When Joseph Hallman was a child, his mother would tell him that he was so open-minded that his brain would fall out.
Thankfully that never happened, and years later it may be that very open-mindedness that the Philly-based composer can credit for much of his success, including the recent news that his album, Sprung Rhythm, was nominated for a 2014 Grammy in the Best Surround Sound Album category. And get this, among the five albums up for the award are works crediting Paul McCartney and Les Claypool.
Even before his Grammy nomination, the 34-year-old had been touted for his wide scope of work: In 2011, NPR named him one of the top 100 Composers Under 40. Major companies, like the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Pittsburgh Symphony have played his compositions. And sensing greatness long before the nominations were revealed, The Washington Post called Hallman’s work on Sprung Rhythm “skillful” and claimed that he was a composer “to watch.”
So what inspires the young songster? “Anything and everything,” he says. His list of influencers includes everyone from Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. and modern composer Nico Muhly to American Horror Story. (He recently composed a piece of music inspired by his fascination with witches and the television show.)
Hallman sees music as being part of who he is, that there’s a self-awareness in his compositions he calls “organic.”
“My music is me,” he says. Indeed, this might be the best way to describe Hallman’s philosophy on music-making. In a world of pop-star generators like American Idol and The Voice, his approach to cranking out tunes is refreshingly simple: “Just be yourself.”