Can I begin by asking you about the TV series, ANNO DOMINI 1573, How did you become involved on the series, and how much music did you compose for the series?
Firstly, it was a movie called THE PEASANT UPRISING directed by Vatroslav Mimica that introduced me to the director and I got the Golden Arena for the music at Pula film festival 1979. Then Mimica made from this material and some additional material TV series ANNO DOMINI 1573. I recorded some music specially for series with choir and Symphony orchestra of Croatian radio television. I was involved in the movie by my friend Branko Lustig who was a producer, and later in LA he got 2 Oscars.
Is it very different writing for a series on TV than it is composing a score for a motion picture?
It is just little different because for series you must write very quick and in motion picture you have more time, but there are directors who change timing in last minute, so you must be prepared to change the score at the recording. As I conduct my scores I can solve easily the new timing.
What was your first scoring assignment and how did you become involved on it?
As a child I was in love with pictures and I was always listening to the background music. In a period from 1960 to 1970, and of course later I was known as a hit composer and the most famous Yugoslav singers have recorded my songs. Also, I got many prizes at International and Yugoslav song competitions. At year 1971 a small movie company in Zagreb proposed me to write some short movies for a talented young director Lordan Zafranović. For this recording I wrote music mostly in classical style for Zagreb Philharmonic, so it was a surprise because they did not expect from a hit composer. A lot of musician came to me asking to write some chamber music for them, which I am writing even today.
You have worked on European and American movies, does the process of scoring a movie differ greatly from country to country?
It is not a big difference from country to country. The director is important – how is his knowledge and interest in music, and of course the budget for music is important. The communication between director and composer is the most important thing in realisation of music
SKY BANDITS was a film I felt should have done better at the box office, your score was filled with so many themes, where did you record the soundtrack, and what size orchestra did you utilise?
I am sorry that the movie was not a great success. I had a great symphony orchestra called National Philharmonic orchestra from London where the best London musicians play. It was recorded by famous engineer Keith Grant who also recorded The Beatles. I also used in an orchestra contrabass clarinet and euphonium.
When you begin to work on a movie, at what stage do you like to become involved, do you like to read a script initially or do you prefer to start by looking at the film in its rough-cut stage?
I prefer to read the script and speak with director and producer. With rough-cut is a little faster, but today there are some directors who want to hear some cuts on synthesizer. It is important to trust the composer.
Do you feel that Orchestration is an important part of the composing process, and do you carry out all the orchestrations for your film scores or does this at times become almost impossible because of the scheduling?
Orchestration is very, very important. I love to orchestrate and when I compose I hear the whole orchestra. It is convenient when you have some more time for orchestration. Just in one movie I had to give my music to orchestrator ‘ because I was writing my opera CASANOVA IN ISTRIA, at the same time, and opera was a great success.
What are your earliest memories of music of any kind?
My first memories are when I was listening my mother playing classical music and some contemporary hits on piano. I started to learn music with 6 years and I had wonderful professors, a famous Croatian composer Rudolf Matz and his wife Margite Matz as a piano teacher. My parents had a wonderful big collection of records, mostly classical music, but after the war I bought a lot of Soviet music and records for peanuts, and we had an American library with many movie and musicals records. This was my “university” of good music.
When did you decide that you wanted to compose music as a career?
Even with 10 years I started to compose imitating my professor, but during my study of Architecture, which I finished I realised that the music will be my profession. I was very successful with my song writing, arranging and producing for record companies and radio and television. In 1969 I wrote my first musical THE BIG RACE and in 1971 the most famous YALTA YALTA which is still on repertoire.
What musical education did you receive, and did you concentrate upon one particular area or instrument during your studies?
I finished the music school Vatroslav Lisinski in Zagreb. I played piano and flute and I was excellent in theory. But my best school was when I started to conduct my music for records, film music and in theatres conducting my musicals.
I understand that there is A collection of compact discs available which are all your film music, did you have an active role in the selection of what cues would be used and what scores would be included in the collection?
I have very active role in the selection of my cues, but unfortunately still there are a lot of my film music which are not on the records.
Would you say that you have been influenced by any particular composer or composers, either in film music or classical music?
Stravinsky, Ravel, Shostakovich had a big influence on me and in film music Jerry Goldsmith and Nino Rota.
What is your opinion of the lack of themes in contemporary film scores?
Even today in songs there are not many good melodies, but good themes in contemporary film music are rare. It is a question of talent and education.
When you begin to write a score do you have a set way in which you approach a project, by this I mean do you begin with the opening theme and work through to the end titles, or is every movie different?
Mostly I try to begin with an opening theme. This theme if I like I am trying to use it in different arrangements.
How much time are you normally given to work on a motion picture score, or doe the time scale differ from project to project?
It differs from project to project, but it is very seldom that I have a lot of time.
How many times do you like to view a movie before you begin work on writing the score?
2-3 times is enough for me, because I am writing every situation in my notebook.
Do you perform on any of your film scores, and do you conduct all of your soundtracks?
I conduct all my music and sometimes I play piano. If there is a song I also sing backing vocals.
Do you have a preference to what studio you record your film scores at. If so is there any reason for this?
I like a good studio with big space and with excellent technical equipment.
Is the TEMP TRACK something that you have encountered often, and do you find it helpful or distracting and have you encountered a director who has wanted you to copy the temp?
It is most of the time distracting.
What is your opinion of the increased use of samples and electronics in film music and of the DRONE sound that is now a part of the scoring process in many recent scores?
I am not happy with this. It is bad for all composers, especially young one.
What is the largest orchestra that you have used on a film score?
The largest orchestra was National Philharmonic Orchestra in London, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet, 3 bassoons, 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, euphonium, harp, piano, a lot of percussion, 16 I. violins, 14. II. violins, 12. violas, 10 cellos, 8 contrabasses.
When you are writing a piece of non-film music, for the concert hall, do you find it easier to write without images and sound effects etc that are present within films?
It is easier to write when you have nice images in movies, but if not, a lot of time I find some imaginations in my mind.
My thanks to the Maestro for his time and patience.
Also Many thanks to my good friend Sergei Karov, without whom this interview would not have happened,
Thank you Sergei.