The Musical Magic of Owen Pallett - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Musical Magic of Owen Pallett

The Musical Magic of Owen Pallett

By Barbara Fletcher

SourceSteve Double/Camera Press/Redux


Because Owen Pallett isn’t an ordinary musician. Watch and be transfixed.

By Barbara Fletcher

There is something mind-blowing about witnessing great music-making in action: the artist as painter, layering on sounds with curious tools, creating an aural masterpiece where the audience gets to experience each stroke, each landscape evolve. 

That’s what watching Owen Pallett perform solo is like. The 34-year-old Canadian musician lifts the curtain on creation, lets you in on the secret. Lets you experience the art — the music — in progress. Pop. Indie rock. Classical. Pallett’s deft fingers have played it all.  

He is also a composer, singer and violinist and strings arranger. And in 2014, an Academy Award nominee for Best Original Score for the Spike Jonze’s future-love flick, Her.

This may be the first time you’ve heard Pallett’s name, but you’ve likely heard his music before. He has worked with Taylor Swift, Duran Duran and the National. He also helped compose the score for The Box in 2009 and recently scored his first ballet. And he’s been working with a little band called Arcade Fire since their debut album, Funeral, in 2004, touring with them as a violinist.

Pallett’s collaboration with Arcade Fire band member and multi-instrumentalist William Butler has landed the pair an Oscar nomination. Their award win for Best Original Score could up the hipness factor of this unsung category, which traditionally puts trophies on the mantles of mainstream greats like John Williams and Disney-scorer Alan Menken.

Pop. Indie rock. Classical. Pallett’s deft fingers have played it all.

Winning an Oscar for Best Original Score could up the hipness factor of this unsung category.

In an interview with Pitchfork, Jonze says he wanted the soundtrack for Her to ”feel like handmade but still have an electricity to it.” Owen Pallett trademarks. 

The musician learned piano and violin as a kid and was composing by age 13, when he turned to technology to enrich his group and solo projects. For most of the ’00s, he recorded music under the band name Final Fantasy, which started out as a ”bit of a joke band,” paying homage to the video-game series. But it ended up producing an album, He Poos Clouds, which snagged the first-ever Polaris Music Prize in 2006. 

Because Pallett writes with a live performance in mind, the real magic happens when he gets on stage. ”I endeavor to make the process visible to the audience, keeping it as much a part of the experience as, say, the lyrical or musical content,” he explained in an interview in 2010.

He uses a technique called multiphonic looping, which involves software and playing violin into a loop pedal. The result: a rhythmic and kaleidoscopic journey of sound, each layer of color applied until the masterpiece is complete.


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