Interview with film composer Alvaro Balvin Benavides

Alvaro Balvin Benavides is a Peruvian composer based in Los Angeles. He is mostly known for his work on 'Chef's Table BBQ' and 'Street Food Latinamerica', both productions from Netflix. He is also known for his score for the award winning short film 'La Ruta', where he got a nomination for Best Score at the L'H Internationale Film Festival in Barcelona, Spain. And recently he scored the Student Academy Award Gold Winner (Student Oscar's) documentary 'Unfinished Lives' directed by Yucong Chen and produced by Kay Zhang (2020).

Alvaro Balvin Benavides

Tell us about your new release 'Belé'? When will it be premiered?

Belé is a project i had in mind a long time ago and finally was able to put all the pieces together to make it happen. The composition fits a lot in an ambient genre, very calm and daydreaming kind of music, with a vibe from the 80s; it is made entirely with analog synthesizers, which are a passion of mine and reflect a lot my style of writing music, the main idea was to make a composition that i could play live as a solo artist, meaning that i could play all the instruments synthesizers at the same time, which was a challenge because as a one-man-band you have only enough hands to make it happen. The main idea for this approach is to eventually play live shows of this kind of music I am making, and if I continue layering parts, it would not be possible to play a truly live show without sequences.

But Bele is more than that, the whole idea was very artistic in the sense that I had a concept from the beginning that I wanted to make a music video for it, and collaborate with different artists. In this one I collaborated with Kay Zhang which is an outstanding director. She produced one Student Academy Award Winner film this 2020 ‘Unfinished Lives’, directed by Yucong Chen, where I also worked as a composer. And I had this idea of collaborating with a contemporary dancer Sidney Ramsey to make a video for this composition. Which we are premiering December the 11th. So it was a collaboration between artists from different sorts and it is a very beautiful video that we put together for this composition and we are very proud of it.

Belé can be found on streaming platforms on December 4th and the video will premiere on December 11th.


Which are your previous works? Which one is your favorite and most challenging?

Some of my previous work include writing additional music for shows like Street Food Latin America and Chef’s Table BBQ, both shows produced by Netflix. Also Unfinished Lives which is an Student Academy Award Gold Winner, directed by Yucong Chen and produced by Kay Zhang.

Each project has its own challenges, and I like to think that each of them are unique. I would say the most challenging thing for each one of them is to find its unique voice and palette of sounds. As we composers call it, find a unique orchestra for each project. I think that is the most challenging and exciting part of each project I work on. 

But once you find the orchestra and palette of sounds you are going to use, it is definitely an amazing process to write music for films, sometimes can be hard because of deadlines, but it is amazing to work as a team with the directors and producers to understand their vision, so then I can contribute with my music to these beautiful films.

Where are you originally from and where are you based?

I am originally from Peru. And I am currently based in Los Angeles.

What is your specialty? As an emerging composer, what are your challenges at this point of your career?

I would say that being from Peru, I have an understanding of peruvian and south american music, which helps me a lot in my composition process. But I also love synthesizers, orchestral music, classical, jazz, and many other genres. So my sound combines a lot of these elements and I use them as required in each different film I work in. I am also a guitar player, so my music in films sometimes involves a lot of guitar work too, which i love to do. But of course always blending whatever is needed for each project, as each film is unique in its own way.

I would say one of the biggest challenges right now is that many independent filmmakers are not being able to film their movies because of Covid-19. It has been a hard year for the film and music industry and we hope that this coming year things start to get better.

Alvaro Balvin Benavides

How do you see yourself and your composed art in five years time? What are your wishes?

One of my plans for this 2021 is to release a full album. I already have several compositions ready for it. And will definitely like to continue these collaborations with different artists and make music videos for a few of the compositions. I have several films coming up this 2021 which I have to write the music for, so that really excites me. 

In 5 years I would definitely like to continue doing what I do, composing music for films and releasing my own music. It is a lot of hard work, and I am happy that I can do this for a living. Definitely would like to continue scoring Netflix shows and many others and collaborating with amazing artists from all around the globe. But my main wish is definitely that the film and music industry can get better sooner than later, both industries (and many others) have taken a hard hit with the pandemic, but we are hopeful that things will get back on track soon and artist will be able to showcase all their projects again.

Alvaro Balvin Benavides

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