Thursday, July 27, 2017


Written by Samara Purnell

 Left to right: Daniel Amodio, Kirsten Axelholm, Kenneth Lampl

One hour was never going to be enough for the Critics Circle to ask all the questions and hear all the stories, lessons and anecdotes from Kenneth Lampl who was recently instated as the Head of the School of Music at the ANU.

American born and Bronx bred, Lampl began his love affair with jazz and improv at a tender young age, watching a saxophonist improvise one day. Lampl was taken by the fact the jazz player was using no sheet music and he wondered “Where does music come from?!”

Inspired by the likes of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Tchaikovsky and Wagner, Lampl spent time in jazz clubs and doing improv performances, while he picked up his initial musical skills before ending up at the Juilliard School.

Musical compositions for theatre productions and dance followed but Lampl always held on to his ambition to compose for film. He has now scored many films and TV shows and studied under composer John Williams, another of his idols.

The critics were keen to hear about the technical and creative process of scoring a film and Lampl briefly touched on the production timeline of when and how music is added to film and the differences between composing or scoring for film as opposed to dance: In film sound is last, with dance is it more of a collaborative effort, where dance is music-led, he said. However in both mediums, it is all about “Finding the timing”.

Lampl said music for film is about what the movie “looks like” on screen, not about the narrative or characters. He mentioned Stanley Kubrick was his favourite director and we discussed juxtaposing the mise en scene with compositions.

But Lampl’s list does not end there! His involvement with music for gaming and scoring “Pokemon: The first movie” led to conversations about the huge scale and revenue of the gaming industry, likely much more than most of us had considered. Lampl spoke about how gaming as much as anything could have a cultural influence on young people and revive interest in orchestral scores.

Billboard magazine ranked Lampl’s Music Business and Technology Program at Hofstra University in New York as one of the top music industry programs in the United States.

Here in Canberra, Lampl hopes philanthropy and a sound (no pun intended) business model will revitalise and sustain the School of Music, with an external advertising agency, marketing plan and incentives for staff as part of that model.

Lampl’s pedagogy dictates that it is essential for all musicians to combine an extensive skill-set in technology, and gain competency in all aspects of production, including how to mix and how to use sound libraries effectively.

Career musicians “Must be able to write good music – fast!” says Lampl and believes it is a skill to be taught. He managed to compose a 90 minute score in five days with the help of his pianist wife. He accepted the challenge from the production company figuring he’d be employed for life if he could pull it off, only to leave the client thinking that on that note, so to speak, five days was a completely reasonable timeframe to turn around a lengthy musical work!

The fundamentals of music theory and technical competence always have and will be essential despite tendencies toward student creativity and experimentation and abstract teaching methods, but recorded music and video clips (an engagement with the visual medium) were what was sustainable and would sell and resonate with audiences long term. “Performance for recording is at the fore and also has financial spin-offs. We need to train musical entrepreneurs”, Lampl said.

Lampl sees the media as one of the biggest challenges in creating a successful music school at the ANU. His hope and plea was that all forms of media and outlets do due diligence and write without a political agenda. And he is looking forward to working with the V.C with a clean slate going forward.

Lampl was joined in the forum by his wife Kirsten, and his agent, Daniel Amodio, also an American, with a baseball background, who manages the Canberra Cavalry Baseball team. Amodio said being an agent for sportspeople and musicians are similar in that they are both talent driven and believes that “If you find good people, stick with them!”