"Diversity connects": students compose film music

"Engineering for a Sustainable Future" - this is the goal with which people from almost 100 nations study and work together at TU Ilmenau. Professional as well as human encounters, successful cooperation and peaceful coexistence characterize living together on the university campus. In our new series "Diversity connects", we introduce students and employees from different cultures who have arrived in Ilmenau and are involved at the university in a variety of ways - this time with media technology students and musicians Max Stelzenmüller and Noel Toms. Brought together by the student project Ilmpressions, the two have succeeded in producing a professional soundtrack for a feature film. In UNIonline they talk about how well they complemented each other.

TU Ilmenau/Annika Mehlis
Media technology students Max Stelzenmüller and Noel Toms composed the soundtrack for the student feature film Medusa in a home studio.

Music is a language that everyone understands, they say. Media technology student Max Stelzenmüller, who produces catchy melodies alongside his studies, knows this too. As the long-standing musical director of the student film project Ilmpressions, he knows how to skillfully interweave the music and plot of a film and evoke emotions in the audience. He does this particularly well at TU Ilmenau, where he often meets like-minded fellow students who share his passion for film music just like Noel Toms.

Having grown up in different cultures, both media technology students share a love of composing. Noel comes from the Indian state of Kerala and, like Max, produces his own songs. Another parallel: he also composes for films. While Max mainly produces for artist friends and Ilmpressions, Noel's compositions have already been heard by an audience of millions in South Indian cinemas.

Getting to know each other in a seminar

The media technology students meet for the first time in the "Audio Systems" seminar and discover what they have in common during the small talk afterwards. Max, who has once again been entrusted with the musical direction of the Ilmpressions film Medusa, knows immediately that he can learn a lot from Noel and wants to work with him. The students meet in the studio and begin work on the Ilmpressions soundtrack as producer and co-producer.

The fact that we met at the TU Ilmenau was a lucky coincidence. We hit it off straight away. Noel and I each brought our own style to the soundtrack and complemented each other well

says Max. While he composed the music for the male lead, Noel was responsible for the two female supporting roles. Max also credits Noel's empathy for interweaving these two narrative strands musically. Noel also appreciates the collaboration with his fellow student:

We immediately understood what music we needed to accompany the scenes musically, to build tension and to stage conflicts. For me, it was my first film production outside India and one of the best productions I've been involved in, and I also learned a lot from Max.

Film premiere in the Audimax

In addition to Max and Noel, the contributing musicians include Rasmus Merten and Nils Fliegner, students at TU Ilmenau, as well as Cornelius Appelmann, a friend of Max. Noel immediately felt at home in this team, as he remembers today.

Shooting of the film has now been completed, and Medusa celebrated its premiere in July 2023 in the Audimax at TU Ilmenau. In the audience: two satisfied composers whose music lent the 81-minute film the necessary emotion. Both will soon be graduating, and the next Ilmpressions film will be scored by other students. Max and Noel recommend all students who are interested in filmmaking to try their hand at Ilmpressions. They don't want to miss out on their experience:

As a non-commercial project, Ilmpressions gives students like us the chance not only to develop professionally, but also to meet fellow students from all over the world and learn from each other. Our collaboration was a bit like a meeting of different worlds. However, we quickly found common ground and benefited incredibly from each other.

The film Medusa is available in full length on the Ilmpressions website.

Max und Noel in the music studio