the rest of your life, you can take advice, sure, but there’s going to a be a lot of discouragement. Just like Captain Marvel herself, you just have to learn to keep getting up after every defeat and not being discouraged. And if this is what makes your heart smile, you have to keep doing it and give everything you’ve got to it. So, learn as much as you can every day, wake up and do the best you can every single day.
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