Released on Kronos/MSM records April 2014.
ATLANTIS-THE LAST DAYS OF KAPTARA, is the retelling of a classic tale from Greek mythology, it is about a prince of the ancient city of Athens, Theseus, who engages in a brutal and epic battle with the dark, fearsome and foreboding Minatour, the monster which is half man half bull is a flesh eating monster, with the body of a man and the head of a beast and is feared and also loathed by many. The warlike Island nation of KAPTARA has forced the once proud and fearless city of Athens into submission and has since its victory over the Athenians returned each year to take fourteen young men and women from their already declining population and taken these to Kaptara to be offered as sacrifice to an unforgiving and ever ravenous Kaptari God The Earthshaker. Theseus the son of the King of Athens decides that he will offer himself for sacrifice and is transported to Kaptara where he sets out to free his people from the iron grip of the war driven Empire. To do this he must enter the domain of the Minatour to engage in the fight of his life and a battle to free his city from Kaptara’s unyielding dominance. The fascinating and exciting story is brought to life by the use of computer generated animation by Mind’s eye studio who with this project embark on their first feature length movie. The musical score for the movie is the work of composer Peter Bateman, who has fashioned a powerful and lavish sounding soundtrack, which is filled to overflowing with strong and infectious thematic material. The score which is almost fully symphonic with the occasional support of synthetic components is written in a style which I would refer to as a silver age work in modern times, by this I mean it is a score that has many affiliations with the kind of scoring that we used to hear for movies, lavish, lush and energetic, a score that contains real themes that the composer develops and expands throughout the work as it progresses. Fulsome and forceful brass is combined with sweeping and fervent strings that are in turn both embellished and supported by booming percussion and given the location and also the time in which the story is set, the composer employs an array of ethnic instrumentation and distinct sounding vocals which brings credence, authenticity and substance to the soundtrack.
How did you become involved on KAPTARA?
I responded to an ad placed on the Los Angeles Craigslist in late 2010 I think, and did two custom demo tracks for Patrick, the director. We met up during the demo process and hit it off, and seemed to see eye-to-eye on a lot of things conceptually from the very start (and this was while the film was still in the script stage). I then had to wait over a year to see anything on screen! Animation takes a long time.
The score sounds very grand throughout, what size orchestra did you employ for the soundtrack, and what percentage was performed via electronic or synthetic components?
There were three different-sized orchestras, primarily because of budgeting, but the idea was that the score should sound as if it were recorded with a single-sized orchestra. Some cues would segue from one orchestra to another, if the scene didn’t require the larger forces for part of it. The largest group was around 70 musicians, and had a slightly over-sized brass section with 6 horns and 4 trombones.
The score totals about 72 minutes, and 69 minutes were recorded, which is basically every instrumental cue written for the movie. There are a handful of synth/sound-design cues that had overdubbed ethnic instruments/voice, but I was very conscious about making sure everything had a live element in it. I felt that this was more important than ever, as the film itself is entirely ‘synthesized’; from 2-D background drawings to computer-generated character faces and movements.
You utilize a female voice on the score, who is the soloist and did you have this artist in mind when you were writing the vocal parts, they seem to have an Armenian or maybe Macedonian sound to them?
The soloist is the Los Angeles-based singer Belinda Ulla Capol, who is originally from Zurich, Switzerland. She has a very versatile voice, and was able to capture a lot of different styles for me that would have taken 2 or 3 different performers to cover. The vocal moments in the score are very scene-specific, rather than artist-specific, so it was great that Belinda could consolidate all these moments with her distinctive musicality.
We also had a menagerie of other overdubbed instruments, including didgeridoo, lots of different ethnic winds, and hand percussion.
How much time were you allowed to write the score and were the films producers or director very hands on when it came to the spotting and scoring of the picture, or were you more or less given a free hand ?
When it comes to workflow, this was definitely a very unique project. I was attached to the production very early on, which allowed for a good amount of dialogue between myself and the director Patrick. I wrote the main theme at the story-board stage, and played it to Patrick on the piano, who left the studio humming it, so I knew I was on the right track.
From there, I didn’t start scoring to picture until they had a locked cut of the ‘rough layouts’. This is the stage in animation before any backgrounds or textures are added. There was some initial motion capture done, so at least the character movements were realistic, but some of it was still placeholder ‘puppets’, that would float along the ground a bit like a tardis, and have no bodily movement at all. All the male/female characters looked the same, and no one had any hair, so I really had to use my imagination, and go over with Patrick who-was-who if I wasn’t sure. At the same time though, it was a very liberating experience, as most of the visual drama was still as yet ‘untold’, so it encouraged me to be a lot more depictive in the music. The great thing was when the backgrounds and character textures were added in, everything came together great, and I think the music was probably the better for it.
How much music did you compose for the movie?
Aside from the demos, there is about 72 minutes in the film. Only one cue was left out of the final cut, as we felt the film needed to breathe at that moment (it is still in the soundtrack though, at around 1:35 in track 2)
How much research into instrumentation did you carry out before starting work on KAPTARA?
Not much! There is nothing especially challenging instrumentation-wise in the score, and the use of the soloists was scene-specific, so it was really a case of capturing the right sentiment for the scene, rather than getting a very virtuoso performance from the musician.
How does scoring an animated movie differ from working on a live action film, if indeed it does?
Well I think you have to work a lot harder on an animation! In the case of Kaptara, the music was adding an important emotional layer to what are essentially computer-generated acting performances. Motion capture was used for a lot of the body movements, but facial expressions and lip-sync were all completely synthetic, so the music really had to get behind the veil of the CGI and add the emotional depth that a live action performance would already have.
Although the score isn’t a Disney cartoon-like score, it does track a lot of the gestures in the film closely. The director and animator had the freedom of having any camera movement and angle they liked, which was great for the film, but it also meant that the music really had to match that level of intensity, otherwise the film was in danger of coming across as a sort of ‘video game’ capture, rather than something scripted.