Arturo Cardelus is one of the brightest rising stars in the film music arena, his scores are emotive and filled with passion and haunting themes. Born on December 27th 1981, he is an accomplished pianist as well as a talented composer and conductor of music for film and TV and the concert hall.
Can you remember what your first memories of any type of music were?
When I was three years of age I had an accident that almost cost me my left eye. Because of that I had so many surgeries and was not allowed to play sports with other kids. I had to spend a lot of time in the hospital or lying on the couch and thanks to that I started listening to music. My dad had a classical music collection. I became obsessed with Beethoven, and that was the only music I listened to for several years.
What for you is the most important thing that music can do for a film?
To create emotional depth, to add what images can’t explain.
ALTAMIRA THE ORIGIN OF ART is such a beautiful score, what is the musical line up for the soundtrack, I mean by this what is the percentage of conventional instruments compared with any electronic support?
It is mostly conventional instruments. There are a couple of tracks where we blend synths and orchestra, but it’s mostly classical.
In 2012, you orchestrated the score for the film THE PAPERBOY, was this your first foray into film music and how did you become involved on the film?
It was my first involvement in a feature film. I was working at that time for Mario Grigorov (the composer of the film), mostly assisting with technical issues, and he asked me if I would be willing to orchestrate for him. I was thrilled! It was a great opportunity.
Do you think it is more difficult scoring a documentary as opposed to a fiction film?
Every movie is difficult in its own way. I find the process both fascinating and terrifying. Scoring a film is not an easy task.
What musical education did you have, and whilst studying did you concentrate upon one area of music as you are a pianist I am guessing you also studied the instrument whilst you were studying music?
I studied classical piano performance before switching to composition. I studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music, Franz Liszt Academy and the Conservatoria Superior of Salamanca, then I switched my focus and studied composition and film scoring at Berklee College of Music.
When you are writing the music for a movie, do you approach it in any set kind or order, for example main title through to end themes or is there no set way of working?
It depends on the director. I prefer to start on the main theme and grow everything from there, but some directors like to work differently.
Do you work out your musical ideas at the piano?
Unless it’s an electronic score, I like to start at the piano. To me it’s the most natural way to start the flow of ideas.
How many times do you watch a project before beginning to create the score?
Before starting two or three times, and once I start, probably a thousand. 🙂
Are there any moments within any of the films you have worked on where you felt that it was probably better not to have any music?
That’s usually my default approach. I like movies that use very little music or almost none. My “battle” with every director is that I always feel we are using too much music. We are getting used to scores that work almost wall to wall. I think that devalues the power of film music. It becomes like noise in the background and therefore less meaningful.
How much time were you given to score ALTAMIRA and how much music did you compose for the film?
Around 5 months, and I think it was around 40 minutes of music.
The CD release will be released soon of ALTAMIRA have you been responsible for compiling the tracks for the release, I see there is also music included on the release from another project, SWIMMING IN THE DESERT, can you tell us about that movie also?
Swimming in the Desert is a short film directed by Álvaro Ron. It tells the story of a little girl and her grandpa trying to make a plan to get water for a river that’s drying out.
When you are asked to become involved on a project, for you what is the best time to start on it, maybe at the script stage or is it better to wait for the rough cut of the movie?
I’ve started with the script in a couple of projects, and it’s great because I can start planning and creating themes, but I don’t really know the score I’m imagining until I see the images.
What artists or composers would you say had an influence upon you and maybe your approach to writing for film?
My biggest influence is classical music. I try to listen to a lot of different styles of music, and I enjoy and learn with most of them, but nothing inspires me more than Beethoven, Bartok, Mozart, etc. As for film music, my favourite composers are Rota, Morricone, and Badalamenti.
BUNUEL IN THE LABYRINTH OF TURTLES is such an impressive movie and your music is charming and emotive, what size orchestra did you have for the score, and where did you record the soundtrack?
We recorded at Abbey Road (Studio 2). We used a small ensemble (23 musicians) and a 50-piece choir.
Do you think animated movies need more music or at least more expressive music?
I think music in animation plays a crucial role. You need more music, and the music has to be more active and flexible. You often have two or three cues per minute, while in live action that’s not that common.
Do you conduct at all and do you orchestrate your film scores or listen from the control room?
I do both. For Buñuel I conducted some cues, but most of the cues were conducted by my friend Alfonso Casado, an amazing conductor. I prefer to listen from the booth so I can have a better sense of the big picture.
Your scores are very lyrical and filled with rich themes, what do you think of the current trend in film music to employ a noise over a sequence or a collection of drone like sounds?
I’m not a big fan, but I have to admit it usually works great with the images.
Do you perform on your soundtracks?
I perform most of the piano parts.
Call me FRANCIS is a four part series for NETFLIX when you do a series such as this is do you score the episodes in the order that they will be shown, or do you score sections of each episode, and will there be a CD release of the score as it is again stunning?
Thank you very much! I don’t think there’s going to be a CD, but I can ask. Call Me Francis was a double project, first a movie and then a TV miniseries. I composed the score for the movie first, and then I added some extra music for the TV show.
You have written music for concert hall performance, is writing for film more restricting do you think for the composer?
Yes. There are a lot of decisions that are made before you even start writing, and then it’s a very collaborative process.
What is next for you?
Working on a thriller and a dramedy. I’ve never done anything for those genres and I’m very excited about it.
My thanks to the composer for taking the time to answer my questions at such a busy time.