AN INTERVIEW WITH, NEIL DAVIDGE.

Neil Davidge is a record producer, songwriter, film score composer, musician, and occasional backing vocalist. Once an associate of dance producers DNA, he is best known as the long-term co-writer and producer for  Massive Attack.  In 1997, he also produced the Sunna album One Minute Science. During that time he has established a career as a film score/TV soundtrack, composer and has been involved on numerous projects for both the small screen and cinema. These include, Push, Bullet Boy, Trouble the Water, and additional music for Clash of the Titans.

 

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I think I am correct when I say you began in the industry as a
producer/performer, working with artists such as Massive Attack, when did you decide to move into scoring movies and TV shows?

 

 

 

That’s right, I primarily worked with Massive Attack but through them I collaborated with a great many more artists. It was whilst I was with the band that I had my first opportunities to work to picture. They had been asked to contribute to the movie ‘The Fan’, starring Robert De Niro, none of us had any experience scoring back then, that was 1995/6. Over the years whilst with the band I contributed to a number of movies but most notably the Massive Attack album ‘Mezzanine’ became one of the most sync’d albums… possibly ever and was a huge signpost for me. So, to cut a long story short, I’d been transitioning from records to scoring for a very long time. My inevitable ‘announcement’ to the guys that I was leaving came around the time I began scoring the movie ‘Push’. That was 2009. I stuck around another 2 years to finish the album ‘Heligoland’ before finally moving into a new studio on the other side of Bristol.

 

What was your first scoring assignment?

‘Unleashed’ was my first full movie score. Massive Attack are credited as the score artist, but I did most of the actual writing to picture. It was the first time I’d worked closely with a director, Louis Leterrier who was very generous with his time and taught me a lot. Robert from the band and I worked on several other movies after that, most notably “Trouble the Water’ about hurricane Katrina.

 

What musical education did you receive?

I have no formal musical education. I studied to be a graphic designer and spent most of my childhood painting. I’d always been into music but didn’t play an instrument, I sang, that was about it until Punk hit in the late 70’s. I was part of a tight group of mates at school, we all loved going to gigs and listening to albums together. One day we decided to form a band, none of us knew how to play but over time we learned. I started playing bass, then moved to guitar, then became the frontman, got a record deal, lost it again, did a bunch of remixes, produced a bunch of artists and met Massive Attack. I still don’t read, but along the way I’ve picked up a great many things. I like to think because of my ‘unorthodox’ training it’s helped me see music in a different light.

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At what age were you when you first become aware of music in any form?

I suspect from before I can remember. My mother’s side of the family are quite musical. Family gatherings were always musical events, but my mum told me she sang to me a lot when I was small. But I think the first time I realised I too had a musical side was in junior school (I guess 8 or 9 years old). We all had to take it in turn to audition for the school choir out in the hall and I sang a couple of hymns accompanied by the teacher. I’d never sung solo before, never heard my voice resonating around the hall… it was a magical moment and one that stuck with me, something switched on inside.

Your recent projects HARD SUN and BRITANNIA have been quite high profile and have received good reaction, when you are working on series such as these, do you work on each episode as an individual project or do you score the entire series as you would a movie. and do you score in the order the episode will be aired?

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I’ve not yet been in the position where I could score an entire series in one project session, I might read the scripts for all episodes and plan my themes based on what I know of the characters… but scripts can be very misleading, and I’ve had to dramatically shift my perception of a show before now after it’s been shot.

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In the past I’ve tended to work on individual cues and then pull them together to check them against the episode timeline. The benefits of working this way is that my multitrack sessions are relatively easy to navigate and not too taxing on the computer. But for Britannia, which was the first of these two shows I worked on, I took the decision to have one episode / one session for writing in and only split it into individual cues once I’d written and mapped out the entire episode. The reason I did this, to answer your third question, is because after spending some time writing for the first episode, gearing up to our first orchestral recording session, without warning, production decided they needed to shoot a bunch of new scenes for ep one, so they pulled it! Instead they were going to lock episodes 4 and 5… and I’d not started working on either them. We had two weeks until the orchestral session in Prague which couldn’t be moved. Jumping back and forth between sessions and then checking them in a run after working them up can be a little two steps forward and step back, and I didn’t have the time. As it turned out that was the best thing I could have done, and I discovered a new way of writing that helped me hone in on the narrative of the entire episode. I now always write that way.

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Another reason why it might be best to score out of episode order, especially with a new show, is the first couple of episodes can be self-conscious and production have huge expectations to fulfil. On Hard Sun I’d written a fair amount to the first episode and did a lot of sketching around it but again the team wanted to do some re-shoots and re-cuts and there were differences of opinion on the approach for the music. Meanwhile episode 3 came together very quickly for them, it locked early and when I watched it through it just had a very natural flow. So rather than get stuck with revision after revision of ep 1 I decided to jump on to ep 3 which I wrote very quickly, and which helped me work out which theme ideas would translate best. With what I learned I could then use to better inform how I should approach the first episode.

 

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ON BRITANNIA the opening titles are accompanied by THE HURDY GURDY MAN sung by Donovan, which is very effective and grabs your attention instantly, (well it did mine anyway) was it your idea to use this and if so for what reasons?

That I believe was James Richardson’s (lead Producer) idea. He’d asked me to come up with sketches for the titles, but nothing seemed to stick. When he showed me Hurdy Gurdy Man it was obvious that was the winner, it seemed to be written for the show and for the character of Divis in particular. I played it to my 24-year-old daughter just check that it wouldn’t only appeal to the dads… but she loved it, I think James felt reassured when I told him.

Staying with BRITANNIA, how much time were you given to work on the series and did the producers/director have any specific instructions when it came to the style of music and where the music would be best
placed?

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I started the show in November 2016 and finished it in June 2017 although the first locked episodes came late in February and not late December as they were promised. So, there was a healthy amount of time for sketching and experimentation and a mad dash to actually score the show.

I mainly worked with the producers, James but Jez (Butterworth, writer and creator) would give feedback, generally relayed through James. Initially I was given a playlist of tunes that James, Jez and his brother (co-writer) Tom had collected whist thinking about musical influences for the show. Everything from Led Zep to Thin Lizzy, from to Mogwai to Massive Attack.

 

The temp score was always a reasonable indication of where they wanted music placed although it could often be misleading sometimes in style or dramatic effect. James pointed on many occasion that the temp was ‘shit’ but I’d often find some useful bit of information. I’d refine the placing and if in doubt I’d over score rather than risk a request at the 11th hour.

Overall, they were very trusting and never dictated how they wanted the score to sound. They instead allowed me to digest and absorb what I needed from what I’d been shown and read and heard and find the direction for the show in my own way. They did come down pretty hard on anything sounding too Celtic though! I guess they wanted to avoid the clichés of the genre, which I assumed was why they chose me with my background anyway. For the most part I’d do a first pass of an episode, James would come down to Bristol with Tom or Nick Brown (producer) and watch through, giving notes as we went. I’d then be left alone to work through the notes with my assistant Tom, we might then have a session or two to record, we’d mix and send it off for final approval. It was rare that any cues would come back after.

 

You worked on HALO 4, what would you say are the main differences to working on a movie/TV project and writing music for a game?

Well, you get to write to moving pictures and you know within reason when the music starts, when it ends and the duration. It’s such a different thing to write music for a game, in some ways it’s got more in common with writing an album that it does film or TV because often you have little more than a blank piece of paper at the start. I’d have maybe a few artist sketches, a bare bones script that change enormously, I had to use my imagination a lot. It’s hard to write for games, it’s not really about the narrative in any detailed way, it’s about broad, very graphic headline statements and lots and lots of music. It was fun, and I loved working with the people from 343, but there were many periods of frustration where I wished I could jump forward to glimpse the end of the project to be sure what I was writing would work.

 

 

BRITANNIA is at times a dark and brooding work, which of course is great considering the content of the series, but it also contains some melodic and haunting pieces, such as YOU SPOKE, (which is a particularly lovely theme) and the opening part of the track THE ROMANS ATTACK, what percentage of the score was realised by samples/electronic contributions and how many conventional/symphonic instruments were utilised on the
score?

I’d say it’s roughly 50 / 50. Sometimes the ‘electronic’ sounds were generated from real instruments but treated heavily and / or cut around. Sometimes the organic sounding real instruments are sampled sounds but carefully sculpted and performed to sound and feel like the real thing. For the strings we recorded with roughly 40 players with the City of Prague Philharmonic conducted by Elizabeth Purnell, and we also did a much smaller section at Real World studios near Bath with the Bristol Ensemble who I’ve worked with a lot in the past, Drew Morgan, a longstanding collaborator of mine conducted that session.

 

I’ve always taken the view that the recording is not always the last word, often it’s just the beginning of the process, even when it’s a big orchestral session. I did a track with David Bowie once, a cover of the song ‘Nature Boy’. He’d sung to a full orchestral backing arranged by the composer Craig Armstrong which I then half timed and cut around and scratched in from a CD deck. That was for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.

 

What composers or artists would you say have had an influence upon you and the way you write or score a project?

Bowie and Eno, especially Low and Heroes. Cliff Martinez, Debussy, the Beatles. Vangelis, Morricone, The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Atticus Ross, Harry Nilsson (don’t ask why), Stars of The Lid, Talk Talk, Can, Hans Zimmer and John Williams spring to mind. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot of people though…

What was your degree of involvement on the music for the series GOMORAH?

Nothing as far as I’m aware? Robert Del Naja (Massive Attack) and I sat with the director of the film to discuss us scoring it, but we basically said it didn’t need music and talked ourselves out of a job. We did something for the end credits but that was it.

 

Have you ever worked on a project where the director has been using a temp track? and did you find this helpful or distracting?

The temp is a fact of life as a modern composer, you can deny it, but it’ll always come back to bite you on the ass if you don’t at least listen to it once.

I’ve found temp scores really useful in the past, sometimes admittedly in seeing just how a scene shouldn’t be scored but most of the time there’s important information that could save you a lot of headaches. On occasion I’ve even re-temped a show myself in order to quickly see how certain styles of music might work at an arm’s length before I’m ready to really get stuck in.

The only times it’s been tricky is when either the temp works brilliantly and / or the director / producer is essentially asking you to copy it, or… which has happened to me on several occasions… the temp works brilliantly, they want me to copy it and the temp score is something I wrote for a different project. That’s tough!

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Do you think that enough of your work/music for TV and film is available on recordings for collectors to listen to away from the actual films?

There are a few scores I would have liked to have had released and soundtrack albums where I would have liked to have had more of the score represented. My managers always try to get the rights to release the soundtrack album if they can but it’s not always possible or practical financially.

What in your opinion is the purpose of music in film?

To support the narrative and enhance the experience, in good taste, or bad taste if that’s what it needs. I personally prefer it when the music is felt without becoming distracting but there are times when it’s very effective to crank it.

 

 

How many times do you prefer to see a movie before getting any ideas about what style of music, you will employ and where it will be placed, and at what stage of production do you become involved?

There’s no specific number. I like to watch it once and see what happens if I start sketching based on that first impression. But when I feel I’ve exhausted that burst of creativity I’ll change tack and start working specifically to scenes, especially scenes that suggest might help me write the core themes. But the project tells me what it requires of the music and me, it can tell me in an instant or sometimes I need to coax it out of it over a bunch of sittings. I might get an initial impression that I need to flesh out before I fully understand it, but even when I feel I know it really well, it can still surprise me.

Have you or do you ever perform on your film/TV scores?

I play keys and guitars, I sing, sometimes even play a bit of percussion. I’m not an accomplished musician by any stretch but I can do interesting things with instruments because I don’t approach them in a traditional way. And I know what I like, I know how the instrument should feel in the scene, what it needs to ‘say’, what it needs to communicate. I also programme and arrange, spending a great deal of time fine tuning ‘performances’ in the box.

I’m a big gesticulator in the studio, even when I’m working on my own, I imagine playing the cello or the violin or the horns and feeling what the musician might feel in their body. I use my voice a lot, I sing the parts to work out how to phrase them. Even when I have musicians in the studio I sing a lot to them and my ‘performance’ often becomes part of theirs. When I’m working with additional arrangers it’s my way of communicating what I want to hear.

Do you have a set way of working or tackling a score, by this I mean do you begin with a core theme and develop the remainder of the score around this, or do you work through from beginning to end, opening credits to end titles?

Initially I try not to get drawn into writing directly to picture so I can free associate, and then I might begin to explore a core theme or themes. But sometimes it’s only when you write to picture that you discover what will work and the themes begin to write themselves. I follow my gut at the start, I don’t have a set process for that bit. Once I’ve gotten through the initial sketching I’ll work from the start of an episode to the end, trying not to get hung up on specifics but allowing myself to dig in deep if I’m moved to it.

When I have a complete first pass I’ll hand it over to my assistant, but I might also give that first run through to a couple of trusted musicians to play along to. I’ll then jump to the next episode and start working through that before revisiting the previous episode once I’ve gotten some distance and the pieces have become a little more fleshed out. That’s for a TV show of course, but I suspect with a movie I would choose much the same kind of process these days.

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Does the working relationship differ between say the BBC and other production companies, and how much effect does budget have upon the music for a series?

Even if the show is set to view on the BBC it’s made by an independent production company it seems. The working relationships I have are with the individuals of that production company and the people they employ, so as far as the creative side of things goes, I’ve not experienced any difference between working on a BBC show to any other.

Budget can have a big impact on the scope and style of the music. I’ll have to make decisions about how to cut my cloth, how much I can weight the project towards real players or time arranging in the studio with a small team of programmers. If I know I have limited budget for strings, I’ll write parts that will work better using samples and I’ll be looking to record more ’toolkit’ material that can be reused a lot. I’ll use other instruments and musical / sound devices for those one-off moments. But that ‘rub’ between ambition and budget restrictions can often be an opportunity to think outside the box too and innovate. Too many options are not a good thing, you can get lost for years going around the houses, I’ve been there…

 

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You are I understand working on SLO LIGHT when can we expect to see this, and can you tell us anything about the project?

I released the album Slo Light a couple of years back, it was very well received critically but didn’t make much of a dent commercially. So, it was quite a surprise to hear that a director who I’d briefly worked with had an idea to turn the album into a film! He sent me a script and had mapped out the whole movie to the album timeline. He’s now in the final stages of post-production and we’re discussing how I could help him finish off the project, maybe some additional music and sound design to help certain scenes connect fully. I’m not exactly sure when it will be released but I suspect it will ready in the spring. We hope for some independent festivals to show it along with selected cinemas, but they’re also looking at an online release, possibly in chapters. It’s quite fitting that my last album before giving up making records to focus on composing would be made into a film!

 

My thanks to Neil Davidge, for his time and patience and also for a great interview.

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TALKING TO THE COLLECTOR.

Brendon Kelly.

 

 

1. Firstly. why film music? And when did first become aware of music in movies?

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BRENDON WITH CHRISTOPHER GUNNING, DANIEL PEMBERTON IN BACKGROUND.

 
I have no idea why Film Music became my passion. I saw Superman in April 1979 and was blown away by that main theme! It is still my favourite score to this day.
I became obsessed by the music of John Williams and taped anything I could off the radio and TV. I would drive my parents mad by playing the Superman theme over and over again. What they failed to remember was it was my Dad who introduced me to Superman and that let to film music! I bought everything Williams and then bought Supergirl and Gremlins by Jerry Goldsmith. One day in about 1985 I decided I wanted to try some other stuff and purchased Star Trek II by James Horner….and was completely blown away and have been a massive fan ever since!

 

2.What was your first record purchase. If it was not a soundtrack what was the first film music you went out and paid for?

Return of the Jedi – just because it was John Williams!

 

 

3. Before the arrival of cds how many soundtracks did you have in your collection on vinyl?
Probably a hundred or so. Deeply regret binning these! However I still have Return of the Jedi, Superman and a JW score my grandparents bought me when they were on holiday in Canada- John Williams The River.

 

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4. What was your most expensive soundtrack purchase ?
Probably the Superman Box Set and the Jerry Goldsmith 20th Century Fox Set.
Getting Ken Thorne’s Superman scores in full was a dream come true. Very underrated!

5. Do you still buy lp’s and which do you prefer.lp.cd or download?
No. Love CDs! Wish I could do more browsing like I did in the late 80s and 90s. Used to love going down Oxford Street and Dean Street looking for rarities!

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6. Is there anything that you are looking for that maybe you have not been able to find?
I don’t think so although our favourite labels keep surprising me as Intrada has just done with Robin Hood!
The one holy grail for me would be a release of Volunteers….oh and the full score to Willow!

 

7. What composer would you say dominates your collection?
James Horner…My favourite composer by a long way. I just love his music. Then Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams. I love the phrase “the holy trinity of film composers”! And the fourth largest in my collection…the great John Barry.

 

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What is your opinion of the state of film music in recent years, compared to the 40.s 50.s 60.s and 70s?..
I am a fan of the late 70s to mid 90s and really need to explore the golden age scores more. Although I buy less new film music than I did I do have an open mind. There has been some great stuff recently by Valezquez, Giacchino, etc but there are definitely less orchestral thematic scores than there used to be.

 

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You did a few reviews for MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES a while ago, when was this?

 

I think 2001 to about 2006? Only did about 30 odd reviews. But really enjoyable.

 

The one thing I wanted to say about state of film music is that today is a great day to be a film music enthusiast! The labels are releasing stuff we never thought possible, concerts are on the rise, composers are going on tour and scores are being performed live to Orchestra! I never would have hoped to hear the Desert Chase or Clock tower sequence live in a concert hall – let alone synchronised

 

TALKING TO THE COLLECTOR.

Jason Drury has become a regular contributor to the online radio station, Cinematic sounds radio, and has put together some interesting programmes under the banner of THE ARCHIVE, he is a passionate follower of film music both old and new.

 

1. Firstly. Why film music? And when did first become aware of music in movies?

I first realised a sort of interest in film music when I was as young as 7 years old. I was a fan of Thunderbirds and Barry Gary’s dramatic music really hit me even at that age. I remember starting to notice composer names Jerry Goldsmith and sub-consciously looking forward to the music. However, it was when I was 13 years old and seeing a showing of Close Encounters on television, I finally acknowledged to myself a clear awareness of music in movies which has increased more and more to this day.

 

 

2.What was your first record purchase. If it was not a soundtrack what was the first film music, you went out and paid for?

I cannot remember my first record purchase, I usually was given them for Christmas. I remember in 1984, receiving an Ultravox and a Duran Duran album. I really preferred comedy albums in those days. Jasper Carrott, Billy Connelly and Not the Nine O’clock News were regularly played. I guess that’s where my interest in satire came from.

 

I feel not long after I started looking around record shops for score albums. I remember buying Geoff Love and his Orchestra performing film and tv Sci-Fi Themes The first film score album I ever bought was a vinyl copy of James Horner’s score for Star trek III. Ironic really considering how much I have been consumed in his music recently.
The second was the Gremlins album with Goldsmith’s music on Side 2 and soon after Rambo First Blood Part 2.

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3. Before the arrival of CDs how many soundtracks did you have in your collection on vinyl?

I had around 20-30 on vinyl and round 40 on cassette. It was only until I received the CD of Danny Elfman’s Batman score for Christmas that my CD collection kicked off. My first complete score was Rambo III in 1989.

 

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4. What was your most expensive soundtrack purchase?

I think the Superman box set and The Ron Jones Project  for that honour. They will be beaten in time by the La La Land Star Trek set. I am waiting for the right time and I am sure you will know when I have it as I am hoping to utilise the set on a future show I have in mind.

 

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5. Do you still buy lps.and which do you prefer.lp.cd or download?

I have not brought vinyl in years. We had a turntable, but it was mainly used for my partner Mandy’s 78s collection. She has a far wider range of musical taste than I have. I mainly prefer to buy CD’s mainly for the inlays can give so much info on who was involved with the score and the booklets can give interesting info on the making of the score. I am increasingly using downloads to fill in the gaps. I noticed that some downloads have digital booklets which can be very useful.

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6. Is there anything that you are looking for that maybe you have not been able to find

I am sure there still some ‘holy grail’ scores out there for me. Usually if I have missed out, it’s because I could not afford them at the time, and now I know now, that in most cases, they will get re-issued eventually. I just must be patient.

 

 

7. What composer would you say dominates your collection?
Over the years, Jerry Goldsmith has dominated my collection. James Horner has recently jumped into second position, and not far behind is John Williams. Goldsmith, Williams and Horner. Film music’s modern age ‘Holy Trinity’.

What is your opinion of the state of film music in recent years. compared to the 40.s 50. s 60.s and 70s?

 

We have a lot to thank the 70s and John Williams for. Star Wars and Close Encounters etc. If it wasn’t for Williams, traditional film music would not have had the renaissance in the 70s and 80s which spawned the emergence of composers such as James Horner or Alan Silvestri and brought back composers like Elmer Bernstein. I am sure I would not be doing this interview or producing film music radio shows like The Archive on Cinematic Sound Radio if it was not for John Williams and Star Wars.

 

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Going forward to now, I feel sadly traditional film scoring is in decline. I love the sound of a huge orchestra performing melodic, symphonic film score, however, with the popularity of certain composers in the film industry, and directors preferring scores as background rumblings and not front and centre, these type of scores are becoming side-lined particularly for the blockbuster movies. That why we should support the John William’s, the James Newton Howard’s, the Michael Giacchino’s, the Alan Silvestri’s, the John Debney’s and others who use orchestras in their film scores in the traditional way pioneered all though years ago by Steiner and Korngold.

 

How do you store your CDs?

 

A mix of shelfs, cupboards and containers. The collection has grown more in recent years as I am always looking out for bargain buys. I must try to get them in some sort of order in time when I get the time.

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And finally, if you were asked by a soundtrack label to choose ten soundtracks to be released for first time or re-released in a complete version what would be on your list?

Brainstorm- James Horner
Dracula- John Williams
Moonraker- John Barry
Airport 79: The Concorde- Lalo Schifrin (a forgotten gem)
Timeline- Jerry Goldsmith
Air Force One- Jerry Goldsmith (just don’t send a copy to Trump)
Troy (rejected score) – Gabriel Yared
Marnie- Bernard Herrmann
The Mummy – Jerry Goldsmith
The Mummy Returns- Alan Silvestri

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AN INTERVIEW WITH, GAUTE STORAAS.

 

Gaute Storaas is a Norwegian jazz musician and Composer, and the older brother of Jazz pianist Vigleik Storaas. Storaas grew out of the flowering musical environment in Bergen late 70s, early 80s, and was well known for his innovative bass playing on the local rock and jazz scene. He started studies at the University of Bergen. and also attended Berklee College of Music, Boston, in 1984, where he got his diploma in Arranging in 1986.  After this he returned to Norway, and did all kinds of writing work. Arranging for shows, broadcasting, recording sessions, composing for commercials, commissioned films, TV idents, etc. Also found some time for music of his own, and won the Danish Radio Orchestra competition for younger composers in 1989, with the work “Ouverture #2”. More recently he has become involved with a number of motion pictures that have proved to be popular at the box office, mainly in his native Norway, however with music as powerful and as lyrical as his, I am confident it will not be long before we see his name on the credits to numerous big movies that are coming out of Hollywood.

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One of your scores from 2016 was BIRKBIENERNE?  (THE LAST KING) on which you used the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, how many players did you use for the score?
2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 6 3 4, tuba, cimbasso, 48 strings. In addition, Nordic folk instruments like ram´s horn, lur (a kind of wood trumpet) nyckelharpa, hardanger fiddle, ancient flutes, harps, dulcimers, orchestral and Nordic percussion, and an all bass choir.

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What degree of involvement did the director have on BIRKBIENERNE, and did they have a specific sound or style that they were leaning towards before you began work on the movie?
I did another film with Nils Gaup, the director, «The journey to the Christmas Star» That went well, and He decided to use me for «Birkebeinerne» We both wanted a big, sort of mainstream score, but with strong Nordic and archaic flavours.

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Helene Bøksle.

The song BIFROST from the movie I thought was so powerful, as was the score. Helene Boksle has a unique vocal talent, how did she become involved on the score?
Helene Bøksle is a fantastic folk and pop singer, and was my first choice for the end credit song of the 2012 Christmas Star movie. Before we came around to call her for Birkebeinene, she accidentally met the director in the railway station, and told him that she really wanted to be involved. Norway is small, sometimes;)
It was her idea to have a song, which was the first music I wrote for the film, and the middle part of it became the child king´s theme in the score.

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When recording a score for a movie, do you have any preferences when selecting a studio?
In eastern Europe, I prefer to work with my friend David Hernando in Bratislava. I have also recorded with regular Norwegian orchestras. In those situations, the orchestra pretty much work in their usual concert hall. If I can, I like to record in Rainbow Studio in Oslo, with the legendary Jan Erik Kongshaug, as we did for «A man called Ove. I have still not recorded anything in London or LA, but I would love the experience.


Would you say that Themes as in Main title themes and end titles that are heard over the credits are becoming something of the past, and how do you feel personally about the lack of what many people regard as a film theme not being prevalent more recently?

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All films are different, and trends always change, but there are still a lot of films with main title themes. If themes are gone now, I think they will come back.

What would you say is the purpose of music in film, is it there primarily to support and enhance the images and scenarios on screen, or is there at times an opportunity to write something that can become a hit or have a life away from the movie it was originally written for?
When working for a film, you go from being a music composer to a collaborating film worker specializing in music. We still want to provide as good music as we are able to, but not every cue can be meaningful on its own. Some types of films make more enjoyable stand-alone soundtrack than others. To have a dramatically efficient sound track AND a great musical experience in the same project is clearly the ideal scenario.

 
Do you or have you performed on any of your film scores?

 

As a jazz bassist, I have played on a few cues where I fit in, but rarely, since most of my current work is orchestral.

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When recording a score do you conduct all the time, or do you sometimes use a conductor whilst you supervise the recording?
I´m not a very skilled conductor. I do lead smaller ensembles from time to time, but more through instructions and the music on the page than body language. And then, when leading, I find it hard to let go of my producer instinct, I´m constantly evaluating the performance. I very much prefer that function, and to work with a skilled, well prepared conductor.

What composers either from the world of film music or classical would you say have influenced you or inspired you in your career?
In film music, the usual suspects, Herrmann, Goldsmith, Morricone, and contemporaries like Thomas Newman and Alexandre Desplat. I Love Bartok, Stravinsky and Arvo Pärth. Also for film music, you can´t avoid studying composers like Richard Strauss, Gustav Holst, and Mahler. So many more I could mention….

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Do you orchestrate your music, or if the schedule is particularly tight on a project do you utilise an orchestrator and do you consider orchestration to be an import part of the composing process?
For me, orchestration is a fundamental part of my identity. I do as many as possible myself. In this day and age, we need to provide midi mock-ups, and I try to make them, so they translate to the orchestra fairly well. I have an assistant that transcribe the midi, and if I have to ask for additional help, I hand out the scores with the most detailed, close to reality mock-ups. I then use too much time to see if I agree wilt their efforts….

 

Do you think that a good score can maybe help a movie that is not that interesting or well made?
We have all heard the saying that we can put makeup on the body, but not make it walk. But, I think a suitable score can do wonders in some cases.

 

What is your opinion of the use of a TEMP track, can it be a help and guide for the composer or can it also be distracting?
Both. Some editors love to work with music, and test audiences and collaborators will want to see the footage with some music. So, the temp is not only there to harass composers. In several cases, I have experienced that the film makers don’t like the temp that much, and are happy to get rid of it. So, communication with the other film makers is essential. But the situation where there is a piece of temp that everybody loves, but cannot get, is not the best place for a poor composer…. On a positive side, a well constructed temp track can reveal a lot of the film makers philosophy on the place, function and style of music in that particular film. But the downside is that it inevitably locks the composers frame of mind. You are exposed to it, and it will influence your view of the film, weather you chose, or worse, are forced to go along with it, or if you take a different direction.

 

How many times do you like to view a movie before you begin to start to sketch out ideas for the style of music and where music you think should be placed?

 

Depends on the film, but if there is time, it´s nice to really get into it before you start sketching.
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Was music for film something that you wanted to do right from the beginning of your musical career, or was this an area that you moved into as your career progressed?
I always wanted to score films, but I think it was a too far reaching goal. My early start was as a performer of pop and jazz, then arranger and producer, then composer of music for commercials, before I found myself scoring films regularly. I have never worked outside the field of music.

What musical education did you receive?
Violin and guitar lessons as a kid, music studies at the university at the university of Bergen, and a diploma in arranging from Berklee College of Music.


What are your earliest memories of any kind of music and were any of your family musical?
My dad «air conducting» Bruckner and Brahms. He was a culture journalist and often dragged me to the symphony hall;)

When scoring a movie, is there a set routine that you follow, maybe start at the beginning at work through to the end credits, or do you prefer to develop a central theme and use this as a foundation for the remainder of the score, and at what stage do you prefer to become involved on a project, rough cut, or do you read the script or synopsis?


Depends on the type of film, and when I become involved. If it´s early, I read the script, look at rough cuts, etc. I will get a feel for what kind of score the film will need, but I like to have a close to final cut before I invest too much work, if possible. That is because reworking the music to a new cut sometimes is more work, and less exciting, than writing the thing in the first place. Sometimes, I come in very late, and then I just have to try to find out what the film needs, and start to work like a madman. I guess I prefer to work chronologically through the film, but I will have ideas about the arc of the story. Sometimes I´ll postpone the opening, sometimes I do a climax or an important melodic scene I can derive melodic material from first. But before all that, the concept, or sound, of the score will be decided.

What is your preferred method of working out your musical ideas, keyboard, pencil to manuscript or a more advanced and technical way?
Often, I write my themes while I am running in the woods. Then, I write them down first thing when I come home. The sketching process is part pencil/paper, part sequencing on a very limited palette, so I won’t get lost in how it sounds. The more complex music, the more pencil work.

When one of your film scores is released, are you involved with the compilation of the cues that will be released, and would you like more of your film scores made available to collectors?
I am always involved in the selection and editing for soundtracks, and of course, I would like to have more available.

 

Staying with soundtrack releases, do you buy any film music on CD by other composers and from a personal point of view do you think that sleeve notes about the composer the music and the film are important and should be utilised more?
I do, and personally, I love as much information on the music as possible.

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There has been much discussion amongst film music collectors and critics about the use of what is described as the DRONE sound in film music, many having the opinion that this is not music and that this style of scoring has maybe de valued the film score as an art form, what is your opinion of this practise and do you think it is just the way that film music is evolving?
Film music has always been a somewhat controversial art form, frowned upon by the established art/music community. I also think it has, like all other art forms, gone through phases of de- and re-valuation. Minimalistic influences and drones has done both good and bad things for the state of film music today. Those elements are used with artistic flair and imagination, but also with complete lack of any artistic sense at all. But I think that constant change and a supply of new approaches is a good thing.

How much of an impact can the budget available effect a film score and the composer?
You must provide a good sounding score. Sometimes that can be a few musicians or an all-electronic thing, but sometimes you just need an orchestra. In that case, money must be found, or the score must be re-conceptualized. Sample libraries and stuff sound quite nice these days, but they will not (and I hope never) be able to carry a full-length feature film in a theatre. Good producers know this.

What is your opinion of the increased use of electronics and samples in film scores?
It depends totally on the type of film, and how the music is done.

 

What are you working on now?
Just finished the Swedish «Ted», a biopic of the Pop phenomena Ted Gärdestad. Currently working on a Swedish Viking film, it is approached a bit of the same way as Birkebeinerne, but much lighter. Then I will do a Norwegian animation for kids.

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THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING,MISSOURI.

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Carter Burwell, is a composer that for me always delivers musically, no matter what genre he is involved with or working upon. His scores for the TWILIGHT movies were in many ways underrated and undervalued, the central theme being one of the most haunting and instantly recognisable to be created in recent years and for the last in that series of movies the composer fashioned a deeply emotional and highly romantic sound which he blended and fused with dramatic undertones and sinister passages. Burwell for me is a contemporary composer who writes in a vintage way and that is not a disparaging or negative statement. He is in these days of the drone like soundtracks of Hollywood a composer who still enlists the inclusion of a melodic theme or themes, which are effective and gloriously affecting, underlining the emotional and the action elements of every project he works on. His more recent assignment, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, is no exception to the composers established body of work. Burwell has a knack of using subtle nuances and sparse orchestration as in utilising solo musical statements rather than expansive symphonic performances to produce delicate and at times touching works. I won’t say that this is the case in every soundtrack he pens because we are all aware that every film is different and requires an individual musical persona to meet its own specifics. Burwell is a Master at creating just the right sound and employing the right style adding colour, depth and that all-important emotion to the movies he works on. His music I suppose is the paint from his palette which he adds to the film which can be likened to a blank canvas. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI contains a light and delicately alluring score, the composer utilising guitar, piano, and what sounds like a mandolin in places, which he embellishes with banjo, woods and a small string section, adding a sprinkling of percussive elements to give the score a dark and more ominous and urgent sound. But it is the piano and guitar that take centre stage and relay a hauntingly beautiful succession of tone poems as in THE DEER, FRUIT LOOPS, SLIPPERS and MY DEAR ANNE, in many ways I was reminded of the subtle scoring style of James Newton Howard in THE MAN IN THE MOON or Rachel Portman’s, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. This is a wonderfully rewarding listen, and yet another sublimely appealing work from Carter Burwell, and most certainly one to add to your collection.