UCT honours Dr Trevor Jones when he accepted the award of the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa.

Testament to True Talent

Cape Town – Monday, 25 July 2022 – Recognition, celebration, and validation of contribution in composition was the theme of the day this past Friday at the University of Cape Town (UCT) when the District-Six-born Dr Trevor Jones accepted the award of the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa

Aristotle first said: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. He used it as a key concept in Ancient Greek philosophy, but it is also applied to Gestalt psychology, systems design and even movies. This quote is, of course, about how much better things are together than as individual pieces. 

In a league of his own

For Trevor Jones, nominated by Time magazine as one of the top five film composers in the world, it is the many, many different pieces of his expertise and knowledge as a musician, composer, conductor, film expert and extraordinary ability to paint feeling with a sound that, when put together, have made a truly great whole. 

His over 40-year career includes over 120 film and television productions, such as Mississippi Burning, Last of the Mohicans, Around the World in 80 Days and Notting Hill, and many more familiar and notable titles. 

The late-great David Bowie listened to one of his scores and said he was in awe of Jones’ talent.

In pursuit of the perfect score

It all started at about age 5 when Trevor used to go to the Gem Cinema in Woodstock. The projection equipment was so old and worn out that often the picture and the soundtrack became disconnected. He (curiously) was already very aware of the relationship between image and sound and tuned in to the emotional effect of music in the movie. He said to his mother – “I’d love to write music for film”. So (at age 5), he had already articulated his calling.

He took his first piano lessons at age 10, describing himself as a hypersensitive kid with a stammer, drifting around the school yard humming Schubert’s 8th, getting bullied and afraid of gangsters. 

At 17, he was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he studied composition, orchestration, conducting, piano and organ. Then, to the University of York, where he studied jazz, pop, rock, folk, avant-garde, and electronic music. This eclectic mix allowed him to write scores which combined ancient instruments such as the dulcimer and the shakuhachi with a full symphony orchestra, synthesisers, reverb units, kalimba, claves and chimes. 

Qualified beyond

He graduated with a master’s degree in Film and Media Music and then studied at the National Film and Television School. While there, he gained experience as part of the lighting team, operating the camera and got involved in the pre-and post-production stages. 

In between, he worked as the Classical Music Reviewer for BBC Radio & Television and wrote the music for twenty-two student projects. One of his scores was part of an Academy Award-winning short movie.

Keeping score

He went on to compose many scores for Hollywood movies and TV series and has worked with directors, actors, and musicians such as (these are randomly picked but signal the diversity of genres, styles and personalities of his colleagues) Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Julia Roberts, John Travolta, Al Pacino, Sting, U2, Sinead O’Connor, Britney Spears and Elvis Costello.

Jones is a jury member for the Oscars and the BAFTAs and, in 1999, became the first chair of music at the National Film and Television School. He received the title Fellow of the British Royal Academy of Music in 2006.

Well worthy

There’s a kind of magic that makes the whole more significant than the sum of the parts, and Jones has that magic. With his all-encompassing knowledge of musical instruments, musical styles, composition, electronics, and film, he can imagine a whole having informed and revolutionised music in film that is significantly and considerably greater than the sum of the parts.

For more information, please contact Martin Myers – martmyers@gmail.com

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