ELIA CMIRAL.

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Your career in writing music to accompany drama came when you wrote the music for the theatre production of CYRANO DE BERGERAC, this was produced by your Father, what size orchestra did you have to write for and how much music did you compose?

The orchestra was small, I believe not more than 10 people
I think it was maybe 20-25 minutes at most. I was led by my father, an experienced theater director.

When you completed CYRANO DE BERGERAC did you then decide that this is what you wanted to do, or did you know before this that you wanted to write for the theatre or indeed write music?

At the end, when I sat in the darkness in the theater among the audience watching how the story on the stage unfolded and how my music smoothly followed the story it was such a kick, that I felt that’s what I want to do. Even though I had already written music before Cyrano, this was the first time I experienced it as part of multi-media production.

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During the 1980,s you moved to Sweden and whilst there worked on a number of European produced movies, are there many differences between scoring movies in Europe and working in the United States?

When I’ve lived in Sweden I was sure there were differences between scoring movies in Europe and in the United States, but I was not aware about what these differences were. I approached scoring the film in my own way, I didn’t have any school training for it at that time. The approach was based on my own experiences from theater, and my musical instincts. When I attended the USC film scoring program I discovered a different and much more effective way how to synchronize music to the production – the ways I had dreamed about.

What musical education did you receive and did you focus on one particular instrument whilst studying?

I started with different instruments as a kid, ended up playing bass, piano and composition at Prague Conservatory. Then I briefly studied electronic music and music concrete in Stockholm.

You worked on NASH BRIDGES when you were first in the States, what would you say are the main differences between scoring a feature film and working on a series for TV?

There is much less time in the TV world to write music than in feature film world. Personally I like to have time to develop themes even go back to cues and to do some adjustments as I progress with the writing of the score. I guess that would be difficult in the weekly TV schedule.

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RONIN I suppose is the score that most collectors of film music identify you with, what was John Frankenheimer like to work with, did he have a particularly hands on approach to where music should be utilized and what style of music was to be used etc?

John led me gently with a great artistic understanding and support, I was very lucky to have him as my mentor. I miss him very much.

He gave me complete artistic freedom and supported my musical decisions with my score structure in the movie. There was no “music temp” in the movie. John hated the idea of it, he certainly didn’t need it, the music style and direction was developed from scratch.

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Your score for ATLAS SHRUGGED PART 3 has just been released; when one of your scores is to get a compact disc release do you like to be able to have an input into what music will be selected for the disc?

I always take a full responsibility for what music goes on the soundtrack – including the sequence of the soundtrack. Of course I present the ideas of tracks and sequencing
to the producers for their input, but they usually let me do my job. I also often combine cues from the score, re-editing even remixing tracks for the soundtrack. I just want to have the music represent the movie the best way possible on the disc.

You have worked on a number of independent movies and also a number of films that have been produced by major studios; does the scoring process differ between the two?

Well, it depends. In studio productions there might be more people they have something to say about music and the process can be more structured. Independent productions can be very different.
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Stigmata has some great music which supported the movie wonderfully, the soundtrack also contained rock songs as is the norm these days, on STIGMATA the songs were written by Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, when you start to score a movie that will include songs are these already in place on the soundtrack and do you have to score around them or are they recorded after you have scored the movie or indeed do you work with the writers of the songs or the music supervisor to decide what will be scored and what sections will be tracked with songs?

Billy Corgan was hired before I came on-board, I had nothing to do with his part. All coordination between his work and mine was done with the music editors. The score was divided to two parts, one for Billy one for me. Later some parts of Billy’s half were overdubbed with my music.

Was all of your score for STIGMATA included on the CD release, if not do you think that maybe a full score release might happen one day?

I doubt that the full score will be ever released. That would be a nice surprise if somebody would do it.

I understand that you actually sent your demo tape to the director of STIGMATA before you scored RONIN, so did he hear your score for RONIN and then ask you to score his movie, how did you get the assignment for STIGMATA?

Yes, I actually sent selections from my scores to Rupert prior Ronin, and I am sure Rupert had heard my score for Ronin later on, but I don’t think this was the main reason I scored Stigmata.

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PIRAHNA 3DD is a very dramatic sounding score which mixes symphonic with electronic, giving it a contemporary sound and style, what size orchestra did you have for this assignment.

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The orchestra for P3DD is hybrid, electronic mixed with live overdubs, mostly strings. It was not a terribly a large group, we did a few overdubs of an each part. The female soprano is local singer, a friend of mine.

Orchestration is an important part of the composition process do you orchestrate all your scores or if the deadline is looming have you used orchestrators?

I orchestrate the score at the same time as I am writing into my sequencer. The orchestrator has to convert my midi file to Finale, add dynamics and articulations as she/he can hear it in my demos. He/she then has to make sure that strings are divided properly and prep the whole score for printing. I don’t have my orchestrators do any writing.

ATLAS SHRUGGED 1 you scored and then ATLAS SHRUGGED 3 you have recently completed. I looked on the Internet for ATLAS SHRUGGED 2 but I cannot see any mention of this? Is there one? If not why did the producers jump straight to part three?

There is a Part 2, but I did not score it

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How do you set about scoring a movie, by this I mean how many times do you like to watch a movie before getting any firm ideas about what style of music is required and also how do you work out your musical ideas, do you use pencil and paper or go for the more modern approach as in computers etc?

I watch the movie as many times I need to, to be sure I understand every aspect of the plot and character development. I also analyze the temp track, if there is any, and discuss with the director the style of music, the direction and what he expects the score should do in every scene.
I use my sequencer for writing, but often, and especially with score which requires a traditional theme or approach, I work at the piano.

When scoring a movie do you like to begin with a central theme or do you develop minor themes within the score firstly?

It really depends. But surely it is important at the beginning of the writing process to look for the main theme, significant sound or motif as a voice of the movie. Sometimes it comes easily, other times it takes time to find it.

For PULSE I understand that you set up a link between the USA and the Czech Republic so you could conduct the orchestra. How did this work?

Yes, the score for Pulse was recorded in Prague by using an online link. I hear and see the orchestra, and I can communicate with the conductor over there, much the same way like I would use ‘talkback’ in a studio if it were recorded in Los Angeles. The orchestra is recorded to ProTools and after the session I can download music in my studio for the mix. It is a very effective way that I can add orchestra to my score without the extra costs of flying overseas.

Do you have a preference when it comes to orchestras or maybe particular soloists and even engineers and recording studios?

There are many great orchestras, personally I think Los Angeles and London performers are the best. Yes, I have preferences for certain soloists, engineers and studios. It is very personal.

Going back to PULSE this was a horror based upon an original Japanese movie called KAIRO did you refer to the original movie or score when you were working on it?

Yes, Pulse was based on a Japanese movie but the US version was very different and there are no intentional references in my score to it as far as I know.

Do you think that directors or producers using a temp track to guide the composer is helpful or distracting?

I consider the temp track as a sort of springboard and starting point of communication with the director. This way it can be very helpful to give me direction with the score. It is not really a distraction, it’s just a tool and should be handled as it.

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BATTLEFIELD EARTH was co produced by John Travolta did he has any involvement in what style of music would be used on the film?

I did a demo for this project, and when I got the job the style and the direction of the score was more or less defined by this demo. Later during writing process I presented my demo sketches to John in my studio.

Staying with BATTLEFIELD EARTH it is a glorious score, everything that a soundtrack lover could ask for, I love the central theme what percentage of electronics were utilized in relation to the symphonic on this score and how long did you have to work on the score.

Thank you for the compliment! I feel very fortunate to have had a chance to work with John. I believe I had (what is pretty common) 6-7 weeks to write and produce this score.

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You did conduct we know, but do you always conduct your scores or is it sometimes not possible for this to happen?

I did conduct scores many years ago for my early productions. Today I prefer to have a professional conductor – I love to stay in the booth together with my engineer and my head orchestrator. This way I can make sure that all of elements from pre-recordings are working well together and that what the director and producers hear at the booth is the closest possible form to the final mix.

What composer’s classical, film music or contemporary would you say have influenced you?

Hmm, I don’t know. I went though many phases of my writing so I would rather leave this question for the musicologists to decide.

What do you think is the purpose of music in film?

Music in the movies can serve many different purposes. It can be emotional, help drive the plot, story or both. It can lead, or purposefully mislead, to manipulate emotions. It can create atmosphere, enhance relations, and create social, cultural and location references. It can create the sense of space and alter the feeling of time. It can comment on the plot or characters. There are many more examples of what it can do – depending on what the director expects and what they want the score to do.

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