On August 10, 2018, Sony Classical will release a tribute album about the highly acclaimed film composer James Horner, who died in a plane crash on June 22, 2015. Horner would have celebrated his 65th birthday on August 14, 2018. The album will feature some of Horner’s most beloved and well-known compositions, re-interpreted by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and soloists like The Piano Guys, 2CELLOS, Lindsey Stirling, Alexis Ffrench, and Tina Guo. While Tina Guo was in Zurich, Switzerland, for performing on the Art on Ice shows back in March 2018 – and further performances in Lausanne and Davos – we had the chance to meet this respected, highly in-demand soloist for a brief interview.
Where do you feel more comfortable? In classical cello music or in cross-over/metal cello music?
Tina Guo: I like to work on a broad range of projects and musical styles. But currently I would say that I’m more interested in cross-over and metal music projects. But I’m not at all expecting not to return to classical and acoustic cello performance in the future. I love to consider lots of different projects and stay diverse as a musician. I think country music is about the only musical style I did not yet touch base with.
How did you get into film music?
That was not at all planned on my side, as I have to say. Very early in my career I filmed performances that I did and uploaded them to YouTube. In 2009 I uploaded a video in which I did a metal reinterpretation of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous 19th century piece Flight of the Bumblebee.
Hans Zimmer saw this "Queen Bee" video of mine and called me. At that time, I didn’t even know who Hans Zimmer was. I was so much into my "metal world" that I didn’t get who just called me [laughs]. But this call marked the starting point for my frequent collaboration with Hans on many different recording and concert projects. It started with Sherlock Holmes in 2009. Many projects followed and in 2016 and 2017 I was able to join Hans and his band as soloist for a world-wide tour with Hans Zimmer – Live. Hans became like a brother-dad to me. I’m so grateful for this.
You’ve worked on a lot of film music projects with some of the most in-demand film music composers. What does film music mean to you?
What makes film music so interesting, in my opinion, is that it encompasses all different types of music genres and styles. It’s a genre on its own but enables the composers and musicians to work with all different types of musical forms and styles. Always depending on what the film needs. And there is room for innovation, experimentation, and improvisation. That’s what I love about it.
One of your latest projects is a soloist part on the up-coming album James Horner – The Classics [see details below], to be released in August. How did you get involved into this project?
I got contacted by the producer Chris Craker. He produced the album Hans Zimmer – The Classics last year [also released by Sony Music, January 2017]. I collaborated with him on that album already, reinterpreting the cue Time from the score to Inception. Seems like he also very much enjoyed this collaboration and now wanted me back for his latest project, which I’m very thrilled about.
According to your biography on your official website, you did not collaborate with composer James Horner. What connects you to his music?
True, I unfortunately did not have an opportunity to work with him. You know, as I was not familiar with the work of Hans Zimmer back in 2009 I also did not know much of the music composed by James Horner. Of course, I was also very much into Titanic, but that’s about it. In the meantime, I got in contact with much more of his music, of course, and it’s so touching and gorgeous.
You’re featured on this album with an interpretation of two themes that he wrote for Cocoon and Avatar. Did you do this selection?
Yes, true. I recorded solo parts of the Main Theme for Cocoon and an instrumental version of I see You from Avatar. Chris [Craker] asked me about performing those two as he imagined them with a cello solo lead. I was not involved in the selection of the pieces or did propose those two specifically. But studying and recording them was a great experience – so touching and lyrical.
What can we expect from your interpretation of those two themes? Will it be a metal version?
No, it won’t be rooted in the metal style I frequently work in. I recorded the cello solo parts on an acoustic cello. My part will later be combined with recordings with symphony orchestra [The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra].
You’re a very in-demand concert and recording musician, you compose on your own, you founded your own string accessories store (Tina Guo Strings, http://tinaguostrings.com/). Is there a not-yet-started dream project of yours?
I love to work on so many different projects. It keeps me versatile and I get new ideas and inspiration out of such a broad project pallet. Besides, I got confronted with opportunities that I simply did not want to turn down and therefore had the fortune to get involved in so many different projects. As a matter of fact, I cannot think about a not yet started dream project. But if I find the time then I would actually like to return to an older project that I did and maybe work on an updated, extended version. Back in 2015 I released an acoustic cello sample library (for CineSamples, cinesamples.com). I extended it with electric cello and erhu samples as well. But I would like to rework this sample library one day. I gained so much more insights and practice within the last couple of years working on so many different projects that I start to see more potential in this library, that could be fleshed out with a new and updated version.
You’ve signed a four-album contract with Sony Masterworks. «Game On!» was one of the albums, I suppose? What’s coming next?
Yes, that’s true. I cannot yet tell you all too much about my next album, but I’m especially thrilled about it because this one will not feature music that already exists and that I do a re-interpretation of it like I do with film music themes and video game scores in case of the Game On! album. My next album for Sony Music will include pieces I composed by myself. To see how this works out, keeps me on the edge [laughs]. I’m really looking forward to this. Hope it works out fine and Sony will give me the chance to release my own music in the future as well [laughs].
You’re holding a Bachelor in Metaphysical Theology with a focus on Eastern Philosphy. Is there still room in your life for theology and philosophy?
Currently not much, no [laughs]. But the study gave me great insights into universal topics. I’m sure that those insights also made me the person and musician I’m now.
About Tina Guo
Tina Guo (*1985) is a cellist from Los Angeles, California. During her yet young but already impressive career she performed in many different genres. As classically trained cellist she got more into metal and electronic music during the last couple of years, loving to experiment with her instrument – also often performing electric cello – and with different styles. She’s featured as soloist on many recently released soundtracks. Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Sherlock Holmes, Inception, Iron Man 2, Batman vs Superman, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Boss Baby, and The Monkey King 2 – to just name some of her most recent soloist performances in the film music genre. She’s part of the band performing with Hans Zimmer on his Hans Zimmer – Live tour. With the album Game On! (released by Sony Music in February 2017) she released her seventh album outside of her numerous soundtrack recording credits.
James Horner – The Classics will be a tribute to one of the world's most popular film composers. Featuring the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the soloists The Piano Guys, 2CELLOS, Lindsey Stirling, Alexis Ffrench, Tina Guo, Amy Dickson, Lavinia Meijer, David Elton, and Craig Ogden. Here’s the track listing:
My Heart Will Go On (from «Titanic»): 2CELLOS 5:44
Jake's First Flight (from «Avatar»): The Piano Guys 3:27
Main Title (from «Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan») 3:09
Briseis and Achilles (from «Troy»): Lindsey Stirling 4:43
Somewhere Out There (from «An American Tail»): Amy Dickson & Lavinia Meijer 3:14
Willow’s Theme (from «Willow»): Amy Dickson 3:28
Rooftop Kiss (from «The Amazing Spider-Man»): Lavinia Meijer 3:10
For the Love of a Princess (from «Braveheart»): 2CELLOS 5:12
Theme from «Cocoon» (from «Cocoon»): Tina Guo 4:43
Boys Playing Airplanes (from «The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas»): Alexis Ffrench 4:35
Field of Dreams (from «Field of Dreams»): Craig Ogden 5:52
Main Title (from «Apollo 13») 6:29
I See You (from «Avatar»): Tina Guo 4:41
The Ludlows (from «Legends of the Fall»): Lindsey Stirling 4:53
Total album playing time: 64:12
Two official extracts of the album
The album will be released by Sony Classical on August 10, 2018. Involved in the production of this album are Richard Harvey and Alex Lamy, who wrote some of the new arrangements for this release, and long-time collaborator, friend of James Horner, and sound engineer Simon Rhodes. Album produced by Chris Craker.
Many thanks to Tina Guo for the very enjoyable interview and to Martin Korn from Sony Music Switzerland, Label Manager Classical Music, for enable this article and the meeting with Tina Guo.