Ronit Kirchman Spotlight: Celebrating Women Composers

Ronit Kirchman is a composer expanding the frontiers of film and television music. She is recognized in the press as “an extremely original voice” with “a virtuoso touch” and “a truly unique force in the entertainment industry.”

Ronit is perhaps best known for her innovative, genre-bending score for The Sinner — the acclaimed Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated anthology series executive produced by Jessica Biel, which is slated to premiere its fourth season in 2021.

Ronit’s score for The Sinner was named one of IndieWire’s Best TV Scores of 2020. Her other recent projects include the feature film Evil Eye (Amazon Studios / Blumhouse), for which she received a Hollywood Music in Media Award; and the episodic series Limetown on Peacock TV (based on the hit podcast of the same name). She has released several soundtrack albums with Lakeshore Records.

The recipient of multiple awards from the Sundance Institute and BMI, Ronit is a prolific songwriter, music producer, conductor, violinist, multi-instrumentalist, and singer. She also composes original scores for theater, dance, multimedia installations, and the concert stage. Ronit has performed and recorded internationally in a range of contexts including free improvisation, classical, live electronica, rock, pop, jazz, world, blues and country. She is a poet, author and visual artist.

We reached out to Ronit to discuss her recent projects and what’s next for this multi-talented artist.

 

SSM: What inspires you to work on a film or television project? Are there particular topics that you are drawn to more?

RK: I’m most inspired to score a film or tv series when the creative team has a meaningful perspective, curiosity, intelligence, and a spirit of camaraderie and collaboration. A lot of times, it’s the answers to “who will my creative partners will be?”, and “how are we are going to tell the story?” that get me excited about a project – even more than the “what” of the story’s subject or genre – because the “who” and “how” most fundamentally define the journey we’re going to go on. That begins with the script and the framework built by the writer, and naturally extends into the scoring process.

I love working with directors and producers who are interested in discovering what music can do in their story, and who are eager to find an original, impactful musical and sonic approach for their film. In terms of the content that I’m drawn to, it often depends on what I’ve last worked on! I like to take on a variety of stories, so that I can keep things changing and give myself a chance to explore different aspects of myself as a person and an artist. Each story also tends to emphasize different aspects of composing and technique, and variety in the content keeps me flexible and awake to new possibilities.

 

SSM: Is there a particular genre that you find more challenging to craft music for? 

RK: Each genre area presents its own challenges, which create opportunities and catalysts for new ideas and structural invention. Sometimes the most challenging (and enjoyable!) projects are those that shift tone quickly, or encompass a range of tones. I find dark comedy very appealing and interesting, because you have to get people on board with a certain tone, and then keep them immersed in the story even when the tone changes drastically.

The music creates permission and a context within which to feel deeply, or to laugh, or to feel fear or horror, often in complex juxtaposition. You get to go deep and play things in an unexpected way but you have to be very nimble to get it right.

 

SSM: You are a poet, author, visual artist among many other talents. How do you see the relationship between composing music and your other vast visual artistic talents?

RK: What we make is very much a reflection of how we perceive and imagine. My experience is definitely synesthetic when I’m creating something. When I’m composing, for example, and I imagine a sonic texture or melodic gesture, it often comes with a dynamic sense of color, space, and movement as well. It’s not a one-to-one correspondence of meaning, but there’s a multi-sensory conversation in my mind as I articulate my ideas. And in my artwork, I often investigate questions of scale, motion, and iteration that have very musical qualities as well.

When I score a film, I feel like all of my creative avenues are activated through storytelling. The story world is a unique microcosm of human experience. So it’s really how everything comes together – the characters’ journeys, the visual language, the sound and music – that generates your experience of it in the audience. Approaching composition from that integrated, holistic point of view allows me to find the musical voice for each project that brings it to life.

SSM: Evil Eye is about the pressures that women can sometimes face to get married and how that can play out with falling for the wrong person. The music is quietly haunting and beautiful. Can you speak a little bit about your creative process with creating the score?

RK: There’s a wonderful, complex mother-daughter relationship at the heart of Evil Eye. Usha and Pallavi share a lot of love and connection, as well as a generational push-and-pull over tradition, custom, fear, faith, and family secrets.

Their story also illuminates the bigger picture of what you might call collective karma, and social structures that evolve through the individual experiences of many generations. As a composer, there was a lot I could relate to in giving voice to both women’s experiences and exploring the full emotional range. It starts out in a very lyrical space, escalates into outright horror, and still offers room for contemplation.

 

SSM: What’s coming up next for you that we should know about? 

RK: I’m looking forward to an exciting fourth season of The Sinner, which is going into production again this spring. Since it’s an anthology series, I have a chance to reimagine the musical palette and create a lot of new material and themes for the show each season. The new episodes will premiere later this year on USA. I’m also in music production mode, mixing an album for a friend and composing new music for a future release. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

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