Ryan Rapsys is a film composer and music producer. He mixes elements of classical, experimental, ambient and electronic music to create unique film scores that compliment the work of visionary filmmakers. By embracing experimental and hybrid approaches as well as combining disparate musical styles, he sets out to create bold, innovative scores with a unique musical identity for every project he works on.
My Story: Why I Love Film and Music
I was born in 1980. I achieved adulthood near the frigid shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota. That’s where I developed an eclectic taste for films and music.
Introduction to Film
My father was an avid film buff. We had a collection of hundreds of VHS tapes. From early silent films like The Gold Rush and Phantom of the Opera to classic Hollywood like Casablanca and Gone With the Wind. Best of the 60’s and 70’s like Lawrence of Arabia and The Godfather to 80’s blockbusters like Ghostbusters and Back to the Future. Greatest of the 90’s like Groundhog Day and Silence of the Lambs to bold indie films like Pulp Fiction and Clerks.
Conversations with my father, mother and brother about film were endless:
• Who’s contribution was more critical to a film’s quality, director or screenwriter?Tough one, but I’ll go with screenwriter…unless you’re a director, then I’ll go director.
• Was The Godfather Part II superior to The Godfather?The Godfather Part II: greatest sequel ever made.
• Why was Arthur is the greatest romantic comedy?Dudley Moore’s performance, of course.
• Which was the funniest horror film ever made: Evil Dead II, Return of the Living Dead, or House II: The Second Story?Evil Dead II because of Ash’s fight scene with his severed hand (with the Three Stooges homage).
• Which was the best Mel Brooks film: The Producers, Blazing Saddles, or Young Frankenstein?Have to go with Blazing Saddles.
The Theatrical Experience and Early Filmmaking
We went to the theater often, and I have fond memories of seeing Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Home Alone, City Slickers, Aladdin, Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Independence Day, Boogie Nights, The Big Lebowski, and many other films on the big screen.
My brother and I even made over a dozen movies with a camcorder we got as a Christmas present in 1993, complete with Weird Al Yankovic and Def Leppard soundtracks. In high school, I composed my first film scores, convincing my band teacher to let me record the band playing music I wrote for one of my films.
Music was also a big part of my life growing up. We had hundreds of vinyl records and dozens of cassette tapes across all genres of music. My dad would turn all the lights off and put on Maurice Ravel’s Bolero or other classical pieces and ask us to make up stories to go along with the music. Or we’d blast AC/DC and air guitar wildly around the living room. Or we’d listen to film scores to abstractly re-experience the excitement and emotions of the story.
As a teenager, I would jump from Led Zeppelin to Dave Brubeck to John Williams to Béla Bartók with ease. I loved discovering and experiencing new music for the first time.
Then I went to college, studying Music Theory & Composition at the University of Minnesota – Duluth. Through the guidance of the fantastic professors there, especially Dr. Justin Rubin, my love of discovery exploded into the furthest reaches of both film and music. I began ravenously consuming more obscure and unique works of art from both disciplines.
I would go to sleep listening to Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Kontakte and meditate to Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. I’d study scores by Charles Ives and George Crumb. I’d admire the similarities between John Williams’s score for Jurassic Park and the music of Igor Stravinsky and Edgard Varèse. I was treated with fantastic performances by faculty and guest musicians at school, including a performance of Eight Songs for a Mad King as well as the annual New Music Festival. I fell in love with Morton Feldman’s music, especially the sublime melancholy of Madame Press Died Last Week At Ninety.
While searching for John Cage music on Napster (yeah, it was 2000), I came across Aphex Twin. As a result, I discovered Warp Records: Boards of Canada, Squarepusher, Autechre, and Plaid. Working my way through a range of innovative electronic musicians–Björk, Amon Tobin, Venetian Snares, Biosphere, and DJ Shadow–I continued to discover a new world of sound.
Foreign and Experimental Film
I discovered that foreign and experimental cinema yielded an entire world of film I was unfamiliar with. I tracked down a copy of Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi and was blown away by the power of the moving picture synchronized with Philip Glass’s music. Jan Švankmajer and the Quay Brothers gave me a new appreciation for stop-motion animation. I started touring the world of cinema: Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Werner Herzog, Federico Fellini, Alejandro Jodorowsky. I dug deeper into more experimental American filmmakers: David Lynch, Harmony Korine, Darren Aronofsky, Spike Jonze and Terrence Malick.
This fed my creativity as I experimented with composing musique concrète, electroacoustic, and minimalist music. I also created music and video multimedia works.
Career as a Film Composer
After college, I combined my love of film with my love of music and started composing music for film. In 2011, I moved to Los Angeles with my wife Christine and continued forging a career as a film composer.
In order to provide creative, pastoral surroundings for our 2 year old son, we moved to the Tehachapi Mountains north of Los Angeles in 2019. Here, I find the breathtaking nature and rugged environment incredibly inspiring.
Every day, I continue to experiment, learn, discover, and create. As a film composer, I look forward to collaborating with like-minded filmmakers to compose distinctive music for innovative films.
Ryan Rapsys scored the film Little Pink House, starring Oscar-nominated actress Catherine Keener. He also scored Hard Surfaces, starring SAG-nominated actor Shawn Pyfrom. His music has been used in Dateline NBC and Today Show, among many others.
As an electronic music producer, Ryan Rapsys has released albums under the aliases Transistorface, Microquasar and Pineriver. He also composes classical concert music.