Out Take: Joy Ngiaw


Web: joyngiaw.com

Contact: Kate Twilley, [email protected]

Most Recent: Rescued by Ruby

Joy Ngiaw fell in love with composing in high school, sneaking into the school auditorium during her lunch break to play the grand piano and “try to mimic the emotion” on her mind through music. When her music teacher suggested she explore composing, Ngiaw began to pay attention to music in film and television. “I saw that the music is a character; it helps connect the audience to the story,” Ngiaw says. Her music can be heard on the video game What Remains of Edith Finch, Disney Animation Short Circuit: Jing Hua and Netflix’s Rescued By Ruby, and in 2021, she received Best Score in the Hollywood Music in Media Awards for her music in the animated film Blush.  

“Blush was one of the most memorable projects I’ve worked on. It’s a story about grief and love and healing and hope, inspired by a personal story of director Joe Mateo’s about his late wife,” Ngiaw says. “The director said, ‘Our family is our oxygen,’ and wanted the film to represent that. It inspired me to add some breathy vocal elements, chimes, things that have an air quality to the score. I expanded from my comfort zone.” 

Ngiaw says her primary inspiration in accepting projects is human connection. “I love to connect with people, learn about their stories, their past and their inspiration,” she says. “Everyone has a unique story to tell, and I love when everyone brings personal experiences into their art. I draw from that.” The story element is also what assists her when she encounters writer’s block when composing: “I detach from the music, but come back to the story,” Ngiaw says. “I come back to the question: Why am I doing this? Why does the filmmaker want to tell this story? What are the characters saying? Focus on the emotion, not the technical stuff. Come back to the ‘why.’  That always grounds me again.”   

Ngiaw advises new and aspiring composers to keep an open mind with every experience, and to honor their authentic musical voice. “The best collaborations I’ve had came from me being myself and being authentic to my music and composition process,” she says. “Never be afraid of trying something new or unusual, and I think having a curious mind, too, is important.” •