Marcel Barsotti, award-winning film composer, born on 05/02/1963 in Lucerne (Switzerland), for years one of the most successful film composers in Germany. After studies in composition at the renowned conductor George Byrd Marcel Barsotti studied at the Richard Strauss Conservatory in Munich composition, piano and clarinet, also, he completed training at the pop music which won the Grammy Award composer Harold Faltermeyer.
Now, after more than 60 film projects, 21 Soundtrack publications, various pop albums and several chart entries Marcel Barsotti is also committed to music festivals, film academies and is Europe seminars and workshops for film music . In 2002 Marcel Barsotti published the first comprehensive CD Rom encyclopedia “Ethno World” for ethnic instruments, which is now used worldwide by renowned film composers and musicians.
One of your first scoring assignments was for a TV movie entitled, BRUDER AUF LEBEN UND TOD, which was in 1995, how did you become involved with this movie?
I introduced myself at the advertising agency Daydream in Munich, who tried to convey jobs to newcomers. I took part in a pitch for a Pro7 movie I unfortunately did not win. But the producer was very pleased with my work, after which I was allowed to participate in a second pitch. That was the movie ” Brüder auf Leben und Tod”, my ticket to the film music industry.
One of your most recent scores is also for TV, INSPEKTOR JURY-DER TOTE IM PUB. Your music has been issued on Compact Disc; do you have an input into a CD release as in what music will be used?
My only influence is that I’m trying to convince the film production companies to release a soundtrack. But since it becomes harder to publish film music on CDs, I often have to establish contacts. For example, I was able to convince John from Alhmabra Records to release a soundtrack after he was delighted with the main theme to the jury. Unfortunately, the times of successful soundtracks are over. From “Sommermärchen”, 2006, I could sell 25,000 copies, today, soundtrack sales only move in a small four-digit range.
When scoring a motion picture as in a feature film, do you approach it in a different way from when you are working on a TV series or a movie made for television?
Yes, I do. The movie for me is still the supreme discipline of composing music. Great pictures, cinema-grade images and usually more elaborate screenplays with longer film shooting time, give the motivation to take especially in the music more time to develop consistent themes, to realize real orchestral recordings and also to realize a much more complex music mixing. All of this does not exist in the fast moving TV business. Nevertheless, I think some movie is a mediocre TV movie that does not belong to the cinema and some TV movie such as “Die Hebamme” would have certainly also cinema potential in my eyes.
What is your musical background, did you start out as composer of music for film, or was this something that you moved into from other areas of music and what musical education did you have?
From an early age I have self-taught myself the piano-organ, and guitar. I have listened to other music and always reenact it. That was easy for me, so I had quickly discovered that reenacting is not very satisfactory for me. So, I already wrote with 10 years my first compositions, which I recorded secretly in a music store on an organ with a tape recorder, which were my first demos. After that, I studied in Munich at the Richard Strauss Conservatory in composition, piano, clarinet and conducting. But it was very hard for me notes to learn in only 10 months until the entrance examination to learn Sheet Music and to play classical works. Until then, I couldn’t these things.
What are your earliest recollections of music or your first encounter with a musical instrument and are you from a family that is musical in any way?
My first encounter was the drums. We always had music in our circle of friends, including Hazy Osterwald. When I was four years old, he took me on the stage at a concert in Switzerland. Hazy was a good friend of my mother and had with “Kriminaltango” a worldwide success. I played together with his drummer a simple four-four beat. I can no longer remember, but my mother said to this day, I would have kept the rhythm. After that, I discovered in his recording studio the vibraphone, a polyphonic instrument and knew from that moment: “I will musician!” (I was still four years old)
In 2009, you scored POPE JOAN, what size orchestra did you utilize for the score and how much time were you given to write and record the score?
Overall, I had eight months for the score, which is a lot of time these days, but I also needed because the movie appeared in the theater in a 135 minutes version and on TV even in a 180 minutes version. So, I had to write for the TV version new cues or had to remodel other. That was a lot of work for 90 minutes of music. On the BluRay there was also another “end credits”. The orchestra consisted of 70-80 musicians and a 40-man choir, plus a few soloists.
DIE HEBAMME is a TV that you have been working on, at what stage of production do you prefer to become involved on a project, do you think it helps to have a script and begin to get ideas before any footage has been shot or is it better you personally to become involved at the rough cut stage of proceedings?
Sometimes I find the work on the rough cut dangerous because you write something that is not explicitly for the image. It can also create something which stands out from the image. The music then takes on a certain amount of independence and so tries to go a different dramaturgical way. In “Die Hebamme” I immediately started with the rough cut because I had only four weeks time for the music, after all, is a 120-minute historical thriller. But I always read the script before I start with a movie. The reason is: if I don’t like the script, then I’m not doing the film. I don’t want work as a film composer, just to earn money and make every job. At the time as I came into the industry, I also have not worked that way. I prefer to wait a bit until a project comes along where I can make a musical statement, which is part of my person.
When writing for a movie do you try to in the first place establish a central theme, or do you tackle larger cues first and then move to smaller cues and stabs leaving any core theme till last. Or if you start with the central theme is it easier to develop the remainder of the score?
I often start with the main theme because it’s the greatest challenge. Without the main theme the movie has not the same effect. Isn’t that right, I find no approach to the movie. After that, I start with the other themes. Sometimes a “side theme” became a main theme, for example at “Der Bibelcode”. The great archaic main theme not even stood at the beginning of the movie. The editor said “here in the second part is a fantastic theme, which I would love to have at the opening credits.” The good man was right.
When working with a director on spotting a movie do you find it difficult at times if a director who has little or no musical knowledge attempts to talk to you in musical terms rather than relay to you what emotions he would like underlined or evoked within a scene?
It depends. I would prefer a director who has good knowledge of music and music mixing and who is able to temp the movie perfect, and can verbalize. A director who sometimes even has no idea of music in the film is often horror to me, then I start experiments which fail at the end or the director immediately says to all: “I think that’s great,” then I have already no longer a challenge. As I said, just to make film music to make money never was my intention; I need the pressure, the challenge in the music. There are not worse things than the Daily Music that I could never do.
Do you think it is in any way possible for a good musical score to help a movie that is not good?
A bad movie remains a bad movie for me. The misconception of editors and producers, “please help us with the music to enhance the film,” is simply wrong and not possible. A bad movie is beyond redemption for me, just as it is in bad film music. I am currently watching in the German Film Academy, the films for the German Film Award. For example, there is a movie that has a really good story, but is so mercilessly clogged up by the music and is dramatically interpreted wrong that you have absolutely no more fun with the film. This is the flip side, the worst thing that can happen.
Is it important that you orchestrate all of your own music, or is this not possible at certain times on specific assignments because of time restrictions?
I orchestrate everything myself until now it was always time for that. But of course my orchestrators help me complete the fine-tuning, sometimes there are only nuances. The layout should sound like the orchestral recording.
Also do you conduct your TV and film music, or is this not always possible?
Very early I did it. But I prefer to sit in the control room with my score reader and hear relaxed the recordings.
How many times do you like to look at a project before starting work on the music?
Sometimes I watch the film very often, especially movies (cinema) to better prepare me for the work. For reasons of time, I look at a TV film only once and start immediately. For reasons of time, I look at a TV film only once and start immediately. I don’t start a film that I have not seen. If I do not like this movie, I don’t want to realize the project.
What composers or individual artistes would you say have influenced you or inspired you?
Ennio Morricone, Hans Zimmer and John Williams have particularly influenced me. The first music that I heard was the soundtrack from “Secret of the Sahara” from Ennio Morricone; I was emotionaly impressed. Then at 24 I heard the music from “Green Card” by Hans Zimmer. From that time I knew I would be a film composer. As a teenager, I always went to the Star Wars movies and I already knew the best thing about the movies is the music, so Williams became the Grand Master of all music for me. However, I especially love the old film composers, particularly Bernard Hermann.
You are a very busy composer, because you are working on so many projects do you ever get the composers equivalent to writer’s block, where you are just stuck on a certain piece or section of a score, if so what do you do to remedy this?
Long question, short answer: no, I’ve never had writer’s block (and Marcel just knocks on wood)
What do you think is the purpose of music in film?
Music has only one meaning in the film for me to emotional accompany the film and its story in an honest and constructive form, without the music takes up the story. This is perhaps the most difficult challenge in the music, which also does not always succeed. Whether Underscoring or over scoring that does not play such a significant role. I think the transportation of the emotions in the film about the music to the audience, must succeed smoothly without bringing the audience into trouble like “”I was negatively manipulated by the music because of that, I don’t like the film”. At the latest then this is bad film music.
Do you have a preference for any particular orchestra or even recording studio?
An “A orchestra” is of course always an outstanding orchestra, such as the NDR Orchestra, the Munich or Berlin Philharmonic. But I also like the orchestras in the abroad, they have sometimes such a warm string sound, which I love very much. If I could choose: then I would use the orchestra from London or the Boston Symphony.
How do you bring your ideas to fruition, by this I mean how do you work them out, keyboard, piano, etc etc?
This is very different. Sometimes with the piano or the guitar. But sometimes I start with drums or percussion, which I usually record live in my studio or with another solo instrument such as the clarinet, marimba or bouzouki. I have over 40 instruments in my studio, which I play myself, which is much more fun as to work with samples But the piano is my main instrument, from which I start to build the arrangements.
What are you working on at the moment, and what do you do musically away from film?
Now, after five films one after the other, I will take a longer break. Besides I am currently building with my partner Stefan Brodner the music company RAVENRED (www.ravenred.de), where artists write for us songs and source music for TV and movies, a kind of Production Music Company, similar to Hans Zimmer. At this time, 18 artists working for us and we have already contributed songs for over 20 films last year. I love this company concept because I come in contact with artists and musicians and do not spend so much time alone in my studio. Our artists realize albums for Universal Music which we write. As a producer in this company complex I feel very well and can therefore look from the outside at music and judge it. Then I start with my second company ETHNIC WORLD just the realization of “Ethno World 6”. http://www.bestservice.de/ethno_world_5_professional__voices.html 17 years ago I had the idea to record ethnic instruments and musicians around the world and to provide a music software (with samples). That’s why I was often in Asia, to hear these instruments and to buy them. Meanwhile, we have recorded over 200 instruments, and every three years we publish a new software update. These collaborations with artists around the world, is a mental and refreshing addition to my life. Or I like to go on vacation with my family, as so often in Asia.
Many thanks to Marcel Barsotti and also my personal thanks and gratitude to Anne Kahnwald and Oliver Pöllendorfer who so kindly translated the interview for me.