AN INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER, ALEJANDRO VIVAS.

 

 

 

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As a composer you are not solely occupied with writing for film, could you tell me what other musical genres you work in?

Fundamentally, symphonic music and especially the symphonic-choral one. I have specialized in symphonic arrangements of all kinds of music, including rock, pop or Latin music and in soloist and orchestra music composition
For several years I have worked in different aspects of musical pedagogy through the composition of several musical stories for young people. These stories, written in a very cinematic musical language, involve an approach of young people to orchestral music and the learning of concepts such as leitmotiv, musical modes or fugue and counterpoint.

AL

Was music always your choice of career, and what are your earliest memories of any type of music?

I studied Psychology and worked as an experimental psychologist for some years. Nowadays all that knowledge I try to incorporate it into the music that I compose. The first music I remember is that one of my mother singing zarzuela and copla while she was cooking or taking us for a walk. And I also remember my father playing jazz piano or improvising on well-known movie themes.

 

ALE
What musical education did you receive?

I have a classical education in the disciplines of guitar, harmony and composition, although much of my training in other fields such as modern music or film music has been self-taught. I believe that true learning occurs through observation, analysis and research, in spite of the fact that it is reinforced by teachers or by attending courses. The exhaustive study of scores in both the classical and audio-visual fields is fundamental.

 

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What would you say were your musical influences and inspirations, composers, vocalists or any other artistic profession?

As for symphonic music, the great classics and especially the Russian musicians have been a great source of inspiration for me. I also have a special predilection for Elgar (and other English composers as Delius or Vaughn Williams), Piazzolla and Bach….and Morricone, Shore, Williams and Goldsmith, among others, in film music. On the other hand, Latin American, Asian, American or European folk music attracts me to such an extent that I always include some element of this type in my compositions.

 

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THE CHESS PLAYER is a beautiful score, so filled with emotion, how did you become involved on this project?

More than 8 years ago I was offered to compose music about the novel “The Chess Player” by Julio Castedo. The goal was to make a project to shoot a movie. These producers wanted me to be in the project from the beginning, composing pieces about the novel and the script, although the final version of the music has nothing to do with what was written during these years. We could have music for several films with all this material, but the truth is that none would be used for the film as it was at the end of the process.

ALEJANDRO

 

What size orchestra did you use for THE CHESS PLAYER and where did you record the score?

The music was recorded with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra with approximately 50 musicians. The experience was very rewarding, because the musicians perfectly understood the meaning of the music and apart they were very professional. It is a fact that the musicians of Eastern Europe are specialists in strings and were the ideal ones when it comes to match the style of the film, On the other hand, the solo cello and the pianist were recorded later in Madrid.

 

CHESS

 

Luis Oliveros directed THE CHESS PLAYER what degree of involvement did the director have when it came to the placing of the music and were there any specifics when it came to the style of music that you should compose?

With Luis I had several meetings in which there was a very thorough work to decide which parts should have music etc … but above all, Luis was clear that he wanted a soundtrack in the classical style with defined melodies, and very present in certain sequences. There was a previous process where I sent him models to investigate the style and, once defined, I had creative freedom to compose.

 

 

 

As well as a composer you also conduct, do you find it better to conduct your own music for film, or at times can this be a task you give to a conductor so that you may supervise the scoring of the film?

I am married to an orchestra conductor and therefore I am used to entrust that work to a professional who controls the technical aspects of orchestra conducting better than me. I prefer to be in the control room choosing shots and offering the necessary feedback to the director to get the best recording possible.

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When you are offered a movie project to score, what stage do you like to become involved, by this I mean at what stage of the production is it better for you to begin your work?

If possible, I prefer to start working with the script and thus be able, on the one hand, to establish a previous musical script and on the other, to create musical motifs, leitmotifs etc … It is not always possible, and the end is reached with very little time, but in my case, I prefer to spend enough time for the music to mature.

 

How many times do you look at a movie, before setting out what sections you think need music?

I like to see them several times. The first, from the beginning to the end without interruptions so as not to lose continuity and then analyzing specific parts and defining crucial or determining sites. But for me it is more important the sessions with the director to establish common criteria and that we can both provide relevant information. I think it’s a teamwork in which the editor of the film should also participate.


THE CONSPIRACY was a 2008 movie, which had a running time of over 2 hours, how much music did you write for the movie?

One hour of symphonic-choral music. I am especially proud of this score in which I could combine the symphony orchestra with Renaissance instruments such as vihuela or cornet.

When you write a score for a movie do you ever write a piece of music with a soloist in mind to perform this, and do you perform on any of your film scores?

Only in certain cases such as folkloric or period instruments such as cornet or vihuela, I do think of certain soloists. With the rest of the instruments, I think of “schools of interpretation”, rather than specific soloists. For example, I like the wood wind soloists from the eastern part of Spain or the string soloists from Eastern Europe.

What would you say is the job or the purpose of music in film and can too much music be a bad thing in certain movies?

Music should serve to help tell the story, to explain and to enhance dramatic effects. I think that the music must be absolutely integrated in the image in a way that combines perfectly with the rest of the elements such as sound effects, colors, etc … This is why the absence of music is as important as the music itself, which should be used only when needed. Sometimes certain films need small amount of music and I think adding more can harm the whole.

 

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Is orchestration just as important as the composition of the music?

I think so. For me, orchestration is part of the composition and therefore indivisible. Choosing a specific solo instrument with a certain accompanying texture is a determining factor in defining the composition itself. If I can choose, I prefer to compose and orchestrate at the same time. In fact, I have never collaborated with orchestrators although I have had to orchestrate on some occasion, but I prefer not to do it because it is like attacking the creative intimacy of the composer.

 

Is there a set routine that you follow when scoring a movie or does the scoring process vary on each movie?

It varies depending on the production, the director, the editing, the time, although I would like it to always be the same. In any case, each film and its particularities give me different views on film work and also give me experience to be able to take on jobs in all kinds of conditions.

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Would you say that opening themes or THE MAIN TITLE THEME as many call it is becoming a thing of the past?

It may be, but I am a romantic and I refuse to lose the traditional terminology. In any case, the very nature of music and its function within the film somehow forces you to call it that way. In the case of “the chess player” and by agreement with the director, it was decided that there should be a main theme from which the entire musical structure of the film was developed.

Going back to THE CHESS PLAYER, did you have any involvement on the compiling of what music went onto the soundtrack release?

Yes, I have been involved in the selection, the order etc … After the time maybe, something would have changed or included some piece but in general we are happy with the result. Sound engineer Luis del Toro has also been very involved in this process, whose contributions in the mix have been fundamental.

 

Techniques, methods and approaches to scoring movies have altered a lot in recent years, how do you work out your musical ideas, piano, synthesizers, or do you turn to a more technical method?

I work very traditionally with the piano and the score and the Sibelius program. I have established a working protocol with these three elements and I cannot renounce any of them. I like to investigate in all the technical advances, and to use some things punctually, but the fundamental base of my compositions is in the traditional methods.

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Collectors have been talking recently about the use of THE DRONE sound effect in film scores, what is your opinion of this practice?

I think that every kind of musical effect can be good as long as it is used in an appropriate way to the image and worked from the musical point of view. A well-built drone can be very effective. The problem is when it is used abusively and as an easy resource for composition.

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What is the impact of a low budget on what music a composer can create for a movie project?

I think the impact is that the composer has to use more imagination. With great creativity and few instruments, you can create great music. The problem may arise when the expectations of the producers do not coincide on the final result. That is why it is necessary that all the team is aware of what can be done or not with a certain budget. The honesty of the composer consists of being clear about what can be done or not with a certain budget and negotiating with the producer so that both walk in the same direction. If the producer with very little budget wants to obtain a great orchestral soundtrack and does not understand the differences between orchestral music and sampler, for example, the composer must be very careful when accepting that work.

Do you like to develop a central theme for a score before you begin to write the smaller cues?

It can be a theme, a musical motif, a texture or even a style, but you have to have material to be able to build with homogeneous and coherent criteria. I think that all the time that can be spent on research is not wasted time. Before writing a single note, in our head should be around, those magical notes, sequences of chords, etc …

SAC

 

You have written the music for a handful of short films, is it easier if that is the correct wording, to work on a short as opposed to a feature film?

I think that writing music for short films is a challenge. I think it resembles composing small masterpieces that do not have symphonic structures: you have to develop musical themes in a short time and that these are effective.

SAF

A question I like to ask is, if a temp track is on a movie, do you find it distracting to work with, or does it help give you an idea of what the director is looking for?

This question is very interesting. In my opinion and according to my experience, the important thing about a temp track is to guess which aspects of it are the ones that make it interesting for a director to use it. Sometimes we think that it is the melody, the harmony, the rhythm but it may surprise us that the director has noticed other aspects that go unnoticed by us. The error I think is in trying to imitate or make a copy. It is preferable to waste time to find out the nature of the temp track.

 

SAS

AN INTERVIEW WITH, LAURENT PEREZ DEL MAR.

 

 

 

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Where and when were you Born?

I was born on 10 March 1974 in Nice (France).

Do you come from a family background that is musical at all?

Yes, my Grand Father was a mandolinist in Italy, my Father is a very good guitarist and my Mother a really good singer.

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Was writing music for film always a career you wanted to follow or was it something that you moved into as your career progressed?

I ‘ve always wanted to write music for films, since I saw E.T. when I was 8.
Later, I was deeply moved by Hermann’s music for Hitchcock, William’s music for Star Wars etc etc.
In the early 2000’s, I had an electro band, and my two friends used to tell me that my music sounded oneiric like if had written it for films…

One of your recent scores is for the movie I KILL GIANTS, How, did you become involved on the movie and what size orchestra did you utilize for the score?

My American agent talked to me about the project when I was in L.A. last year for the Oscars. Anders (The director) had heard about me thanks to one of the producers (Martin Metz). He « temp tracked » his film with some of my scores (The Red Turtle and other films) and when they showed me the film « I Kill Giants » with music of mine, it was really confusing. I couldn’t hear in my mind the music I should write for this film. I had to ask them to remove the music.

As for the orchestra, it comprises 40 musicians, with analogue textures and beat boxes that I programmed in my studio, a lyric voice (Julia Wischnievski), as well as an Octobass for the very dark side of the music.

Did the director of I KILL GIANTS Anders Walter, have specific or set ideas as to what style he wanted for the movie and was there a temp track in place on the film when you came to work on it?

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Anders wanted something « original », emotional, the producers talked about more classical scores and I think, I hope that the score is a mix of these different influences…

Do you find temp tracks distracting or productive?

It depends on the director. In some cases, it can help the director to be more precise about what he wants. Anyway, I just listen to it one time.

The film THE RED TURTLE was a big success as was your beautiful score, is there any difference between scoring animation as opposed to working on live action movies?

It’s not different in the way I compose music. I never wrote « music for children » because it was an animation feature.
The only difference for me is that sometimes, you can push a little bit more the emphasis in animation, and sometimes you have to be more discrete in live action movies…

Do you have an active role in selecting what music cues will be included on a CD when a record company decides to release one of your scores?

Yes, I choose the cues, the order of the cues, and I check each step of the stereo mix and the mastering.

How much time were you given to write the score for THE RED TURTLE and where was the music recorded?

I wrote the first mock-ups of the all music in three weeks, because I wanted to be sure that Michael agreed the direction I had chosen, and then we made changes for one month.
Globally, it took two months and we recorded it in early 2016.

Do you have a preference as to where your scores are recorded, and if so for what reasons?

I had the opportunity to record at Abbey Road Studios and it was really my greatest experience. But I also like the Fame’s in Macedonia, because it’s a very good orchestra, I know them very well, I feel like home with them.

Do you conduct at all or is this not always possible because of scheduling etc?
No, I prefer when my collaborator conducts. He is a super conductor and he knows exactly what I want.
It allows me staying inside the control room, focused and listening to every detail and discussing with the director to change things till the end, if needed.

 

How many times do you like to see a movie before you begin to get any fixed ideas about what style of music and where music will be placed?

I like spending time with the movie. Most of the time, I watch the film once. Then start writing the themes, orchestrations, first mock-ups. Eventually, I test the music on the film. As part of this process, I can watch a scene 150 or 200 times, in order to adjust the music like a sculptor.

Do you think that orchestration is an important part of the composing process?

Yes, it’s as important as the theme. Textures, arrangements and orchestrations are inspiring, and allow most of the time obtaining the right colour for the film.
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Do you perform on any of your film scores, and how do you work out your musical ideas, keyboard, piano or do you utilize a more technical approach?

Yes, I always play my pianos, keyboards, guitars, electric basses, analogue textures, programmations, and sometimes flutes, percussions on my film scores.
For my musical ideas, it depends. The best way I think, is to be far of my machines and piano, and to think about the film. Then, you can imagine your themes, without being limited by your (bad?) instrument technique.
I had this discussion with Maurice Jarre when I was younger, because we agreed that we both were limited by our piano technique…

Do you think that movie scores in recent years are lacking a substantial opening or central theme as they did back in the 1960’s, 1970.s etc?

Yes, and I feel sad about this. A lot of scores are more like sound design than music, lot of textures etc. You can’t listen to the soundtrack out of the film. On the other side, sometimes, I think that some composers find very good concepts, setups, electronic sounds and harmonic suites that can be considered like themes. it depends.
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Does the budget or maybe the lack of budget have an impact on a composer’s score for a movie?

Yes, it’s necessary to have the budget you need to produce the music correctly.
Interpretation is very important, as is the mix of the music. You need very good musicians, recorded in a good studio, with good engineers…

At what stage of production is it best for you to become involved on a movie, do you find it better to start work with the rough cut of the film, or maybe you start with a script?

I prefer to start working when the film is already shot. The actors, the way the film is edited, the decors, all these elements are really inspiring for the orchestrations etc.
and I like working under pressure when time flies …

I Think I am right when I say your first assignment was for a short film entitled, LE BALLON PRISONNIER, how did you become involved with this movie?

It was « Ages ingrats » by the same director.
It was his first short film, and I was studying my medicine. A friend of ours knowing that I was composing music in my student apartment talked to him about me when he was searching for music for his film. It was like a dream coming true for me…

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When you begin to work on a movie, do you like to start with a core or central theme and develop the remainder of the score around this, or do you work on smaller cues firstly and create a main theme from elements of these?

I need to write the themes before I start working on the film itself.
And then, I work chronologically most of the time.

 

What is your opinion of the increased use of electronics and samples in film scores?

I love the use of electronic instruments in the scores. Analog sounds, textures, drones, original sounds. But I don’t like when samples try to sound like orchestral sounds, choirs or acoustic instruments. Although, it is very useful while elaborating mock-ups to be heard by directors, I do not want to keep them in the original soundtrack.
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Do you think that there will be a soundtrack release of I KILL GIANTS?

Yes, Varese Sarabande Records will release the soundtrack at the end of March.

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FATIMA EL ULTIMO MISTERIO/RED DE LIBERTAD.

 

 

A few months back I reviewed a couple of soundtracks by a composer who I thought was very talented, I also thought although he was a young composer he had lots of potential and wrote melodies that displayed a real maturity. His scores for LUZ DE SOLED and POVEDA contained so many wonderful melodies and were both filled with emotive and dramatic musical passages, each score containing delicate and fragile nuances that were haunting and entertaining. Oscar Martin Leanizbarrutia is a composer who will I know be in much demand soon. He has recently written the scores for two more projects, RED DE LIBERTAD and FATIMA EL ULTIMO MISTERIO. Both very differing subject matters but each containing scores that are most definitely in keeping with the individual movies subject matter, RED DE LIBERTAD has several dark and sinister sounding moments and FATIMA EL ULTIMO MISTERIO is a score that is deeply moving and highly charged both dramatically and emotionally. When I spoke to the composer in intrrview about his previous projects I was surprised to discover that conventional instrumentation did not figure a great deal within both scores, this was down to budget and the composer employed synthetic and electronic mediums to relay his wonderfully emotional musical phrases. For the latest two scores I honestly cannot tell if they are performed symphonically or synthetically, the sounds being polished and styled in such a way that there are only maybe one or two occasions when I might have thought that is electronic or samples. FATIMA in-particular is a beautifully crafted work and it is filled with a mystical and celestial sound throughout, choir and woods come together underlined by strings which are also supported by the use of sharp sounding brass and a proud emotive sounding horn arrangement that adds depth and also gives the work an imposing and affecting musical persona, the composer also adds solo guitar and timpani at certain points, the latter giving certain cues a martial sound or a feel that is taught and urgent, the guitar passages although fleeting can be a settling and calming interlude, overall the score is one that one will listen to many times and upon each visit will discover a sound or a nuance and phrase that maybe one had overlooked. Many of the cues are lengthy, thus having a chance to develop and grow. The end credits cue for FATIMA is a triumph, and one that I have returned to many times, solo piano laced with underlying string effects choir and anthem like brass flourishes all come together to create this rich, lush and opulent sounding piece, that drives, glides and soars, many of the themeatic properties heard in the score intertwining as the composer fashions an end of score Overture.

 

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The style employed here is not dissimilar to that of composers Marco Frisina and Mark McKenzie, it is a multi-themed work in fact so many themes and motifs are within the score that it is hard to come to terms that all this music is from one movie. As I have said the two scores are somewhat different RED DE LIBERTAD being, slightly more downbeat, and it also has a darker and more ominous style and sound to it. The film set in WWll tells the story of a nun who faces the Nazi’s and helps refugees and prisoners escape the concentration camps that were set up in France. The composer successfully underlines the drama and the tense and urgent storyline, but also manages to add a human and emotional side via hauntingly intricate and beautiful  themes.  I cannot be sure, but I believe symphonic string and brass elements were used within the score, plus a mesmerizing solo voice performance, and rumbling percussive elements,  because there is a such a richness present throughout, particularly because of the sorrowful Cello that from time to time raises its musical head, (listen to track number 8, SALIENDO DEL CAMPO/PIERRE). Which is heart-breaking and inspiring all at once. These components are combined with synthetic options to bring to fruition a sound that is enthralling, exciting and entertaining. Shadowy and sinister sounds are mixed with lighter and fragile sounding phrases, to create a well balanced and wonderfully melodious work, that I know you will return to for repeated listens. Both scores are worth adding to your collection, and Oscar Martin Leanizbarrutia is a young composer that you should look out for, if you have not heard any of his music, I suggest a trip to Spotify to check out his musical wares. Highly recommended.

DEATH WISH. (2018).

 

 

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This is certainly a busy time for composer Ludwig Goransson, BLACK PANTHER and now the new version of DEATH WISH and all within literally a few weeks of each other, or at least that’s how it seems because of the release scheduling of the movies. The composers work on both CREED and BLACK PANTHER are original and innovative in their own way, but there is more to the music of Goransson, than simply being original or different, he is a composer that can take a simple or brief motif and develop traces of a theme into the foundation on which an entire score can be constructed upon. CREED especially displayed the way in which the composer can take elements of an already established work that is in a word ICONIC and give it more impact by adding his own thematic properties, thus giving it a modern take but without taking anything away from the already established theme.

 

DEATH WISH, I think contains more synthetic components and content than CREED or BLACK PANTHER, although PANTHER does make excellent use of these, but the music is still too a degree melodic and even a little romantic and melancholy at times which is purveyed in the main via piano, and strings that are embellished by hints of electronic support. Given the subject matter of the movie, the score is perfect, it conjures up images that are dark and foreboding and creates an atmospheric sound that is filled with apprehension and underlined further with an ominous and somewhat uneasy persona that lurks in the shadows and is ever present. This atonal and sinister foundation at key moments within the score explodes and heightens into jagged and pulsating rhythms that are interspersed and punctuated with sharp stabs of percussion that are themselves supported further by electronica making them sound even more vicious and disturbing. The composer adds to the proceedings an array of sounds and stabs that bolster the central direction of the score. But, as I say there are a few lighter moments which can be a welcomed respite from the mostly action led work, piano and strings combine on a handful of cues, this being prominent within the final cue END CREDITS, but even as we listen to the pleasant enough melody performed by the string laced piano there is in the background a malevolent sound performed by sinewy strings that alerts us to the fact that maybe although we think its all over, it is far from that. Again, the composer has fashioned a score that has many colours and one that fades in and out of darkness and light. Certainly, worth a listen.

AN INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER NICK BICAT.

NICK

What for you is the purpose of music in film, TV and theatre?

Music has always been a vital accompaniment to drama; it rounds out the audience’s experience and gives a depth and a lasting quality to narrative which it’s impossible to achieve with words and action alone. That’s especially true when you think about the function of memory; if the music is memorable, it reinforces the story after the curtain comes down, or the credits roll – you take the emotions of the characters home with you, and they can live on in your mind for years and become part of your life.

 

What would you say are your earliest memories of any kind of music?

I can’t remember any part of my life where music was not present. This is mainly thanks to my mother; we always had a piano in the house where I grew up, and my mother was a good pianist. She was Russian and played mainly romantic classical pieces by composers like Liszt, Chopin and Rachmaninoff. However, we also had a record-player, and – perhaps because she was born in Paris – she often listened to singers like Charles Trent, Yves Montand and Charles Aznavour.
She also loved the Great American Songbook, and had many records by Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and of course Sinatra, who she adored.

 

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Was film and TV music composition a path that you chose to follow or was this something that you moved into as your career progressed?

For some reason I always knew I was a composer, even before I was old enough to use the word. I used to improvise on the piano incessantly, and sometimes imagine a story or a feeling and try to ‘play’ it, so I guess narrative has always been central to my experience of music. I’d written songs with my brother Tony from early adolescence, and had one or two pieces performed at school, but when I was 18 I was given the opportunity to compose the music for a low-budget production in a 150-seat repertory theatre. I knew instinctively that this was exactly the experience I needed as a composer; to write to a deadline, express a musical narrative and see whether it worked on an audience. I feel so lucky to have had that chance, as it led to a slowly-extending network of contacts in theatre, TV, film and stage musicals.

 

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What musical education did you have and was there a particular area of study that you focused
upon?

I started piano lessons when I was 5 and started to teach myself guitar from the age of about 12 when a very kind elderly lady gave me a rather broken-down old acoustic. I later went to Oxford University, but I found the course there to be far too biased towards musicology, and it didn’t help me in my efforts to become someone who could earn his living as a composer. Besides, by then I’d already started getting commissions to write music in the theatre, and I was learning what I needed from practical experience, writing to the demands and emotions of a story, delivering to a deadline and finding out within a few days whether my music was having the desired effect with the drama. As I gained more commissions and their budgets gradually increased, I had the opportunity to write for larger ensembles and develop my orchestration technique.

 

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You collaborated with film maker Clive Donner on a number of projects, did he have a hands-on approach when it came to the music for his films, or was he happy to let you go ahead and score
the movies?

His father had been a concert violinist, and Clive had a natural understanding of music and its role and power in narrative; he gave me a lot of freedom, and I’ll always be grateful for the degree of trust he placed in me. Nowadays a composer has to submit ideas and demos at various stages of the composing process, and often receive input from people who don’t have the knowledge or musical understanding to offer useful advice. When I worked with Clive in the early 1980s, he would come to my home studio and I’d play him the themes I had written which were to form the basis of the score; he would then hear nothing until we met a few weeks later in the recording studio with the orchestra to do the sessions! When I tell younger composers this they are understandably envious of that creative freedom. The thing is, you were judged on the final result, and if everyone liked it you probably got the next job – if they didn’t… you didn’t.

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For some years, fans have googled their way to your website in order to buy a soundtrack album of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, but thankfully it has now been given a commercial release onto CD. What size orchestra did you use for the compilation of cues that were included on the recent release?

We had three line-ups; as far as I remember, the large studio orchestra was about 45 players and the small one about 20. The ‘City Waits’ group which you see in the movie consisted of 5 musicians and 6 singers, adults and children. We also had the pleasure of using the renowned Trinity Boys’ School Choir from London, who not only sang my carol ‘God Bless Us Every One’ for the soundtrack, but also contributed some excellent ghostly shrieking and whispering noises which became part of the soundscape for Marley’s Ghost and the other hauntings of Scrooge.

 

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STEALING HEAVEN has always been a favourite of mine, how did you become involved on this project?

 

It was directed by Clive Donner, and I was doing the music for all his films at this time. He specified that he wanted an all-electronic score, as all the previous we had worked on together featured orchestral instruments. The only ‘human’ element was the beautiful singing of Abelard’s own music by The Clerkes of Oxenford, directed by David Wulstan. I really enjoyed combining my music with theirs.

When you are asked to score a film or TV series how many times do you see it before you begin to get any firm ideas of what style of music you will write and where music should be placed?

With all my film and TV scores, I read the script and talked to the director extensively before seeing any filmed material. This gives space for musical ideas to develop freely, purely inspired by the story and the characters, and the director’s imagined vision of the finished work. When it comes to the actual physical process of scoring, you have to watch the whole film many times, and the scored sections dozens of times to get the composition right.

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You have scored TV series that are more than 3 or 4 episodes, when working on a series do you ever re-use themes from early episodes on more recent ones, and when you are writing for a series do you score each episode in order that they will be aired or is this not always possible?

If the narrative carries over from each episode to the next, the musical themes have to have a continuity, so the use of recurrent themes is extremely powerful with the drama and can really help the audience’s involvement with the characters and their lives. A good example of this – and incidentally, the most satisfying multi-episodic score I’ve done – was for the 8-hour series Holding On (BBC TV, 1997), because it’s an epic story spanning a wide range of characters across London, whose stories partly overlap. It’s a great series, and worth seeking out on DVD.

 

What is your opinion of the increased use of electronics and samples in film scoring?

It’s both good and bad. It’s always exciting to have new sounds, new instruments, and new ways of making music – it increases the range of expression available to composers. However, it drives down the music budgets when people think they can get a big ‘orchestral’ sound for a bargain price, and I’m tired of hearing the same samples everywhere – there’s a tendency for many scores to sound too similar and generalized. There’s another drawback: modern software makes it easy for anyone to try putting a piece of music with a piece of film, and this favors sensational moments over narrative.

 

There has been talk recently amongst collectors that the good old fashioned MAIN THEME seems to be rare in modern film scores, do you think that is the case and for you is a main title theme
important and is it something that the composer can build his score around?

I come from a tradition where the main theme is the heart of any score, and I still believe that building your score around key themes is the way to give lasting meaning to a film, to make memories for the audience after they leave the cinema or switch off the screen.

Staying with themes and music in contemporary movies, the DRONE sound has been quite prevalent in recent years, it seems to be a kind of filler or a way in which the composer can tread
musically, again several collectors, critics and composers have the opinion that this practice devalues music in film, because it is not music but a sound, have you any thoughts on this?

The use of drones drives me crazy; they’re a generalized and lazy way to fill in time and paper over cracks – and yes, they devalue the music because they’re boring, and the listener/viewer zones out and stops engaging in the story.

NICKQ

Will the film music of today be remembered as much as the film music of the Golden and Silver Ages of movie music?

I believe some of it will, for example John Williams’ scores for Spielberg, but it will mostly be because of the use of a known song in a movie rather than because of the score itself, for example James Horner’s “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic.

Do you perform on your scores?

When possible, I play keyboards and guitars, and occasionally percussion and (rarely) kit.
Do you conduct when scoring a movie, or is this something that is not always possible due to the nature of the assignment and the schedule?

I prefer not to, but to listen and produce in the control room.

cake

 

 

What composers both from the world of film music and classical music would you say have either inspired you or influenced you in the way you approach and score a project?

Maybe because of my theatre background, Korngold, Steiner, Waxman, Puccini – then Tiomkin, Elmer Bernstein, Nino Rota, Ryuchi Sakamoto, Carter Burwell…

As well as music for film and TV you write for songs and recording artists, is this a very different world from that of scoring movies?

Yes completely. I love the fact that they’re so different. The discipline and constraints of film scoring are inspiring in their way, but songwriting is so collaborative and plastic. I’m very lucky to have worked across so many different genres and worlds, including concert and festival pieces and choral works – they all cross-fertilize each other and keep me interested and inspired.

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Do you have any preferences regarding where you record a score/song etc?

Not really – it’s a treat to go somewhere new to record. Obviously most of my recordings took place in the UK, but I really enjoyed it when I started working abroad in the mid-80s, with the session musicians in Los Angeles and with some brilliant folk and orchestral players in Ireland in the 80s and 90s.

How much impact does BUDGET or sometimes the lack of it effect a composer’s approach on a score?

You can do some sort of honest and effective score for any budget – the only problem comes when people expect a sound which they don’t have the money to pay for!

dock

Is there a set routine that you follow on a score, by this I mean do you begin with central theme and build on this for the remainder of the work, or do you tackle smaller cues and stabs first and develop your central or core themes from these?

Having thought of some themes, I like to work chronologically as much as possible. I don’t really like hopping around different parts of the film, because I really believe a sense of narrative time is vital to writing a good movies score.

Do you find the use of a temp track helpful?

NO! Temp tracks are a menace – they almost always create the wrong expectations, cramp the composer’s style and endanger fresh and original thinking.

 

 

Many thanks to Nick Bicat for agreeing to answer my questions and for his time.