Highly respected and enormously talented, Cyril Morin is known to many soundtrack collectors as a much in demand film music composer, who’s film scores support and ingratiate film and TV projects, he is also known for his chameleon like approach to scoring movies and creating tantalising and melodic themes for each and every project he has been involved with, but he is also a film maker who produces, directs and writes screenplays and has created interesting and thought provoking movies. (mmi-(c) 2019.
Since the 90’s, Morin has also produced over 30 albums, soundtracks and solo albums for his label, Massive Music. He has also orchestrated songs for Madonna, Mirwais, Kery James and the Indian singer Vidya Rao. As a solo artist, Morin’s “The Evolutionist” has been hailed a “cinematic journey” and “a beautiful fusion of sound” by critics.
.In 2012, he wrote and directed The Activist, a thriller about American political unrest regarding the Native Americans at Wounded Knee. Released in 2014, the film won awards at the Sedona, Tenerife, and Red Nation film festivals. It also received two Henri Langlois awards in France. The Activist was named one of the top 10 essential Native American films by Indian Country Today.
In 2015, he released Hacker’s Game, a love story between two hackers, starring Pom Klementieff (Old Boy, Spike Lee, Guardian of the Galaxy2) and Chris Schellenger (The Canyons, Paul Schrader). This film swept the Indie Fest Film Awards with four wins. His next film, NY84, was released in 2016. Inspired by the artists and music of the 1980s, the film looks at the beginnings of the AIDS crisis in New York.
In 2017, Cyril Morin’s “An American Trilogy” (3 features about 3 American tragedies) was given a worldwide release on Blu-Ray, along with a documentary to provide an amazing and in- depth look at the filmmaker’s concept behind the project. (source-IMBD).
Do you consider yourself as a film music composer or as a composer who also writes for TV and Cinema?
I consider myself as an artist, who is a composer who mostly composes for film. I like different forms of art. I love music and films, writing, and painting. For any forms of art the energy is the same, and “comes from the same heart,” this would tell someone about my work.
What are your earliest memories of any type of music or of a musical instrument, and were you from a family background that was musical?
I’m not from a “musical” family but my father was a jazz and classical music lover. My earliest memory is my first music class at 5 with a blind music teacher. Then my first score memory is “Lawrence of Arabia”. Later, I had a chance to meet Maurice Jarre several times.
Were you always attracted to the idea of becoming a composer as a career?
No, never. I wanted to be an artist, mostly a guitar player. One day I had to sing in a band because there was no singer. Then I thought I could be a singer which I did for ten years before realizing I wasn’t good. I always preferred the creation in the studio/laboratory, rather than the performance on stage. But I did the concert and the TV stuff which is a good experience.
Do you think that the scoring process is vastly different in Europe to that of the way in which movies are scored in The United States?
No. I would say the mainstream soundtracks are different from the independent soundtracks. It is a different angle and obviously different budgets. It is also true that the US mainstream films have more budget and require music all the time.
Do you think that there are times when not scoring a particular sequence or scene in a movie, can be beneficial to the production?
Silence is better and better… In films scores, music has a meaning, and music must be part of storytelling. Some stories need more music, some other less, and some, no music at all.
You have worked on a few historical movies and TV series, LOUIS Xl, CARTOUCHE and BORGIA, when you are working on a period piece do you carry out a great deal of research into what the music would have sounded like in the time slot the movie is set?
I never forget a film and its soundtrack are for a contemporary audience. As a composer I have to make a link between “now and then” and decide where to put the cursor. It is important to know the music history, in order to include it or not in the soundtrack. If you look closely to the Borgia score, we have electric guitars, sound design and renaissance instruments as well… But I always look at the story and the audience who will receive the sound, the music, and the characters and the story as well. It is sometimes a complex mix that you need to put together.
Your music for me has always been very thematic and melodious, what is your opinion of the growing trend in mainly big budget movies to fill out certain sections of the soundtrack with the “DRONE” sound or soundscape as it is referred to, is this just a trend do you think and will real themes return to the blockbuster soon?
Having a theme is very important. I have no problem with scores when the music is a “piece of sound”. I have a problem when there is no imagination at all, or when there is a poor connection with the film. Every film has music inside and sometimes the music can be almost nothing. Less is more, especially in Indy films or world cinema.
In every film there is a line where you go above or under. Above is when the feeling of the music has more power than the feeling of the story and the character. You have to cross this line sometimes to create an emphasis.
You scored, ZAYTOUN in 2013 I think, how did you become involved on the picture, and what size orchestra did you utilise for the soundtrack?
I worked a couple of times with the director, Eran Riklis. He called me for Zaytoun which was an important production with a US cast including the likes of Stephen Dorff. The score wasn’t supposed to be larger than usual but, in fact, it became larger because of the layers of instruments. For the opening, I recorded tons of percussions on the top of a string orchestra. There is also a lot of solo instruments like the solo violin or oud. At the end we were close to a hundred tracks for some themes. It was re-recorded on the top of a 50-piece string orchestra.
Is there any difference in the scoring process on a documentary as opposed to working on a feature film?
A documentary speaks about the truth. A film that is based on fiction is creating something else. And because music can change the storytelling or the curse of a story in a fiction, it is important, in a documentary, to respect the way things are, and not changing the feelings by a soundtrack which could influence too much the audience in one way or another. “Respect”, is the key word in that case.
Returning to BORGIA, you composed a lot of music for the project, when you work on a long-running series for TV do you for want of a better term, recycle any music or themes from early episodes into later ones?
There is no recycling. Every theme is different with me. And it was impossible to recycle on Borgia, because I had to adapt all the time with something new rather like it was coming from the story, or from the production. Recycling is not my cup of tea. Every film is a blank page, and that makes every beginning a bit painful because I always think I’m restarting from zero for every soundtrack.
What musical education did you have?
I was a bad classical student. I went to the conservatory, then I began to learn classical guitar. Later, I travelled the world to meet real Masters and learn from them. I’m a self-teaching person who was lucky enough to meet extraordinary people on his path. I went back to the school of music many, many times in my life, and it is still not finished.
Do you conduct your scores for movies, or is this not always possible due to the time factor, also do you work on the orchestrations yourself or do you at times use an orchestrator?
I do conduct my own music sometimes, and it has been a good experience. I also did my own orchestrations. I love doing all this, except time doesn’t allow you to do everything. For some soundtracks, it is better to have the best people in every domain, conducting, orchestrations etc, in order to have the best possible score. Team work never hurt and you always learn a lot from these experiences.
You have collaborated many times with film makers Pan Nalin, does he have specific ideas or suggestions about what style of music or where the music is to be placed?
Every film is a new start for him and for me and this is what I like. We often have the same experiences in life, and it is easy to understand each other when we meet again. We don’t need to explain much. On one film we did together, we even worked only on “keywords and a trailer”. And the music came out naturally. Nalin is a “Brother in film”.
SAMSARA is a beautiful score, so emotive. How much time did you have to complete the score, and what size orchestra did you have, The score also contains a number of ethnic instruments, when you are writing a score that requires ethnic instrumentation do you write the solo parts with a particular performer in mind?
Samsara was my first feature film. I recorded tons of music but, for most of the themes, everything came up in a very early stages. I recorded a lot of rare instruments while I was doing the demos, with some instruments being very hard to put together with a western harmony and for a classic orchestra. We kept most of those researches and recordings, and then we added a large string orchestra under it. Sometimes, you have to lock yourself in a room with a hundred instruments and try things. This is what I did for Samsara. The film is so special.
How many times do you like to see a movie before beginning to get any set ideas about style or where the music should be placed to best serve the movie?
The more I score, the less I like to see the movie. Nowadays I work much more on the right feelings I need to put in the music. The script also gives me a lot of elements I want to live with. But for all the films I did, the first time I see the movie is special. This is where I receive all the information, like a sponge. So the first screening gives you most of the music. Then, I feel it is better to work with this memory attached to my heart, than watching over and over a scene, or trying to synchronize a scene, which is something I do at the last moment, when all the feelings are in right place.
You have used both synthetic and symphonic in your scores, is it more difficult writing a synthetic score?
We know how western classical instruments sound, but we don’t know how synthetic elements sound in advance. Sometimes it takes more time to find a sound inside a synthesizer or a sample than figure out a flute or an orchestra… I like synthetic or electronic sounds when it supports classical or ethnic sounds. I did a couple of purely electronic/synthetic scores, and I enjoyed it. It is another kind of energy.
For you what is the purpose of music in film?
The storytelling and only this. Also a film’s score is made for speakers, nothing else. So you’d rather work the sound. Lastly you never work for yourself, but for a film and a story. You’re here to help, and if the film has success, you’ll get a little part of it.
Are there any composers or artists that you find particularly interesting and why?
Many, many, many. From the Middle Ages to the 21st century. I’m interested.
Do you have a preferred recording studio when you are recording a film score?
It’s always great when a recording studio has a past and a soul. I’ll always remember when I went down the stairs of the Beatles studio in Abbey Road. My legs were shaking. There are few places like this in the world. I was always fascinated by the studio at the Bulgarian Radio in Sofia. A beautiful place, where we created good memories. I recorded there for the first time with an orchestra, a few years after the fall of the Berlin wall. The atmosphere was special, and I will never forget the generosity and the warmness of the sound of the musicians (and the conductor) in Sofia.
What have you been working on and what will you be moving onto next?
I just finished a movie called “Desrances”, with an African female director who just win at the Fespaco (most important African Festival). I also did a German film (just win at Cinequest) and the next one should be an Indonesian film, then a feature documentary. At the same time I release solo albums here and there. The last one was four albums influenced by the soundtrack I did in 2002 “Ayurveda” which was very successful. The next one is a contemporary music inspiration which will be released in September.