Adrian Konarski is for me one of the great discoveries within film music, after hearing his score for the movie THE WELTS I was for want of a better word smitten totally by his gift for melody and his haunting and tuneful music. I would like to thank the composer for agreeing to do this interview and also to thank him for his patience and his great effort in bringing it to fruition.
Your score for THE WELTS which I have to say I cannot stop playing, has just been released on CALDERA records were you involved in the compilation of the album, because it also contains music from two other scores which you composed, CITIZEN and DROWSINESS as well as a handful of cues from various theatrical projects and short films?
Thank you very much – I am glad you liked it and because you said this I feel that maybe this score must have something fresh – thank you! Because this was my big screen debut – I noticed that I had some freshness of debut in the meaning that I knew that apart from telling the story, and score serving the movie, it must have been musically very good and fresh material, otherwise nobody would notice it and therefore I might not have had the chance to write for a movie again. So sometimes my intuition was saying to tilt the scales a little from letting the film tell its story to allowing the music to tell the story, to construct musical themes that are interesting to listen to away from the movie and also to write music that would hopefully be remembered and appreciated in the future. We had to do additional editing and cuts as I was scoring the film, later syncing this music with the movie but I think it was a good idea to just follow my heart. Generally, it is my golden rule that no matter how much music serves a movie it must be interesting by itself, when you want to release a CD after even 10 years, which I hope watermarks me from other composers – I write MY nice melodies and MY harmonies or my dark or not nice melodies (if a movie tells me to write darker or maybe more sinister music) however music I think should always act as servant to any movie I score. As for selecting the music for release yes I was involved in this, it was my dream to add some more music, because I loved the idea of Caldera to produce so beautiful CD with a beautiful booklet inside. I appreciate their work. I simply told them that you do so nice work, that it would be a sin to not to add some more… But the selection was based on a key of emotionality of this music…
THE WELTS is a highly lyrical score, which you perform the piano solos on, do you also work out your musical ideas at the piano, or do you use more contemporary tools such as samples, computers etc.?
I am always performing piano on all my music unless something is so technically difficult that I am not able to play it. I used to play Liszt Piano concerto with Philharmonic Orchestra when I was finishing my secondary school, then I started more to compose rather than practise the piano, so I am not technically as good as before… But maybe because of the composing I learned to play simpler phrases… But this is mostly about feeling and emotions this is more important for me than an ability of playing fast passages. I am not composing for an effect or for things to be difficult but to underline the emotions within the film, so I am writing from the heart. There were no samples at all in music for THE WELTS as I worked on the movie in 2004 and the use of samples was not that common at this time, but NOWADYS there are more possibilities and samples sound more beautiful than many years ago. I listen to a lot of film music and I feel that I do not want to sound the same, and what I like in music the most – is something imperfect in performances that has a value. Sample libraries sometimes sound too perfect and too clear. European cinema music is more chamber and because of this I think you have more of a chance to be yourself and not become a part of an industry as much as it happens at times in the United States. Nowadays though I do use more samples, and I achieve things which just a few years ago, one would not have believed to be possible. Sometimes I even compose on a sampled piano not on a real one because it is simply more comfortable with all cabling in a studio etc. Now the business requires everyone to do things so quickly and the way that you compose the music exactly to a timeframe – to not to use any faders on a final sync mix. I think now there is no place for a composer who is able only to write with a pen, paper and candle… Although it is so romantic…
THE WELTS is your debut score, was it something of a daunting task for you, was it difficult to work on the movie or was it a film that inspired you from the first time that you saw it?
I felt so much that I was ready for my debut, I was very confident and knew I could handle everything – I felt an extra power within. I knew that even if I make errors there will be a lot of heart within the score and music is all about heart. And yes, the movie inspired me from the first time I saw it.
Staying with THE WELTS, as I say it’s a highly lyrical work, and contains some beautiful themes, do you think that film music has altered in recent years so we hear less thematic material on soundtracks and there is a more atonal or sound design approach?
I am glad you asked me this question because I am constantly thinking of how people receive music and understand music nowadays. Also, about musical education of listeners. I do not think there is less thematic material on soundtracks – maybe – but I also think – maybe because in my heart there is something between a song and classical music and my music aims West but it always has an eastern European feeling, some roots. I have also a feeling that many composers do not have so much need of melody in their heads. I am always winning with my melodies although because of an around world constantly altering it is not always easy to persuade that melody still has a value. Sometimes people simply believe that the best is strange, people need stories that this music is so original because a moment before composing composer ate a bouquet of green daffodils… For me music it is all about heart, sensitivity and not being able to stop composing.
Magdalena Piekorz, made her directorial debut with THE WELTS, did She have specific ideas about how the music should sound and what style of music should be utilised?
Sincerely I started to score this movie from a scene about Windmills which constructed the father and the son. I felt it and it was my trampoline. Magdalena only wanted a theme that I wrote one summer – CONFESSION OF LOVE, I wrote it when I was thinking of one girl cello player, she went somewhere to Japan for holidays and did not even know I was thinking about her.
What size orchestra did you employ for THE WELTS and how much time did you have to compose and record the score?
There was an orchestra like 30 people and among this me playing the piano, bass player, and djembe player…
You have recorded mainly in Poland, what studios do you like to use when you are recording a score for a movie?
Such story does not happen to often but I had recordings twice.
I wanted to debut but producers did not want to give me any orchestra.
I had to gather an orchestra myself – of musicians of Academy of Music in Krakow. My desire to debut and write music in a shape that I really wanted caused that there were no impossible things for me. Then when they realised that the film had power and that my music was good enough, they hired a Polish Radio Orchestra to record more music – and we were recording this in Warsaw in a Polish TV studio.
I understand you began to play piano at the age of just four, did you come from a family background that was musical?
My twin sister also plays the piano, she plays Chopin so beautifully, it is the same Sister who is singing on the CD… My mother she is a professor of Psychology but she plays the piano…I remember before primary school I was able to make a replacement for a teacher of music and to play songs on the piano when she was not there…
What musical education did you receive?
I finished Academy of Music in Kraków, Poland – department of Composition, Conducting and Theory of Music, and before Primary and Secondary School on a piano.
I think your music is so haunting and has a beguiling and enchanting effect upon the listener, do you orchestrate all of your own scores for film and do you conduct at all or do you prefer to monitor the proceedings from the recording booth?
Thank you very much for this. Yes I do orchestrate myself. I do not conduct, I understand that whatever I do I need some distance while recording and quickly switch from being a composer to the point of view of a film director, I am always at the recoding booth… But whatever I am telling about music and heart, and no matter how much a composer „loves” the music himself – it is always necessary in film music to remember that what is really important is the film and story not your music. And conductor for me is a necessary link that allows me have some distance….
Your music is for me personally like a breath of fresh air within the world of film music, it is not only wonderfully melodious and emotive but also has a lingering and affecting aura about it, what composers would you say may have influenced the way in which you write or approach a film score, or inspired you?
Thank you for this: Zygmunt Konieczny, Pat Metheny, Ennio Morricone, Philip Glass…
When working on a movie, do you like to see the film once before getting any ideas about the score, or do you return to the movie on a number of occasions before you make any decisions about what type of music you will write and where it will be placed to best serve the film?
I am always surprised how much power a picture has. I have so many ideas at the beginning when a movie impresses me that I would like to write very quickly, most of those first ideas are often the ones that are the best solution for the score. But I am always trying to slow down the spontaneous way of working because film is more about understanding what, why and first of all where not to write music at all, to remember about silence. But there is an opposite thing, film is almost always holding off your musical madness, because there are time frames. When improvise to a picture for a long time and do not know where to go sometimes I make a break and set my sequencer prompt where there is no picture at all and try to play what I am thinking ABOUT the movie. This restores a voice to my music and is sometimes a great idea.
Do you find when scoring a documentary or a short that the process varies a great deal from when you are working on a feature film, or is it mainly the budgets that are different, so you cannot do as much on TV as you can for a motion picture?
Usually you cannot write huge music to something that is documentary because who believes the story then…It is as an oversized suit.
If you are working on a TV series which is more than six episodes in duration and the schedules are beginning to get more demanding, do you ever re-cycle themes or sections of the score from for example episode one and re-use it in episode seven?
I do not have a big experience with TV series, but you know in each story there is something that happens spontaneously, hopefully a composer has a great power of doing different tempos, this makes a different music. Recently I was at a gathering where five composers did a Q and A session with fans of music from the movies, I was wondering how do you see the role of a film music composer, do you think that writing music for films is an art or a craft or maybe a combination of the two and in your opinion what is the purpose of music in film?I was telling before about heart necessary for music, and that you generally need to be inspired to do something good and know how to find this inspiration. For me it is a combination of those two and first of all it is about ability of having very quickly a distance to what you wrote a moment ago and an ability of understanding a film director’s way of story telling
You use female voice on a number of your scores to great effect, I was reminded when listening to the music contained on THE WELTS compact disc of a number of composers, Morricone, Preisner and also Komeda, when you write a score and decide that a voice will be used do you write with a particular performer or soloist in mind?
Yes, I am most of the time thinking about particular voice or vocalist, I like female voices, voices are special kind of instruments for me.
Do you have a set way of working when scoring a movie, by this I mean do you like to write and develop a central theme and then base the remainder of the score upon it, or do you compose various themes and then develop the central theme from these, additionally do you start with the larger cues first and then when these are written concentrate on the smaller sections of the score?
It is difficult to say, each score is a big adventure, this is why I like it so much. No rules here. But there is something in it that usually some small scenes make so big impact on me that I treat them as a starting point. And what is maybe very mine I love giving my musical fragment titles myself, like Windmills and Holy Figures or Cooking of Hallucinogenic Herbs – and I usually need only a few seconds to invent titles based on a story that I am scoring. It helps me being creative. Maybe because poetry and literature song is so important for me…
Have you ever given any concerts or performances of your film music?
Sometimes but I think I should do much more. I improvise playing to silent movies with my ensemble SemiInvented Trio.
Is there any genre of film that you feel more comfortable working in, or do you adapt easily to most genres?
I adapt early to most genres but people put thoughts into drawers – although I am constantly getting psychological dramas I am dreaming about a crime story now. I would not feel comfortable with hip-hop music.
Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?
Now I am recording some Christmas Songs to a Polish poetry, which I am going to release on a CD – very artistic and non-commercial work. Apart from that I am writing some orchestral music to lyrics of a famous Polish lyricist Jacek Cygan. But my dream is to write a film musical. and music for a crime series – but for someone who does not need green daffodils and trust me. I am also open to help young directors with their debuts. Listen to my music – thanks to Caldera Records – I would like more people and film and theatre directors discover my work. And my melodies.