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For Annika Huprikar ’24, music feels like a second language. A junior in the Harvard-Berklee College of Music five-year dual degree program, Huprikrar is pursuing a BA in Computer Science from Harvard College as well as a Master’s of Film Scoring from Berklee College of Music.
Her energy and passion for music were striking as Huprikar remarked on her experience in her dual degree, and how she splits up her time.
“I usually try and take half of my coursework in CS every semester,” she said. “Honestly ideally, I would like to really pursue music more than CS; I know that by myself.”
Pursuing an Earth and Planetary Sciences secondary, which takes up one class slot a semester, Huprikar explores liberally with her one remaining class slot, having taken courses in art history, government, and comparative literature. In addition, she takes two classes in film scoring at Berklee each semester, learning among others how to write for Brass or score a video game.
With a complete studio setup in her dorm room, including a full-length 88-key MIDI controller and two 5’’ KRK Rokit Studio speakers, as well as an audio interface and a mic, Huprikar can experiment with sequencing and mixing at any time of day. The setup is symbolic of how comfortable and ingrained music is within her everyday life.
“The great thing about these projects at Berklee is that they feel less like homework and more like you’re working on a continuous thing,” said Huprikar. “It’s really, really fun.”
Huprikar started playing piano at the age of six. Classically trained, she considered piano to be “her sport.” In high school, Huprikar entered the competition circuit as well as discovered the joy of composing. After noticing patterns in the classical scores she’d be playing growing up, Huprikar endeavored to create her own, more modern-leaning compositions.
In high school, she wrote a violin, cello, piano trio, then expanded to orchestral pieces.
A “mainly self-taught” scorer and conductor, she learned to use Sibelius and Dorico to notate her compositions, and then would conduct student groups in playing her work.
Nearing the end of high school, Huprikar realized that music production, and specifically film scoring, which brought together her fascination with film and music, piqued her interest more than pure piano performance.
She loved watching movies, and was specifically entranced by Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack in “The Dark Knight Rises”: “it has such grit to the score,” she stated. Inspired by Zimmer, she realized that she could marry her interests in film and music and started paving her own path in the film scoring world.
A long established practice for Kuprikar is scoring silent scenes: movie sequences stripped of sound. Her mentors — one in LA and one in New York — would give her scenes without music from films that have already been scored. The exercise, then, would be to score the scene in an original way, to push her creative boundaries.
“The test,” Huprikar said, is to really get creative, think about things in a critical way; what are you seeing visually and how do you then take that and transform it into sound? musical narrative?
She chose the Harvard-Berklee Dual Degree Program because she felt that it offered direction beyond classical performance or theory, which differed from that offered at traditional music departments — even Harvard’s very own.
“I’m trying to do as much as I can out of class.”
To that end, Huprikar has been involved in the First-Year Musical, “The Fortunates,” and The Harvard Undergraduate Drummers. She also shared that she had been asked to score some student projects. She makes audio backings for friends’ short films, and looks forward to upcoming senior theses where she will likely have the opportunity to collaborate with peers in the TDM or AFVS departments.
Originally from Chicago, Huprikar loves musicals, often watching them while growing up with her parents and friends. To this end, Hurpikar tried composing with lyrics for the 2021 First-Year Musical, where she worked with casted performers to personalize her score to the vocal ranges of the actors themselves after having worked one-on-one with them.
Although she realized she was not as interested in composing for musical theater or working with lyrics, she still appreciated the experience.
“Writing with lyrics in mind versus instrumental makes it like a different battle. It’s challenging.”
An avid and relentless explorer even within the music industry, Huprikar keeps her eyes set ahead and upwards. Now, she stays busy with Harvard and Berklee assignments, scoring competitions, and independent projects within and outside of the Harvard ecosystem. Most recently, her work was recorded, then premiered alongside seven other pieces at Sanders Theatre by Ensemble Veritas, a professional choir.
“It was like a masterclass rehearsal recording session.”
When asked about whether she would pursue music full-time, Huprikar was enthusiastic.
“I mean, every industry has its uncertainties. But I think there’s no mistake or misunderstanding that Fine Art and Music is a very risky, unstable industry. But I love music so much that I’m not averse to taking that path,” she said.
To that end, she sees her studies in CS as supplement to her ultimate goal of music. Studying technology, to her, has given her a path to understanding how to understand and conceptualize abstract backend processes in relation to music.
Understanding signal processing and how to apply effects — distortion, for instance — on different audio tracks to create the desired sonic effect on a theoretical, conceptual level allows her to get closer with music and interact with it through a different lens.
“It makes me more open minded and more willing to actually learn the technological know-how to work in music.”
Even though artificial intelligence presents Huprikar with a unique opportunity to merge her academic interests in Computer Science and Music, she shared that she never intended to study their interaction.
“I believe in technology corrupting the authenticity of the human creative process,” she said. I can do automations of things that I need to be done. But when it comes to the actual creative compositions idea, I want that to come from me.
Huprikar intends to graduate Harvard College with a degree in Computer Science in 2024 and complete her Masters in Film Scoring from Berklee in 2025. Afterwards, her dream is to live in New York or L.A. scoring films, attending festivals, and expanding the scale of her musical explorations.
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