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Meet Jason Martin Castillo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jason Martin Castillo.

Jason Martin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started studying classical guitar at a small music school in East Los Angeles. Around age ten, my guitar teacher noticed I was more interested in writing music and he started teaching me composition — simple things, like chorales/four part writing, harmony, etc. I eventually went to Berklee College of Music in Boston for four years to study composition and production. Came back home to Los Angeles after that!

I have always liked film scores, and always the one that didn’t really sound like your normal film score. No disrespect to the traditionally cinematic sound – that stuff is beautiful. But I always liked the ones that really made me feel something in their own way. One of the scores that really solidified my interests in getting into this world is Jonny Greenwood’s score to There Will Be Blood.

I liked it because it told the story, like a good film score should, but also challenged my ears and ways of identifying certain emotions with this particular type of music. I should also mention that a lot of the score is written in a similar style to some of Penderecki’s works which probably made me like it more. This brings me to my next interest, classical music.

I have always been a fan of classical. I find myself mostly listening to the 20th century up to today. It had been a dream of mine to start an ensemble of my own; playing only contemporary music. So I did just that! We are called Sonic Open Orchestra. I program the concerts and conduct the ensemble as well. I grew up in East LA. The heart of backyard punk shows. I went to a lot of those in high school.

I always wanted something with the same accessibility, easiness to relate, price, and electric ambiance that people thrive on… except done with contemporary classical music. That’s our goal. We have our concerts in unique venues (that allow you to move around during the performance), everything is completely done by us, and our audience can relate to that. I think one of the biggest problems in the classical community is how not-relatable it all is.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road, but that’s OK. I love doing what I do, so any bumps in the road are worth it to me. Money was an issue at first. It is difficult to see any money when you start out as a composer. Establishing yourself is tricky. Finding filmmakers can also be challenging. Especially ones that you find work well with your style. But when you do, oh boy is it wonderful.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
My business? I really dislike calling what I do “business.” It always felt weird comparing the arts to other businesses. But I suppose I’m in the business of making people feel emotions using sonic frequencies. I am a composer. I write music for film, TV, media, all that stuff. I also write concert music. I’m also a conductor! (Conducting is a true love of mine, though hardly a “business”).

Not to sound pretentious, but I don’t really like saying I’m a “film composer.” Most people assume what a composer’s music sounds like when one adds the word “film” before “composer.” So I usually just say I’m a composer, and my music happens to work for films. I think you could say the same about most of my favorite composers who have their work in films.

I usually promote myself as a composer who has a specific style as opposed to the composer who will write whatever you want. Maybe this approach gets me less work, but it sure makes it more rewarding for myself. I take the art seriously. I like to be true with what I’m writing and see every piece and every note within it as something personal and meaningful.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love that the history of this city is built on people leaving where they’re from to try something new since the beginning. Still hasn’t changed really. It’s rich with culture, people from countries from all over the world, beautiful colors, music, food, and the idea of following a dream; and it always has been this! I think this is beautiful, welcoming, and drives us. Also, love the neon signs. Also, taco trucks are what really hold us all together. Let’s not fool ourselves.

What I like least? Wasting time in traffic. Pretentiousness. The clique-nature of the arts (I think this is in every city). The taco trucks outweigh all things bad in this city. I forget about the traffic the moment I’m in line to get to the ordering window staring at the stringed lights illuminating the glorious taco trucks of Los Angeles.

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Image Credit:
Sela Shiloni, Ellie Pritts

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