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SCV student composes music for Madonna documentary

Music aims to portray emotion of Malawi plight.

Posted: May 3, 2008 9:12 p.m.
Updated: July 5, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Twenty-two-year-old Jonathan Gordan, a music major at The Master's College, recently composed the music for Madonna's documentary, "I Am Because We Are," which highlights the poverty and deplorable conditions endemic to Malawian life.

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When Madonna's Malawi documentary, "I Am Because We Are," premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, the packed audience was not only moved by the images they saw on the screen but also by the music they heard, some of which was composed by a local student.

Jonathan Gordon, a 22-year-old student at The Master's College in Newhall, was tapped by his brother-in-law, director Nathan Rissman, to compose music for the documentary, which shows the abject poverty and deplorable conditions faced by the Malawian people.

"I had been sending him my music for a long time, ever since I got in school," Gordon said, adding that he doesn't feel like he got preferential treatment because he is family. "I have lots of family members in the music industry, and when we do business with each other, it's serious.

"We treat everyone with love, but it's still business."

Gordon was one of several composers selected for the project, because Rissman wanted a variety of music to complement the visual images, he said.

"What we tried to do was to portray emotion and tell the story musically as the images are shown," Gordon said. "I just tried to get to know the people - even though they're on the screen - I just tried to put myself in their place and feel what they were feeling."

Malawi is a country about the size of Pennsylvania located in southeast Africa. Madonna produced and narrated "I Am Because We Are" about the country after traveling there and meeting toddler David Banda, whom she is in the process of adopting. The documentary premiered April 24 in New York City.

"I love what Madonna is doing. She really does have a heart for these kids and the people of Malawi," Gordon said.

Gordon came to The Master's College seeking a better life after getting in trouble a lot as a youth in Bellevue, Wash.

"I just wanted to change my life and pursue music and pursue God," he said. "That led me to The Master's College, where I have learned the most amazing things."

Gordon started out studying music communication, but switched to music composition after taking a personal composing class with Dr. Richard Pressley at the college.

"He encouraged me to go into composing," Gordon said.

Gordon has composed music for commercials and some other documentaries over the years, and is currently trying to start a studio composer program at The Master's College so that other students can compose works for similar projects.

"It's a huge project, and I think it will benefit a lot of students," Gordon said. "The Master's College has been great to me, so I just want to give something back to them."

Gordon said he hopes that the people who see Madonna's Malawi documentary will be moved enough by the music and images to get involved.

"Watching those people on the screen affected my whole life," he said.

"I would like the audience to feel compassion, but at the same time to feel hope for the people of Malawi.

"I want them to feel like there's something they can do to help."


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