"Milk Teeth" Soundtrack Released!
The score to Felipe Vargas’ fantastical drama-horror short film, “Milk Teeth” has been released as a soundtrack album on all digital streaming platforms.
The music utilizes both soft and sentimental melodies and wildly intense textures, all held together by a simple theme for the film’s young hero and his counterpart, a devilish, cajoling monster. The score is highlighted by a few of USC’s most talented musicians, recorded at the legendary John Williams Scoring stage.
Off to the Fair!
Several months ago, Maffe teamed up with talented director, Logan Dellinger (Moose: The Movie (2015), Sudsy Slim Rides Again (2018)) to score a promotional ad for the Alaska State Fair. The music is written in a classic adventure style with a grand melody, accompanying the exciting visuals of a family's escapades at the fair.
The Western Fairs Association in Reno, Nevada has awarded them with both the first and second place recognition of excellence award in a television advertising series.
The Master's Screen
The first semester of Maffe’s USC Master’s studies yielded nearly an hour of diverse new music. A selection of these pieces, including both live recordings and meticulous ‘mockups’ has been made available exclusively on this website.
“USC’s program has allowed me to hone my voice in the traditional symphony orchestra, and has also pushed me to expand my sonic palate in electronics all while working under tight deadlines and thorough criticisms from professors,” Maffe says, “It’s an ideal situation for a composer, and a privilege that might not be as readily available outside of an academic setting. To be here, I feel very blessed.”
"Milk Teeth" Premieres to an Audience of 400
Felipe Vargas’ newest short film, “Milk Teeth,” premiered alongside three other student films today at the Norris Cinema Theater to an audience of around 400.
The vision of Milk Teeth was an interesting genre crossover which saw period drama and fantastical horror collide in what may be best described as a modern Brothers Grimm fairytale.
Maffe says, “I am indebted to the inspired directing of Felipe Vargas, who allowed me to bring my musical voice to his beautiful film.”
Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) was indisputably one of the greatest forces of film music in the 20th century. He was known for his ingenuity in modern symphonic writing as well as the integration of state of the art technology and electronics in his music.
Following in his footsteps, Sterling Maffe has composed a piece of music that takes advantage of hybrid scoring techniques (mixing recordings of live musicians with sampled instruments). This homage to maestro Goldsmith features a 16-piece ensemble and woodwind quintet recorded at East West Studios and Capitol Records, respectively, and is a lovely musical visit to one of Maffe’s favorite genres, science fiction.
"Nightlight" Released Online
A new short film, two minutes to be exact has just been released on Audience Awards. It was created by Kianna Bliven (Sunsprite, Mort.) with her usual partner in crime, Townsend Dick, and is about a young girl with a physical injury who loves past appearances and makes an unlikely friend.
The film has been entered into the She Directed Filmmaker Contest and is vying for votes from its viewers in pursuit of a $10,000 prize.
The music is subtle, but has the same warm, spirited feel that Maffe is known for.
Silvestri's Seal of Approval
According to tradition of the USC Screen Scoring program at Thornton School of music, a committee of faculty (SCOR) rates the candidates upon their acceptance into the Masters program. This year Sterling Maffe has been selected highest-rated of over 150 aspiring composers. Because of this, film scoring giant Alan Silvestri (Avengers, Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, etc.) and his wife Sandra have generously gifted Maffe a partial scholarship to attend the program.
"Mr. Silvestri is one of my greatest influences," Maffe says, "and it is such an honor to have his support as I follow in his footsteps toward a career in film scoring."
Alan Silvestri adds his approval on a recent social media post, "Congratulations, Sterling. You're on your way!!"
"Four Elements" Released
Following last week's release of the soundtrack of original music to Sunsprite (2019), Maffe has put out another album, this one in the classical tradition and written for solo piano.
A programmatic suite illustrating the four elements, The Four Elements is a 30-minute composition consisting of four movements. Each movement characteristically describes its respective element: In I. Air, there is much floating and soft, sweet melodies; II. Water takes a minimalist approach, similar to the simple, always-moving nature of water; III. Fire is chaotic and unpredictable but still retains a certain charm; and Earth is a portrayal of nature in all its mystery and grandeur in surprisingly simple musical terms. 'Elements' will no doubt conjure images of beauty, sophistication, and sometimes unrest.
Sunsprite Soundtrack Released
The soundtrack of original score to Townsend Dick's Sunsprite (2019) has been released on all digital streaming and downloading platforms. It features about 30 minutes of symphonic orchestra music that is warm and familial, reminiscent of the Spielberg/Williams collaborations of the 80s. It is a welcome diversion of Maffe's usual bombastic and sometimes verbose writing style and is just as enduring as the film it accompanies.
Film plot summary: After finding and old radio in his grandfather's shop, Alder begins receiving mysterious coded messages. With the help of his childhood friend, Lacey and Grandpa Art - he embarks on a quest to make a stranger's last wish a reality.
Biola's 2019 Outstanding Musician Award to Maffe
Maffe's career at Biola is given the capstone of 2019 Outstanding Musician Award in the Composition Department. This award is given to the student of highest merit for his or her endeavors as a composer of the 2018-2019 school year both in academia and extracurricularly.
Maffe also won the award in 2018.
"Patchwork Grey" and The Artisan Crowned Best of Biola
For the second year in a row, Maffe takes home both first and second place in the annual Biola Composition Competition. "Patchwork Grey," a solo harp piece performed by Gretchen Sheetz won first place. It is characterized by its colorful chromaticism despite the practical limitations of the instrument's pedals (listen here). Second place was claimed by
The Artisan, Maffe's epic musical self portrait which illustrates the dichotomy of commercialism and pursuit of artistry in the life of a composer (watch the performance here).
This anonymous competition was judged this year by Steven Hartke (2013 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition), widely recognized as one of the leading composers of his generation, whose work has been hailed for both its singularity of voice and the inclusive breadth of its inspiration.
Maffe Wins Biola's Best Original Score for Sunsprite (2019)
The collaboration of Sterling Maffe, Townsend Dick, and Kianna Bliven again pays off as Maffe takes home his second straight title of "Best Original Score" at the Biola Film Festival.
The film, about two children and their unlikely adventures with a mysterious person on the other end of a HAMM radio, captured the hearts of the judges with its redeeming themes and lovable characters. The movie stands out with its music as well. Maffe's themes are memorable and harken a feeling of nostalgia. The score is well produced and surprisingly intricate for the two-and-a-half weeks in which it was composed.
The other composers nominated this year were Hammer (The Man Who Dwelt Below), Kozinski and Mauer (Aporia), Brown (Dear Dad), and Barclay (Mallory, Los Angeles).
New Film Premieres from the Makers of Mort. (2017)
A new film (titled Sunsprite) premiered from the makers of the award-winning short, Mort. on April 6. Sunsprite features the same charming storytelling of Kianna Bliven and the stunning visuals of Townsend Dick. The film was well received and featured a lively Q&A after with the cast and crew of the film.
The movie stars Danny Izzary (Alder), Breanna Raquel (Lacey Watts), and Donald Pitts (Grandpa Art) and had production design by Ashley Popiwchak.
Music was composed by Sterling Maffe.
Maffe Accepted into World's Number One Film Music School
The Screen Scoring Masters degree program (formerly a certificate) at USC's Thornton School of Music has long been considered the best program for film music in the world. It has also long been Maffe's desired post-graduate destination. He applied in November of 2018 and was just notified of his acceptance.
"It's quite and honor. I feel very blessed to be given this opportunity. It's been a goal of mine to attend this program for nearly a decade, and so to see it coming to fruition is exciting and even a bit surreal," the composer says.
World Premiere of "Fanfare for the Vanguard" a Success
In celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Southern California Brass Consortium, Maffe was commissioned to write the opening for a concert which featured some highlights of the band's performances from over the years.
On February 16, "Fanfare for the Vanguard" was premiered. The piece features feverish trumpet rhythms, soaring melodies, and a grand finale fitting of the momentous occasion.
Some other composers featured on and present at the concert: Rossano Galante, Craig Safan, and Costas Dafnis.
Undoubtedly, more collaborations between Maffe and the SCBC are on the horizon.
All-Maffe Symphonic Winds Concert Sets Precedent at Biola
After a full year of preparation, the Biola Symphonic Winds (Bob Feller, conductor) performed a 90-minute concert consisting solely of Maffe's original music. The event was the first of its kind at the 110-year-old school, as there had never been a large ensemble concert with the entirety of its music by a student composer to that point.
Among some of Maffe's crowd favorites ("Into the West," "Fanfare for the Patriot," "Alaska: Crest of the Hinterland," etc.), the concert also featured the world premiere of Maffe's musical epic, The Artisan, commissioned by the Biola Conservatory of Music. The piece was described by Maffe as a musical self-portrait which captured the machine-like work of being a composer for hire and the intimate beauty of furthering oneself and the art through composition. The Artisan consists of two movements—the first, bold and full of the grandeur of its featured instrument, the pipe organ (Ryanne McLaren); and the second, soft and passionate featuring the solo violin (Mikaela Borg).
At the end of the concert, Maffe conducted, "Mort's March," the main theme from the 2017 short film, Mort. (directed by Kianna Bliven).
"Less is More"
The old saying proved true on Tuesday when "Patchwork Grey," Maffe's composition for solo harp, won the fourth annual A Piacere Solo Instrument Composition Competition at Biola. The purpose of the competition is to allow student composers to become more adept at writing for specific solo instruments and to improve composition skills in a much more exposed setting, rather than being able to hide behind the facade of thicker instrumentation. "Patchwork Grey" is characterized by its colorful chromaticism despite the practical limitations of the instrument's tuning pedals (listen here). Gretchen Sheetz will perform the music at Biola's upcoming fall composer's concert.
Maffe also won the 'A Piacere' competition in 2015 for "Aficionado" (adjudicated and performed by Ilan Morgenstern, bass trombone) and in 2017 for "A Raven on the Moor" (adjudicated and performed by Maksim Velichkin, cello).
All-Maffe Symphonic Winds Concert to Be Performed in November
On November 10, 2018 the Biola Symphonic Winds band will put on a concert featuring nearly an hour of Maffe's original music for large ensemble.
The program is expected to be a compilation of pieces for wind ensemble and transcriptions of Maffe's orchestral music. The Biola University Conservatory of music has also commissioned the composer to write a symphony for the band which will be premiered at the concert.
"Cinder Tin" Premieres in Vienna, Austria
The first international performance of Sterling Maffe's music took place in Vienna on June 24, 2018 as part of the Vienna Summer Music Festival. World-renown contemporary classical ensemble PHACE played, "Cinder Tin," a vibrant and provocative piece for the unconventional quartet of flute, clarinet, viola, and cello.
Maffe says of the experience, "Vienna has been known for its rich history in the classical music tradition for hundreds of years. It's a privilege to be able to experience that history and contribute my pebble to the mountain of musical artistry that has come before me."
Maffe's Score for Mort. (2017) Wins Biola's Best Original Score
Maffe's dark, whimsical, and heart-warming score for Mort. (2017) has been honored with the 2018 Biola Film Festival Best Original Score award.
The film (directed by Kianna Bliven) is about a man who has the Midas touch of death and has to perform his duties as the angel of death every day falls in love with a woman who is riddled with demons of her own. Though the plot seems dark on paper, it is executed in such a way that brings the audience both laughter and tears through enduring characters and a captivating story which is complimented by Maffe's dynamic melodies and bright orchestration.
Other nominees this year were Maffe (Hexit), Foster (Beat), Santos (The Bacchae), and Qualkinbush (Verto).
Maffe Runs the Board with Biola Annual Awards
Sterling Maffe continues to gather accolades as he rounds the corner into his final year at the Biola University Conservatory of Music, adding three new awards to his resume.
In the 2018 annual composition contest, Maffe won both first and second place. Karyenda, recently praised by world-famous composer Samuel Barber as an "excellent achievement in orchestral writing," won first place (listen to Karyenda here). Second place was awarded to, "A Raven on the Moor," a solo cello piece (listen to "A Raven on the Moor" here). This anonymous competition was judged this year by Grammy award winning composer Michael Daugherty, one of the most commissioned, performed, and recorded composers on the American concert music scene today.
Maffe was also honored with the 2018 Outstanding Musician Award in the Composition Department. This award is given to the student of highest merit for his or her endeavors as a composer of the 2017-2018 school year both in academia and extracurricularly.
The Frozen King Released
Maffe's second cinematic album (following Legend) has been released worldwide. The Frozen King features an hour of music in a variety of film music styles and instrumentations. The first track, bearing the same name as the album, sets the tone for the compilation of works: epic. A full symphony orchestra and choir, along with the hints of a few electronics.
The rest of the album features soaring strings, an extended piano sketch, and even a performance of the didjeridoo by Maffe himself.
The Frozen King is the most ambitious album Maffe has released to date and commands a fresh and exciting artistic voice unique to the composer.
Maffe has collaborated with several bright minds from the Biola School of Cinema and Media Arts to produce an exciting new short film titled Mort. The film is about a man who is cursed with the power of death and the grim responsibilities therein but finds life in loving an unlikely heroin who is tormented by demons of her own.
The short is written and directed by Kianna Bliven, cinematography by Townsend Dick and stars Nicholas Wilson and Nicole Coulon.
Douglas' Dark Comedy
What better way to accompany dark comedy than with jazz. Maffe teams up with Brandon Douglas (Hexit) again for a short film that you feel guilty laughing at.
The score is characterized by shrill clarinet squeaks over a smooth bass line and bobbin' drums, then Maffe hits you with the insane, over-the-top horror stings for good measure.
"Alaska: Crest of the Hinterland" Strikes Up the Band
Gleo Huyck (pictured) and the Mat-Su Concert Band, frequent collaborators with Maffe, gave 'Alaska' another whirl in the first concert of their season. They originally commissioned the piece in 2015, but were unable to record the premiere at the time.
Huyck is excited to tackle the music once again. "It's a great piece. It's very cinematic...[Maffe's] principal type of composing." Maffe flew to Alaska to be present for the event.
Maffe's mother, a flutist, has just recently joined the band and will perform her son's work in one of her first concerts with the ensemble.
Maffe Completes Internship at Hans Zimmer's Studio
"It was a surreal experience, to say the least," Maffe says about the experience, "one day I'm dreaming of the possibilities to come, maybe five years down the line I'll cross paths with Hans Zimmer—then the next day I'm standing in his office meeting him."
In May, 2017 Maffe went through the interview process for the coveted internship at the studio of the legendary composer, Remote Control Productions. He completed the internship this fall, experiencing the film scoring scene first hand through a collection of sit-ins and conversations industry leaders from around the world.
Pictured: Mike Maffe (Sterling's father), Hans Zimmer, and Sterling Maffe.
Hexit Soundtrack Released
A hybrid of symphony and synthesizer we have not yet heard from Maffe. The Hexit soundtrack, while it doesn't have sweeping themes, is full of catchy leitmotifs and interesting timbres. The music captures the sci-fi/mystery elements of the film well without being too 'on the nose'.
Maffe straddles the extremes of 'avant grade' and 'tired' to provide a score that is fresh and resists the temptation to fall into standard suspense tropes.
"Catacombs of a Rose" Wins First Place
Maffe's piece for string orchestra, "Catacombs of a Rose," has won first place in the 2017 Biola Composition Competition.
The piece gained traction after its premiere in Anchorage, Alaska back in April. The judge of the Biola concert ultimately determined that Maffe's piece which features an original modality was best in show.
Maffe to Receive Rayner Brown Composition Award
Biola University Conservatory of Music hosts an annual awards luncheon wherein students are given different accolades based on their performance in the previous school year both academically and extracurricularly.
The Rayner Brown Composition Award is given to a composer who shows promise in accessing in the craft of writing music over the next year. Sterling Maffe has been awarded this honor for the 2017-2018 semesters.
"It shows that the conservatory has faith in my abilities," Maffe says, "I see it as both an encouragement that I'm on the right path, and a challenge to prove that they made the right decision. I'm excited for what God has in store for the next year."
Maffe's first collaboration with filmmaker Brandon Douglas premiered on May 4.
The film is about a man who is on the loose, pursued by masked HEXIT agents. His only weapon is a bionic arm attachment which momentarily slows down time to a near stop. He must find out who is chasing him and why.
The film stars Bobby Brodney (The Man) and Mikki Hernandez (Aila).
The music mixes electronic elements with a traditional symphonic orchestra in a way that seamlessly immerses the audience in the action.
'Catacombs' with Q&A
Maffe returned to the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, for the first time since Cajolery of the Forest in 2013, for the premiere of Maffe's piece for string orchestra, "Catacombs of a Rose" (listen here). The music was reduced to a string quartet instrumentation for the performance but still held the main object of interest, the tonality.
Maffe invented a new modality (musical scale) for the construction of his work which he calls the 'Maffian Mode'. Among other functionality, the mode is an octatonic scale which aims to shift the tendency of dominant chords to come to rest equally on both an aeolian and ionian tonality (a mixture between the major and minor scales).
After the concert, Maffe discussed the development and implementation of his scale as well as general thoughts on music philosophy and composition in a formal Q&A forum which featured a selection of other composers, performers, and music professionals.
American Choir Directors Association (ACDA) Seizes the Day
"Carpe Diem," Maffe's piece for unaccompanied choir, has won the inaugural 2016 ACDA Choral Composition Competition (Biola Chapter). This is among Maffe's first accolades since he began attending Biola University in 2015.
The piece was originally commissioned by Palmer High School and was premiered under Maffe's baton on May 5, 2014.
Score to the Phantom Film Released (Legend)
There is a new soundtrack out, but it's not to a movie you have seen, because this movie doesn't exist. Legend, Maffe's third worldwide album release features 40 minutes in the style of a film score. It reaches a wide range of genres and idioms, opening with a bombastic overture along the vein of the classic western ("Into the West"), dipping into the fantastical with a musical take on the sinking of the glorious city of Atlantis ("The City is Sinking"), and even slashing some fear with downright scary horror movie music ("Spade").
There are several pieces in the compilation that were a part of Maffe's "Monday Music" campaign, a composing exercise that had Maffe start with a blank slate on Monday morning and a fully produced piece of music by midnight ("The Shattered Compass," "The Figure Skater," "A Stranger in Space," and "Fanfare for the Patriot")
The album is filled with memorable themes and lush orchestration, and will capture the imagination of the audience in a truly captivating cognitive celluloid experience.
"Fanfare for the Patriot" Premieres at 9/11 Anniversary Concert
The Southern California Brass Consortium (Hector Salazar, conductor) premiered Maffe's ode to the armed forces, "Fanfare for the Patriot," at their 9/11 anniversary concert on Sunday.
The reverent piece opens with an offstage trumpet solo, a bugle-like melody of the characteristic military fourths and fifths. The piece develops to the whole band and ends with a warm and hopeful tonality—for love of country.
"Alaska: Crest of the Hinterland" Premieres in the 49th State
The Matanuska-Susitna Concert Band (Gleo Huyck, director) and Sterling Maffe have just completed their second collaboration with the commission and premiere of Maffe's newest piece for symphonic wind band, "Alaska: The Crest of Hinterland."
The composer describes the piece, "['Alaska'] is a musical portrait inspired by the unparalleled majesty of our northernmost state. There are three principal illustrations throughout the piece, each accompanied by a theme. The first of these evokes the mystery of the land. It alludes to wondrous natural phenomena that can be experienced in the Great North such as the Aurora Borealis. The second theme celebrates the pioneering of the state. It conjures the excitement of the Gold Rush, and the race to the Last Frontier. The final subject is an admiration of beauty. Romantically, it depicts the vast terrain, grand mountains, and lush forests found only in the Land of the Midnight Sun."