World Class SA – Trevor Jones: Cinematic sound master

2014-06-01 15:00

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Watching a movie without music is like trying to float without air. There is no emotional buoyancy. The film score is a synapse, connecting what we see to what we feel.

As such, Trevor Jones has lifted us up, taken us down and quickened our pulse. You may not know his name, but chances are you’ve been on his ride.

He has written more than 120 scores (Excalibur, Angel Heart, Mississippi Burning, Last of the Mohicans, Notting Hill); he has worked with big-name directors like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Ridley Scott, and performers such as Sting, David Bowie, U2, Sinead O’Connor and Elvis Costello; he has conducted the best symphony orchestras, string quartets, soloists and choirs; and he has won several Emmys and Golden Globes, and earned Bafta nominations and an Oscar along the way.

Clearly, Trevor Jones is at the top of his game.

He describes his journey from being a “Kaapse skollie” raised in District 6 into the annals of Oscar winners as the “sheer bloody-mindedness of a hypersensitive kid with a huge stammer”.

His parents divorced when he was five, leaving his mother to raise him and his two younger brothers on a machine worker’s salary.

“When you have nothing, what else is there but to dream of a place where you are free, where intellect is not assessed by skin colour? I knew from the age of five, from the time I started playing truant and sneaking into the local cinema, that I wanted to be in film,” he says.

After school, Jones won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in England, later studying music at York University and then completing a master’s degree at the British National Film and Television School (NFTS), where he cut his teeth scoring 22 student films.

By 1995, Time Magazine was calling Jones “one of the top five composers revolutionising music in film”. In 1999, he became the first chair of music at the NFTS.

Jones’ immersion in the world of film, his belief in its power as a consciousness-raising process and as a way of expiating the sores of society have informed his professional roles as a film maker, composer and teacher, and ultimately his decision to return to South Africa, where he lives with his wife in Kommetjie on the Cape Peninsula.

He records with Abbey Road Studios online, will fly to Los Angeles to conduct an orchestra next month and then on to the UK to “audition” to write the score to his son’s movie.

While Hollywood beats a path to his door, Jones is vexed by local apathy – what he calls “a constipated film industry bogged down by inside wrangling and lack of long-term vision”.

Still, his most powerful agent of change will always be his own example. Significantly, his stammer disappeared as soon as he escaped apartheid South Africa.

“When you grow up in one of the world’s ghettos,” he explains, “you want to show others who need to improve their lot in life what is possible, if they dare to stick their heads above the parapet.”

Newsmakers & Shapeshifters

Pumeza Matshikiza

A breath of fresh air

In February, the UK’s Daily Mail hailed Matshikiza as “one of opera’s most exciting new voices”. That’s a far cry from the quantity surveyor she thought she might ­become.

Her talent was recognised by composer Kevin Volans, who funded Matshikiza’s trip to London to audition for the Royal College of Music. She won a full scholarship.

After that, things moved quickly. In 2011, she signed a three-year contract with the Stuttgart Opera in Germany, where critics raved about her.

Next up: a European tour; her ­debut at the Zurich Opera and with the BBC Symphony Orchestra; and the release of an album, Voice of Hope, which tells the story of her “incredible journey from Africa to ­Europe with songs and arias that prove ­music unites people across the world”.

Siba Mtongana

Hot stuff

Mtongana was first introduced to South ­African audiences in 2011 through her show Cooking with Siba on Mzansi Magic. Her beauty, warmth and mouthwatering meals won us over instantly.

Her work on the show and in Drum magazine earned her three Galliova Awards for her contribution to the local food industry, a Safta in 2013, and ultimately a call from the Food ­Network.

Featuring the world’s top celebrity chefs, the network catapulted her career to a whole new level. Siba’s Table is now watched in more than 90 countries across the world.

Her latest star turn will be as a judge on the local version of the hit international show Chopped. Her recipe for ­success? “Balance. Equal parts family, ­career and the spiritual,” she says.

» This series is supported by Play Your Part, which is a nationwide campaign to inspire and celebrate active citizenship. Each South African is encouraged to offer their time, money, skills or goods to make a collective difference to the lives of those in their communities. Start following @PlayYourPart

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