I truly believe that in recent years the spirit of the epic sounding score or the lush and lavish sounds of Hollywood as we knew them once have transferred to Spain and that countries many talented and versatile film music composers, this thought has been further consolidated this month after hearing the wonderfully dramatic, mysterious, and affecting soundtrack for Alma or The Girl in the Mirror as it is entitled in the US and the UK. This Spanish made supernatural thriller is at the moment streaming on Netflix and the beautiful, beguiling and foreboding score is the work of Fernando Velazquez. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that in my opinion this is probably the finest film score that the Maestro has penned.

It is an effectively brooding and unnerving work, but also has to it a luxurious and haunting musical entity. Comparisons can be made between the work of Herrmann here, as the composer’s music subtly develops and at times erupts in a very similar way in which Herrmann’s scores did, but there is also a lighter style within the work, melodic and delicate, that hints at fragility and vulnerability. I am tempted to say it is Barry-esque in places, but on listening to the work over a few times, the sound and style is inventive and innovative, and the work of a musical genius in a form that only Velazquez can do.

It is a soundtrack that contains hints of themes which are performed on solo instruments, these sparse but effective pieces are tantalizing and mesmerizing, with piano and violin working together to create an emotive and at the same time mystical aura. Plus there is the somewhat harrowing use of voices that are underlined by booming percussion and aggressive brass flourishes, this is a masterful score and one that you as a discerning collector must add to your collection, don’t believe me! Its available on digital platforms go and be astounded.   


Alan Williams.

Alan Williams is an award-winning composer and conductor with more than 100 motion picture and television credits. Alan’s scores include the Academy Award nominated IMAX film, Amazon, Sony Pictures Classics’ Mark Twain’s America and some of the highest rated movies made for television.

Some of his recent credits include the Chinese theatrical feature film Legend of the Forest and the IMAX films Secrets of the Sea and Serengeti. Alan composed the award-winning score to the animated feature film, The Princess and the Pea and co-wrote the original songs with award-winning Lyricist David Pomeranz as well as the Student Academy Award winning short Pajama Gladiator.

With more than 100 awards and nominations some of his accolades include his score to Estefan being nominated for an Annie Award for Best Original Score, the Insight Award for Excellence for his score to Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa, 23 Accolade Awards for Best Original Score, 10 Park City Film Music Festival Gold Medal for Excellence Awards as well as his score to Crab Orchard being named as one of the Top 20 Film Scores of 2005.

The composer has received 21 Global Music Awards. His score to 20th Century Fox’s Cowgirls n’ Angels won a Prestige Film Gold Award and Alan was awarded the Jerry Goldsmith Award for Best Documentary score for the Netflix series Moving Art: Underwater along with 3 other JGA nominations.

Alan received a Hollywood Music in Media award (HMMA) for his song “Music of the Earth” co-written with David Pomeranz along with 3 additional HMMA nominations. In 2017 Alan was awarded the Global Music Awards Odyssey Lifetime Achievement in Music.

What musical education did you have, and did you focus upon any specific area of music whist studying?

I have a Bachelor of Music in Composition from Brigham Young University and graduate work at the University of Southern California in film and television composition. 

Was film and TV music something that you were always drawn to as a career?

Yes.  From my early days studying piano I was drawn to film music.  By the time I was a sophomore in high school I knew I wanted to compose for film and television.

Many of your scores are for documentaries, but of course you have scored movies, animation, and television projects, what would you say are the biggest differences when scoring say a documentary of around forty minutes to working on a motion picture with a running time of nearly double this, do you approach each medium in a different way, and would you say that scoring a documentary with music being almost continuous is easier or maybe more difficult?

Most all my projects are similar in process.  It doesn’t matter the genre or duration of the project.  I begin developing thematic material and then compose to picture.  It is true that many documentaries require more music, but the score still has the same purpose: to support, enhance and delve deeper into the emotional and dramatic story being told.

Do you have a preferred orchestra or recording studio when working on film?

My first preference is always to record in Los Angeles.  I have recorded all over the world.  There are many great musicians, and I am always grateful to have them play and record my scores. 

When working on a documentary, is there sometimes a temp track on the film when you go to see it for the first time, and what is your opinion of the practice of directors and producers using temps in any type of film?

Temp tracks vary by project.  Most tend to be very temp-heavy but some of my recent projects have either had some of my music in them or no music at all.  It is wonderful to have a blank canvas to begin creating without predetermined musical ideas from a filmmaker before we have had a chance to talk creatively about the score.

Legend of the Forest is one of your recent scoring assignments and has an epic score, how did you become involved on the film and did the director have specific ideas about what style of music was required for the movie?

The post supervisor connected me to the project.  The Chinese production company wanted all the post work done in Los Angeles although the entire film was a Chinese production.  They wanted a “Hollywood” score, edit and sound mix.  The director did not have any specific ideas other than the score should have the ethnic elements of the China/Mongolia period and especially the Ewenki people.  He also wanted an epic symphonic score to blend with these ethnic elements.  Other than that, he was very open to my input.  This was a film that had no temp music at all.  It was wonderful to have such creative freedom for the film.

What composers or artists would you say have had an influence upon you maybe in the sound that you achieve or in the way that you approach and score movies?

I have always been a huge fan of Jerry Goldsmith.  Not just of his musical brilliance, but his ability to get deep inside the drama of a film and its characters and to write music that deepens the drama.  Jerry mastered the skill of thematic development in a film.  He said that if he could write a main theme that encapsulated the essence of the film or a character, along with some type of short motive (rhythmic, chordal or a few notes) he would have all he needed to write a score.  This has been wonderful advice that I strive for in my scores.

When you begin working on a movie whether it be a feature, documentary, or TV project, is there a set way in which you like to score it, by this I mean do you like to create a core theme and build the remainder of the score around this, or does every project differ?

Yes, I begin composing a core theme, maybe even more than one depending on the project.  Lately, I have created a suite of themes and other ideas which have been very useful at the beginning of a project.  It gives me freedom to write away from the picture and maybe even material for an editor to use as temp music.  Plus, it’s a great way to begin talking with a director about the musical approach.

You give talks, on creativity, what is your advice to young composers that are just starting out writing for film?

I am quite passionate about all things creative.  I love the creative process and talking about it with young composers, filmmakers, and anyone in any field.  I think the creative process is very similar for any discipline. 

Orchestration is an important part of the composing process; do you like to orchestrate all your scores or is this at times not possible due to scheduling etc?

My demos are fully orchestrated, so I am always thinking orchestration every step of my composing process.  Due to recording schedules I almost always use an orchestrator to prep the scores and parts for the session.  My orchestrator Larry Rench is vital to the process, and I value my collaboration with him. 

The same question regarding conducting, do you prefer to conduct yourself or maybe at certain times have a conductor?

I always conduct.  For me it is the immediate connection to the musicians, and I can communicate quickly and directly with them.  Plus, I know the musical interpretation I want and don’t have to communicate it to a conductor who then in turn, communicates it to the orchestra.

A lot of your scores have been issued on to promo recordings, with many now being available on digital platforms, when a score is to be released commercially by a recording label do you have input into what tracks or cues will represent the score on the recording?

Yes, I have input on commercial releases and almost always have a producer credit on the album. 

Your scores are so rich and thematic, is it important do you think to write thematically for film, I ask because of the trend lately to score pictures with a soundscape rather than music that has melody and substance?

I feel very strong about thematic, melodic scores.  I think themes help connect the audience in an emotional way to the story unlike any other scoring convention.  Themes provide the building blocks of theme and variation the foundation for crafting a score. 

Themes provide an emotional payoff for characters and story arc.  Strong thematic films also stand the test of time.  They can become timeless.  Theme and melody connect directly with an audience and reaches deep into our souls as humans and really provides the connective tissue to a film’s story and drama unlike anything else. 

What would identify as your earliest memories of any kind of music and were you from a family background that was musical, as in any performers in the family or just music lovers?

I started playing piano at age 7.  I am the oldest in my family, so I didn’t really have anyone else around me that was playing music.  I did grow up listening to music, mostly symphonic music.  I do credit my parents with exposing me to music at an early age.  They both played instruments when they were young but didn’t play as I grew up. 

How much time are you given to score and record a film score, and have there been any that have been more difficult than others for any reason, and do you have a favourite score of yours or another composer?

The time frame for composing varies by project.  Sometimes there is ample time to do research and work on writing a suite of themes.  Other times it’s a crazy delivery schedule and I just must go with my first instincts and write very fast.  Each project has its own set of challenges.  Some may be more difficult for a variety of reasons, but every project requires all my attention in every detail, and I really try to write the best score I can for each project.  I’m not sure I have one favorite score. 

It’s like having a favorite child, which I don’t have!  There are some that certainly are more rewarding.  “Amazon” because it was my first IMAX film, “Princes and the Pea” because it was such a musical project, being an animated feature.  I’m proud of the work I’ve done this past year.  “Legend of the Forest”, “Secrets of the Sea” and “Serengeti” all have been wonderful, diverse projects.

After a while writing for film do you still wake up in the morning and hear the notes or start straight away to think of new and fresh ideas that you may be able to weave into your scores?

Sometimes the notes come quickly, especially after a night’s sleep allowing my subconscious a chance to keep working.  Other times it’s hard work.  I have found that the more I write, the easier it is to write.  Moving from project to project is the best way to keep the creativity flowing.  Short breaks are ok, but I really enjoy writing.  I love solving dramatic and emotional situations. 

What are you working on now if you can tell us?

I am working on a 3-part documentary series, “Ronin 3: The Battle for Sangin.”  It’s a United States Marine commissioned project about a Marine unit in Afghanistan in 2010.  I had the opportunity to compose a concert suite before working on the film itself.  The world premiere for concert suite was performed by “The President’s Own” Marine Chamber Orchestra in Washington DC on August 20, 2022.  It was fantastic to compose music about Marines and then have Marines perform the music.  It was quite a fitting tribute to the Marines of the Darkhorse Battalion. 

Many thanks…to Alan Williams who was in the middle of preparing for a concert but still answered my questions, thank you Maestro.