Esin Aydingoz is a Turkish media composer, professional pianist, and music director whose work spans animation, silent films, documentaries, television, musicals, and video games. Most recently, she arranged some of the cover songs for Wednesday, Tim Burton’s hit Netflix television show starring Jenny Ortega as Wednesday Addams.
Previously, Esin has scored for projects like Simchas and Sorrows starring Hari Nef, Amazon Prime’s The Prevalence, and Kino Lorber’s Cinema’s First Nasty Women. She is also an accomplished pianist, music director, and producer, and has produced various albums for Disney. Esin’s piano can be heard on Sony’s The Broken Hearts Gallery and Disney’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
Esin is honored to have been nominated for the 2023 David Raksin Award for Emerging Talent, from The Society of Composers and Lyricists. Winning would mark her lifetime dedication to the arts, which is ubiquitous in her life: in addition to the credits above, Esin acts as the secretary for The Alliance for Women Film Composers and is a committee member for The Society of Composers and Lyricists. She is also the Assistant Chair of Berklee College of Music's Film Scoring Department, one of the youngest professors in the prestigious school’s history.
PH: Hello Esin! I hope you're doing well. Can you share a bit of your background?
Esin Aydingoz: Absolutely! I was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey with the literal best parents in the whole wide world. I started playing piano around the age of four and started getting more serious with music around 8 years old when I joined a part-time state conservatory program to study classical piano performance. I always loved music but I realized my true passion for it once I started composing. The feedback I received from friends was that my music sounded like soundtracks - which was basically the best compliment I could ever receive! So, I started dreaming about doing this professionally and eventually discovered Berklee College of Music - a truly perfect fit for me. I double majored in Film Scoring and Contemporary Writing & Production, with a minor in Musical Theatre Writing. As soon as I graduated, I moved to Los Angeles. It was so fun putting all that I learned at Berklee into action. I interned, performed, recorded, composed, assisted, music directed, arranged, orchestrated - said yes to any and all opportunities in music – which introduced me to the most wonderful people! I'm now actively working as a composer meanwhile serving as the Assistant Chair of Berklee's Screen Scoring (formerly known as Film Scoring) Department. I’m also serving as the secretary of the Alliance for Women Film Composers.
PH: How has music made a significant impact in your life? Did you always want to pursue a career in music?
Esin Aydingoz: Yes and no. I always knew I loved music and music was always a part of my happiest memories, but I never thought I loved it enough to make a career out of it. When I was in elementary school because I could play piano well, I was always the safety plan at my school shows, where they had me wait and be ready to perform backstage if costume and/or scene changes didn't work out in time - or a student went missing before his/her entrance. I loved that the adults put so much faith in my little pianist self - but at the same time, I hated practicing. So, in a way, I loved the rewarding moments of music, but I didn't necessarily want to put in the work. Everything changed the day that I noticed I could write music. Then it became my unchangeable mission to become a successful composer!
PH: Your most recent work can be seen (or heard!) on Tim Burton's Netflix series, Wednesday. How did you become involved with this show?
Esin Aydingoz: During the pandemic, I once did an emergency vocal transcription for an incredible artist called Alana Da Fonseca - whom I had never met before at that time - but who eventually became a big sister to me over the course of our online collaborations! A few months or so later, she asked me if I would be interested in collaborating with her to create dark, virtuosic, and twisted solo cello covers and high school band arrangements. My response to her was an immediate yes - because if she is in, I'm in. Things got surreal as she started providing me with more details: that these covers would be for a Netflix series, created by Tim Burton, about the Addams Family, where Wednesday Addams plays cello on-screen. I didn't think life could ever get this cool - but I'm so thankful it did, and that it was received so well by audiences worldwide.
PH: Can you talk a bit about your creative process? For Wednesday, what did your preparation look like?
Esin Aydingoz: Once we knew what song they needed, we would immediately dive in and start the creative process. Sometimes Alana would start the arrangement and I would take over - and sometimes vice versa. There were constant exchanges of MIDI files, audio files, crazy iMessage voice notes of us trying to sound like cellos, and FaceTime calls of us celebrating our work that the world wouldn't hear for a long long time. Alana mostly works in the pop world and does a lot of vocal work, and I do a lot of orchestral/cinematic work - so it was so fun for us to mix our different backgrounds in music to create something unusual - in a way that would fit Wednesday Addams and the darkness of her world! Because we had to do the grand majority of our work in pre-production, we had no idea what the show would look like - so we had to imagine Tim Burton's vision while re-imagining these iconic songs and classical pieces. There was no preparation. It was very much Hollywood-style: "Can you get this done by tomorrow morning for Jenna Ortega's cello lesson/shoot" - "Of course"
PH: You've worked on many projects such as scoring for Simchas and Sorrows starring Hari Nef and Amazon Prime’s The Prevalence, as well as Sony’s The Broken Hearts Gallery and Disney’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. How has each of these experiences played a role in shaping you both personally and professionally?
Esin Aydingoz: The first two were projects that I participated in as a composer, and the latter two were projects that I took part in as a pianist. I think any opportunity that connects us with new creatives in the industry is an eye-opening experience. Sometimes you learn about thinking outside of the box, sometimes you face a new challenge that changes how you see things, and sometimes you just make new friends that turn into your creative partners and collaborative soulmates. All four of these projects were vital to where I am now in different ways. Simchas and Sorrows was my second collaboration with music supervisor Jennifer Smith, through which we really got to bond. I'm working on another incredible film with her right now - that I can't wait to announce! The Prevalence was my first project that was on a streaming platform with my name as the main composer so that always has a special place in my heart. The Broken Hearts Gallery was a project where my recording had to match Dacre Mongtomery's on-screen performance which wasn't to click, so that was fun. I also love collaborating with Genevieve Vincent, the composer of The Broken Hearts Gallery. HSMTMTS was also crazy to be a small part of... When I was little, there was a time where I watched BTS videos from the High School Musical movies on a daily basis - so getting to record for this merchandise, and be on-screen on some of the music videos while wearing a Wild Cat jacket was surreal. I got to meet Olivia Rodrigo and the whole cast before they all blew up! All of these projects are reminders of how the universe rewards us when we stay true to ourselves and put in the work.
PH: Your work spans animation, silent films, documentaries, television, musicals, and video games. How are each of these types of projects different in terms of preparation and execution?
Esin Aydingoz: I think this is where the 10,000 hour-rule comes into place because in all honesty, the preparation and the execution are all a blur. Of course, I have figured out ways to be more efficient in my creative process and such but the pure creation stage of writing music to me is always feelings & intuition driven. I understand the story, feel it to my core, empathize with the characters, and really try to understand what the director is envisioning... Once I let all of this sit in, I then let the film inspire me, move me and guide me. In a way, the director trusts me to tell the story musically, and I trust the film to help me tell it the right way. If my director is really insistent on a specific reference track or album, I then do my homework of critically listening to it and exploring ways in which I can achieve that sound but also maintain my artistic identity.
PH: What are some of the challenges associated with each of these?
Esin Aydingoz: I think the challenge is working with constantly moving timelines and deadlines of multiple projects all at once - and making each collaborator feel like they are your #1 priority. But to honor your question more here is a short summary:
- Animations and silent films are more challenging in terms of having a cohesive tempo map for all the sync points that you would like to hit.
- Documentaries are challenging because you need to make sure you allow more space for the narration.
- Television can be demanding with tight deadlines and lots of music to deliver. When you have many minutes of music to write, there are also often many minutes to revise.
- Musicals are challenging because you work with the human voice - which is way more limited in range than an orchestra or a piano - so you need to always be mindful of that.
- Video games could be challenging because it requires more than writing music: you need to design the music and remember how at any given time the player might jump from one track to the other - and that this has to always work compositionally.
PH: Congratulations on your nomination for the 2023 David Raksin Award for Emerging Talent! Can you share a bit about what this nomination means to you?
Esin Aydingoz: The fact that only SCL members could vote for this nomination is what makes it invaluable to me. It is one thing being recognized by family, friends, and the general public, and a completely other thing being recognized by your colleagues and heroes that you respect, admire and look up to. Simchas and Sorrows is my first feature film, so it is very dear to my heart. I have always seen it as a gift, simply because it is a beautiful film that the creatives trusted me with - but with this nomination, it means even more to me now. Like, I'll tell my grandchildren about it one day!
PH: How important is it that so many people in the world get to experience the healing, life-changing benefits of art and music? How have you experienced - and how do you in your own personal life - continue to make the world a better place through these mediums?
Esin Aydingoz: For me, there is nothing more touching than hearing a live orchestra, and there is nothing more inspiring than one making his/her dreams come true. My name actually means "inspiration" in Turkish, and I truly want to be a role model for people to dream big. I think that's how we cope with life and how we heal and even prevent ourselves from being hurt. The education system in Turkey - and possibly in many other countries - is set in a way that one chooses a profession based on a score that he/she gets from a national exam. I think this needs to change. I strongly believe that if everyone had dreams that gave them the drive to live, humanity would be in a much better place. I want to remind people how beautiful it is to have dreams - and how fulfilling it is to achieve them with hard work and kindness! Also, as artists, we have such a unique power to engage with people, and if our music supports causes to help a specific demographic, raise awareness, get people to re-consider some of their actions and choices, or simply help them cope with a hard time in their lives, these are all big wins. Also, community matters so much! Being a part of the AWFC and mentoring for SoundThinkingNYC have both been life-changing. Getting to help others and cause meaningful change is both a responsibility and an honor.
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