Meet Film Composer Gabriel Torrado: A Creative Genius Behind Catchy TV Jingles & Award-Winning Film Scores
When it comes to film and television, music is one of the most emotionally influential elements involved in a production. It sets the mood for the story and triggers sensations within the audience making it possible for the narrative to have an even greater impact. Whether it’s the absurdist and contrasting music that drives a comedy’s punchline or the screeching violins of a horror film alerting the audience that the villain is around the corner, a musical score is key to keeping us engaged.
It takes a uniquely talented composer to create a score that both compliments the narrative and heightens the emotional vibe without overshadowing the story; and Colombian native Gabriel Torrado is one of the rare individuals who’s proven his mastery in the field.
Torrado is known for his work as the composer behind numerous award-winning films, such as “The Plague,” which took home the Jury Prize at the First Look Film Festival, Guillermo Ortiz Pichardo’s dramatic film “The Ace,” an Official Selection of the Morelia International Film Festival, “Margaux in America,” which took home the Award of Excellence for Female Filmmakers at the Best Shorts Competition, as well as screened at the Toronto International Independent Film Festival, Rome Film Awards, Madrid Art Film Festival, Cannes Short Film Corner and more.
“Music is such a powerful tool to underline feelings, create tension, and even place audiences in different geographical places and time periods of history,” says Torrado. “The score is an emotional complement to whatever is happening on the screen. Music has the capability to quickly evoke a myriad of feelings and sensations that other mediums simply can’t, and therefore when it accompanies any given scene, it gives the audience an immediate predisposition to perceive the action in any desired way.”
Torrado has proven his talent for creating diverse scores that seamlessly accompany the narrative story of each production he takes on, but his capacity as a composer doesn’t end there.
“The job of a composer has evolved,” explains Torrado. “Now one has to be able to work in many different environments and be knowledgeable in all of them to be able to have a career as a composer. You never know where your next job will come from so being open is a good characteristic to have.”
Aside from composing scores for numerous award-winning films, Torrado’s original compositions have been included in countless hit TV series, such as VH1’s GLAAD Media and Golden Derby Award winning series “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Bravo’s two-time Primetime Emmy Award nominated series “Million Dollar Listing New York,” National Geographic’s four-time Primetime Emmy Award winning series “Life Below Zero,” Netflix’s “Dancing Queen” and others.
In fact, it was his work as a composer for music production companies such as FineTune Music and Combustible Music, which develop music for film, television and commercials, that arguably sparked his career back in 2015 and brought his talent into the spotlight.
The following year, whilst continuing to work with FineTune and Combustible, Torrado went on to co-found the LA-based film and music production company Waking Whale alongside his brother, film producer and director Federico Torrado Tobón. Through Waking Whale, Gabriel Torrado has composed music for brands including Pepsico, Mountain Dew, the NBA, Spectrum TV and more.
One of the things that makes Torrado such a sought after composer in the international industry is his ability to create original music that supports the production — and just as one project is completely different from the next so is the individual composition that he creates.
“Composing is a journey of discovery. Every time I sit down to write I don’t always know in advance what will end up happening,” admits Torrado. “There are certainly some textures and sounds that I really like and I favor, but there is always an element of improvisation in conceiving my ideas, and I get very excited when I stumble upon something that I consider to be really good.”
A seasoned musician, Torrado plays the piano, violin and guitar, as well as numerous percussion instruments at the expert level. However, when it comes to his work as a composer it is his overall understanding of how music affects the listener’s emotional experience, and his knack for translating that into his compositions that make him such a unique force.
In 2017 Torrado composed the music for the heartwarming NBA x Mountain Dew collab “A True Fan Finds His Home,” a branded content film that was released during the 2017 NBA finals.
Torrado says, “This was such a fun project to be a part of, I really loved the concept and the execution of this branded content piece.”
Featuring a lead character who struggles to find his place in society, due to the fact that he literally has a basketball for a head, the film’s story is beautifully symbolic of what many people experience as they search for both their place in the world and their tribe. Despite the main character having a basketball for a head, the film’s story is relatable and touching, and it’s made even more so thanks to Torrado’s accompanying score.
As the character’s emotions fluctuate throughout the film, Torrado’s music helps us connect to what he’s experiencing. For example, in one of the key scenes the character finds a mysterious map that holds the power to lead him toward an unexpected future, one where he’ll finally discover his tribe and his place in the world. For this scene Torrado created an ethereal composition featuring a rhythmic synth and pizzicato cello. While all we see on screen is the character looking inquisitively at the map, the music lets us know that he has stumbled upon a pivotal piece in his journey.
While there’s no question that Torrado’s work as the composer behind the NBA x Mountain Dew film “A True Fan Finds His Home” was critical to setting the mood and keeping the audience engaged, it is interesting to note that he had less than a day to create and deliver the score for the final film.
He explains, “I was actually hired to replace a piece of music that wasn’t working, so I actually started working the last day when they were already mixing the project. I had only a few hours to create something good.”
When it comes to being successful in the entertainment industry, a major mark of a composer’s skill is their ability to adapt to new projects and make sure their work supports the story, something that Torrado has done over and over again. Whereas the NBA x Mountain Dew project called for a fantastical, dream-like composition to drive home the emotions, Torrado’s work on other projects, such as the dramatic film “The Plague” called for something different altogether.
As the composer of the multi-award winning film “The Plague,” Torrado created a powerful yet delicate score that proved integral to the film’s success. The film, which stars Young Artist Award winner Casey Burke from the award winning series “The Middle” and Gotham Award nominee Dylan Riley Snyder (“Life During Wartime”), follows Julie and Julian, two teenage siblings who take refuge in a secluded forest cabin to avoid becoming infected by a mysterious and deadly plague.
Torrado says, “The main goal of the music was to underline the desolation that our characters live in, because society as we know it no longer exists in this world, while still being able to portrait the emotional bond the two siblings share, which has shades of nostalgia and tenderness. The end result is music which can sound like a lullaby at times, but perhaps an eerie one.”
The subtle instrumental lullaby that Torrado created for the film’s theme immediately emits a feeling of childlike naivety with a sense of gravity that perfectly encapsulates the youthfulness of the characters and the sense of insecurity that comes along with the fact that they are alone in the world.
“I sat down at the piano and came up with a simple melody, and this is the melody that can be heard during the opening of the movie, which represents a lullaby that Julie and Julian’s mom used to sing to them,” recalls Torrado.
“I arranged it in such a way that it sounded eerie and desolate in the background of a joyful lullaby, so I was then able to create the contrast that I wanted between their relationship and the environment they live in.”
Everything in Torrado’s score for “The Plague” is methodical and precise, there is no portion of the music that isn’t simultaneously furthering the story unfolding on the screen and making the emotions of the characters more palpable.
“Gabriel’s music had the right nuances that played quite literally an essential role in the story,” explains “The Plague” producer Dustin Elm. “I think what makes Gabriel good is his profound dedication to his craft. He has the right sensibilities that allow him to understand film and create compelling musical atmospheres that elevate the projects he’s involved in.”
Considering how different one project is from another, and how crucial the music is to setting the tone, it’s easy to see why it is so important to have a diversely skilled composer like Gabriel Torrado on board. Over the years his vast knowledge of music and film coupled with his ability to think outside of the box as a composer have led numerous productions to success, and there’s no doubt that he will continue to do the same for many more to come.