Artists in action: Tim Carless

Courtesy of The ArtsCenter, an interview with Tim Carless by Neha Nataraju

The ArtsCenter is proud to partner with Tim Carless to bring you live entertainment every month! Its next upcoming event with The ArtsCenter, on June 12, will feature an original improvised score for a classic silent film. RSVP for this event and donate to support the artist and The ArtsCenter here.

We sat down with Tim to ask him a few questions in order to get to know him better and his job better.

Q: To begin with, can you explain what you do as an artist and your background?

A: Well my day to day now and this past year has been confined to a recording studio, doing more teaching recently. I’ve been teaching for a while, but over the last year it’s really helped me keep a roof over my head basically. I have been working as a musician since my late teens. I am mainly a guitarist, but I also play bass and piano. I spent most of a decade as a guitarist working and touring, as well as doing recording sessions. After that I opened a recording studio in Brighton, just south of London. Thanks to this experience, I became more involved in the recording process, like as an engineer. That’s when I started to get involved in creating music for things other than records and albums, like advertising, indie films, television. That’s basically what I’ve been doing ever since, and after my time in England I moved to the US, Los Angeles then New York and then North Carolina.

What does the live silent movie scoring process look like? How are you preparing for the event?

TC: So for all the projects where I have to score a movie, whether it’s live or in the studio, I start by spending some time with the movie itself. I write scores from the opening scenes to the end credits. During my live scores for ArtCenter virtual events, I do it solo, but in person I have a different set of percussion, double bass and instrumentation with me. So when all of this is happening you need to have a roadmap so people know where you are going. When I write the score at the beginning, I don’t always stick to it. It’s really on a case-by-case basis, because sometimes I stick to my plan, but other times I take a different route. It is not correct to say that I improvise because I play themes that I have already discovered, but the way I convey these themes can change.

What is the relationship between your scores and the film? Do they complement each other or does one complement each other?

TC: There is a musician that I admire, called Marc Ribot, who did a solo score about 20 years ago, and that’s where I got the inspiration to do something similar. What he did during that performance and with his sheet music that I really liked and think the right sheet music should do is serve the film. The score has to be sympathetic or empathetic to what’s happening on screen, so that’s what I’m always aiming for. It has become very popular now for artists to live films with sheet music, however, I have noticed that often these artists use the film as a backdrop for their sheet music. The film becomes secondary to the event, and the music is the main center of interest, the film at the service of the music. While this works well for some artists and succeeds in its own way, I personally want my scores to serve the film – the film has to be the main event and my music / score is the sidekick.

We’ve asked Tim more questions that he kindly took the time to answer, and we hope to post follow-up blog posts with his answers to other questions each month before each event, so stay tuned!

For more information on Tim Carless, visit his website.

Check out the ArtsCenter blog: https://artscenterlive.org/blog/


The ArtsCenter is a 501 (c) (3) Arts Education non-profit located in Carrboro, NC that offers classes, performances, and art exhibits year-round. ArtsCenter’s facilities include a 350-seat theater, classrooms, dance studio, 100-seat performance space and an art gallery. The ArtsCenter is Orange County’s largest artist employer, serving more than 100,000 students and citizens across the region.


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