“Chernobyl Diaries” Music Composer Diego Stocco Discusses the Language of Sound on FIDM 360

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Lightbulbs. Dry cleaning machinery. Sand. Commonplace objects hold extraordinary musical opportunities as demonstrated by world-renowned composer Diego Stocco.

His music sets the tone and evokes emotion for major films like Chernobyl Diaries, a soundtrack that “evolves through sparse and abstract cues to more melodic ones, including very aggressive and atonal moments,” Stocco describes on Behance.

To capture this range of music and sounds for Chernobyl, Stocco experimented with new playing techniques on his own custom-built instruments, as well as hybrid techniques on electric bass, acoustic and electric guitar, zithers and percussions, he says.

Such experimentation is typical for Stocco, who is also known for his cutting-edge organic compositions such as “Music from a Bonsai, “Music from a Dry Cleaner,” “Music from Nature”– and an experiment entitled “The Burning Piano” when he set fire to a piano and sampled its sound.

Composer Diego Stocco uses unorthodox instruments to create music for the film Chernobyl Diaries

(Above: Composer Diego Stocco uses unorthodox instruments to create music for the film Chernobyl Diaries. Photographed by Gianfilippo de Rossi.)

Traditional techniques don’t suffice to develop such unique compositions, so Stocco has built a series of custom recording tools that make it possible to capture melodic, playable sounds from ordinary objects and organic sources.

There’s the Bassoforte, a repurposed piano keyboard that Stocco combined with other parts he “had lying around” – the neck of a broken electric bass, a bridge formed from a cabinet handle, guitar pickups and a chimney cap. Then there’s Stocco’s Experibass, a quadruple-neck instrument that combines violin, viola and cello strings on the body of a double bass (used in Hans Zimmer’s score for Sherlock Holmes). Stocco’s Typosonic Machine makes use of old typewriter parts, while the Luminopiano is made of carefully placed microphones inside eight lightbulbs, which capture the vibrations of the bulbs’ internal filaments when lightly tapped.

Music composer Diego Stocco with his custom-built instrument, the Bassaforte.

(Above: Music composer Diego Stocco with his custom-built instrument, the Bassaforte. Photographed by Gianfilippo de Rossi.)

In addition to Chernobyl Diaries, Stocco is also the music sound designer for films Into the BlueCrank, and Takers; and TV shows The Tudors and Moonlight. He has worked with pros like Academy Award® winning composer Hans Zimmer, and he is one of the featured soloists on the score of Guy Ritchie’s film Sherlock Holmes, and video game Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.

Fortunately for aspiring musicians, Stocco enjoys sharing his extraordinary methods and creative skills with others– as seen in the latest episode of FIDM 360 (shown above).He can often be found in the classroom at leading digital media college FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising sharing his industry tips with students as a guest lecturer.

Music composer Diego Stocco talks with digital media college FIDM on "FIDM 360"

“Overall, I like the experience of teaching, [and] sharing these thoughts with students because I really think music is a language that goes beyond music itself,” he says.

As an incredibly gifted and inspiring composer, FIDMDigitalArts.com interviewed Stocco about what musicians inspire him (film composer Danny Elfman), how he came to be so handy with tools (his family is full of handymen), and what advice he has for young creatives. Check out our Q&A with Stocco below:

Q&A with Music Composer Diego Stocco:

(FIDMDigitalArts.com) What do you enjoy most about your career as a music composer?
(Stocco) “The opportunity to experiment new ideas and to continue learning all along the process.”

You seem to find the potential to create music everywhere. What inspires your unique approach to music making?

“Sound itself is a huge source of inspiration, but I also love to tell a story with my works, especially the videos.”

What prompted you to create your own instruments?

“Part of the reason is because of my family background. My grandfather was a truck driver, my uncle a welder, my father is a butcher, so it was very common to have working tools around to just hack and build stuff as needed. Later on, I combined this with my passion for music. You never know what comes useful in life.”

What musicians have inspired, or currently inspire you? What is on your iPod for example? (…Or do you prefer Spotify or Pandora?)

“When I was a kid my mother used to listen to The Beatles records, those are the first notes I ever heard. Later on, I became a huge fan of Mike Oldfield, then Peter Gabriel, and many film composers including Ennio Morricone, John Williams and Danny Elfman. Through the years I went through a massive amount of music. I tried to expand my understanding of music by listening to a diverse selection of works. I don’t listen to music on portable devices, I’m not crazy about that kind of listening experience.”

What recent projects are you currently working on that you are most excited about? Anything you can talk about?

“I like to keep a little bit of mystery but I’ll keep you guys posted!”

Tell us about how you’ve utilized social media to build an online presence and share your talents with the world.

“I simply tried to connect with people online exactly as I would do in real person, trying to present my work in terms [that aren’t] too technical.

To me what matters is the story, what sparked the idea. I’m also trying to share with people the excitement that I feel when I discover how to do things, like being able to play notes out of a tree, or to combine different materials and technologies into something different.”

Music composer Diego Stocco builds custom instruments like the Experibass shown here.What is a typical day in the life of Diego? We imagine that there is a lot of instrument engineering!

“It’s a lot of things actually­– when I’m inspired I can’t really stop thinking about what I want to do.

If I’m building something, I’m going to the hardware store twice a day. Since I build on-the-go, I always need to get one more tool or component.”

What is the single most important piece of advice that you have for a young, aspiring filmmaker, designer or musician?

“To be yourself, to trust your gut, to work hard, to be honest, to thank people for what they give you, and not feel unhappy for what they don’t give you. Both experiences are essential in shaping your character.”

For more about Diego Stocco, visit:



Twitter @DiegoStocco

Questions/comments? Email the editor, Mani O’Brien at mo’brien@fidm.edu

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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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