Composer Kurt Rosenberg’s score “Highland Home”
Composer Kurt Rosenberg’s song “Highland Home” is differentiating him as an artist. Featured as the sole soundtrack to the short film of the same name, “Highland Home” is currently making the film festival circuit as a short film/music video.
With a world premiere to be held at the Pasadena International Film Festival on March 16, Kurt Rosenberg’s name is on everyone’s lips. The already prolific composer not only created “Highland Home”’s score, but also wrote the lyrics and inspired the short film.
The origin of “Highland Home”
“Highland Home” was born out of Kurt Rosenberg’s devout love of Scotland. From the music to The Highlands, and the lochs, pubs and people, Scotland has become an integral part of Kurt Rosenberg’s inspiration.
When Kurt Rosenberg and his brother were visiting Brodick Castle, located on the stunning Scottish Isle of Arran, Kurt was given the rare opportunity to play a spontaneous mini-concert of his own compositions in the castle. That experience connecting Kurt Rosenberg so thoroughly with his love of Celtic music, inspired the composition “Highland Home”.
Later, upon adding the lyrics that are professionally sung by vocalist KJ Miller in the video, Kurt Rosenberg realized how special “Highland Home” had become. He reached out to his team to see if they would be interested in creating a music video, and their unanimous response became the short film Highland Home.
Composer Kurt Rosenberg
Both the composer and the executive producer on Highland Home, Kurt Rosenberg’s love of music, and his inherent musical talent began at a young age. With two musical parents, Kurt taught himself piano at only 12 years old, graduating to writing his own songs with lyrics in high school.
His passion for Celtic music from Scotland and Ireland also began at a young age, with a growing exposure to the genre deepening his love for the sound. Soon Celtic music showed its influence in Kurt Rosenberg’s compositions, most notably in “Highland Home”, which he considers to be his ode to Bonnie Scotland, and specifically the magic he felt playing his own compositions in the historic Brodick Castle.
Always composing, Kurt has future projects in the works, including refining the music and lyrics for his original musical, For the Lack of Laura, and producing a music video for “The Moon Followed Me to Falmouth,” a song reminiscent of old sea shanties from the British Isles.
Kurt Rosenberg is a member of both Clan Scott Scotland and the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA), and a patron of Scottish Heritage USA.
Kurt Rosenberg’s personal insights
Kurt Rosenberg’s Highland Home tells the story of longing and loss that is revealed when a timeworn journal transports a young girl to a place of enchanting wonders. We at Film Daily were so honored to be graced with his influences and insight into his work as a creator. Check out Kurt Rosenberg’s interview below.
Tell us about your history as a composer. How did you start your journey?
I started writing songs on the guitar when I was about 10 years old. Those early songs were quite elemental with simple chords and lyrics – I was sure that I was going to become a rock star! But, as I taught myself to play piano, and became more proficient on it, piano became my instrument of choice – it still is.
My songwriting was profoundly influenced by the “British Invasion” of the 60’s. I absolutely loved the Beatles’ melodies and harmonies. As the years passed, I found myself drawn more and more to the music of Scotland and Ireland. I gradually began to incorporate Celtic-influences into my songs. The majority of my music is now Celtic / British Isles in feel.
What are your current influences?
My main influences include Scottish and Irish traditional and contemporary music. While no longer together, Capercaillie is by far my favorite Scottish band. I would love for their former lead singer, Karen Matheson, to sing one of my songs.
Some Irish groups that have influenced my music include Clannad, Altan, and Celtic Women.
What filmmakers would you most like to work with?
Sam Mendes (1917), Ridley Scott (Gladiator), and John Boorman (Hope and Glory, Excalibur)
Cat or dog?
Dog – but there are some absolutely wonderful felines out there.
What was the one movie you saw that made you want to go into composing for film?
How the West Was Won – Alfred Newman wrote the score. I still get goose-bumps when I hear this soundtrack!
How was working on Highland Home? What did you learn from the experience?
Working on Highland Home was a once in a lifetime experience. One of Highland Home’s Producers said that making this film was truly a “Camelot Moment.” I couldn’t agree more!
I was blessed to be surrounded by consummate professionals who were all extremely enthusiastic about the project. I learned that having a great team, all working towards the same goal, makes for one exceptional film.
Where did the concept come from for the music for Highland Home?
I love the Scottish Highlands with its shimmering lochs, coastal scenery and dramatic islands, craggy mountains, and welcoming towns. There is no place on earth like it. I had just returned from a visit to The Highlands, and the beautiful Scottish Isle of Arran, when I wrote “Highland Home”’s melody.
“Highland Home” is all about wanting to return to the majestic beauty of The Highlands and the Islands.
What music inspires you to create your pieces?
I like all kinds of music. But there is something about Celtic Music. When I listen to it, it transports me, I feel it stir my soul … much like “Highland Home” transports the listener to the Scottish Highlands.
Talk us through your creative process.
I sit down at the piano and start to play around with, what I call, “a melodic thought.” Most of the time, I just get a hint of what the melody might be. I’ll experiment with a bunch of melodic directions until I find one that I really like. Then I play that melody over and over again until it sounds perfect. It is all about the melody. It must be singable and memorable.
The melody has to evoke some kind of emotion, be it happy, melancholy, or sad. Sometimes a piece is meant to be solely instrumental. Other times, I know that when I am writing the melody, that lyrics will follow. This is how the original song, “Highland Home”, was written.
What tips do you have for new composers?
First, compose the kind of music you want to write. If you do, you’ll be sharing your passion and yourself with others. Remember – it is your music! Secondly, don’t rush it. Take your time. Let a song germinate.
If you let it grow, you’ll be amazed at how different the song sounds from its original inception. And last, musical collaborations can be wonderful. Having another person contribute to your musical piece can provide additional creativity and complexity to your original creation, taking your original song to places you wouldn’t have dreamed of!
What part of composing do you geek out about the most?
I just love it when it all clicks. After hours at the keyboard, thinking “Voila!” – this is it … this is the melody I want. Now to perfect it and share it with others.
You were very hands-on with Highland Home. How hard is it wearing all the hats?
Not hard at all. Once Tim Gorman arranged the music, the song was recorded, I approved Dan Schaefer’s wonderful story, and we had our team on-board, we were on our way.
Because I am new to filmmaking, I entrusted the creation of the film to the professionals. The decision to remain engaged, while allowing the team both directional and creative freedom, produced the beautiful, and memorable, Highland Home film.
If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
While I’ve probably seen it a hundred times already, my movie of choice would have to be The Wizard of Oz. I love the songs, the actors, and the story. I still get choked up every time Dorothy says goodbye to the Scarecrow for the last time.
I sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” when I auditioned for the part of Kurt Von Trapp for a local production of the Sound of Music … and … I got the part!
What’s your next project?
About two years ago, I wrote a song called “The Moon Followed Me to Falmouth.” This song was inspired by a visit to the lovely coastal town of Falmouth, located in Cornwall, England.
In 2021, I plan to make a music video of the song on location in Falmouth, working with a local music video production company and with actors from around Cornwall.
Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?
My father was my mentor, so I never had to look for one. My Dad was a true Renaissance man. Not only was he a brilliant entrepreneur and businessman, he was also a fine sculpture, architect, and woodworker.
He taught me all about integrity, treating others fairly, and paying it forward. Mentors like my father can be found in businesses, at church, at charities, and in the arts. I recommend that folks pursue their passions. If they do, they are bound to find kindred spirits and maybe, if they click, a mentor.
What has been your biggest failure?
I worked for a regional travel magazine as a sales representative. I worked hard to grow sales, but to no avail. After a year, I was fired. I loved the magazine and I love to travel. It was a profound disappointment that I didn’t do better.
On the music front, some 40 years ago, my greatest failure was not signing up with a talent agent who was interested in promoting me and my music. I wasn’t willing to give up a good paying job for the perceived insecurity of a musical career. I guess, better late than never to launch my songwriting career.
What’s your mission in composing for films? Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching movies with your music.
My mission for composing for films would be to take viewers back to a simpler time, a time of romance when songs had luscious melodies and we were all rooting for the star-crossed lovers.
I want viewers to feel something … to viscerally feel emotion. And probably most important of all, I want them to leave the cinema humming the main theme.
What has been your biggest success?
My biggest success has been, by far, Highland Home. It is amazing to me that the music video, and song, have already won several prestigious awards in the USA and internationally.
What’s your five-year plan?
The next five years are going to be busy. We have submitted Highland Home to several film festivals here and abroad. We are already scheduled to screen at several. Ultimately, I am hopeful that some Celtic band, or solo artist, will want to sing Highland Home. I would also love to hear my music in a movie or TV show.
In 2021, I plan to get a music video made of my song “The Moon Followed Me to Falmouth.” And, on an ongoing basis, I will be working on, and polishing-up, my musical, For the Lack of Laura.
What’s your favorite film of all time, and what did you learn from it?
Still has to be The Wizard of Oz. I learned that Judy Garland was the best singer on the planet, that nylons make for great twisters, that the Wicked Witch of the East wasn’t at all pleasant, that the land of OZ was in full color, and that “There is no place like home.”
Who would compose the soundtrack of your life?
Hans Zimmer – he wrote the score for Gladiator. Beautiful, powerful music – reflects the essence and soul of the quintessential hero.
To keep up with what’s next for Highland Home, follow the short film on Twitter.