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Arts & Culture Series: Graduate Success

Film scored by City alumnus wins Oscar

Nico Casal wrote the music for Stutterer


Nico CasalA graduate who composed the music for the short film Stutterer is celebrating after the production won an Oscar.

Nico Casal, who completed his Music (Composing for Moving Images) MA in 2013, saw the film named Best Short Film at the 2016 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

The film explores the challenging experiences of a young man with a severe speech impediment.

He said: "We are still pinching ourselves. Everything was so surreal that it is hard to believe.

"Personally I feel very grateful and lucky to have had the chance of experiencing something like this, which I won't ever forget."

The City alumnus, who posted a video on Twitter of his team's reaction to the Oscar win at the award ceremony, explained he composed his score to communicate the thoughts of the film's protagonist, which they could not express through speech.

“It was both a long and difficult process and very challenging and rewarding,” he said. “The story is about a guy with a stutter so the music has to express what he can't say with words.

“The music has to make you feel what he is feeling, but in a very subtle way. Instrumentation-wise, I use piano and strings mixed with electronic pads, supporting the technology side of the story.

“The phone and social media are very important within the story so I tried to experiment with the dial tone or the sound Facebook makes when you get a message, for instance, and include them in the soundtrack.”

Nico (right) said the Masters course he completed at City helped him to learn about the music industry and develop his skills.

“Studying at City helped me a lot to improve my composition and technical skills,” he said, “It was very useful to understand how the industry and the ‘real world’ work and I learned from both my teachers and my classmates.

“The environment was very creative and collaborative – completely recommendable. I miss my days at City!”

The awards that Stutterer has already won include: the Best Foreign Film prize from the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival; the Special Jury Award at Savannah Film Festival; Best International Short Film at Kerry Film Festival; and the Best Drama award at Aesthetica Short Film Festival.

Dr Miguel Mera (right), Head of the Department of Music at City, described the graduate's score as "beautiful".

"A thoroughly deserved win for a great film," he said. "Nico's score makes a significant and unique contribution to its success." 

He added: “While studying for an MA at City Nico developed and extended his flair for melodic writing and his instincts for subtle and precise dramatic scoring. I'm glad to see that his hard work is paying off."

Watch the trailer for Stutterer:

For more news and updates from the Department of Music, read its blog or visit its website

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