Category Archives: Interviews

TALKING TO COMPOSER CHRISTOPHE JULIEN.


Can you tell us about your musical education?

My musical training is fairly classic. From my childhood I played piano and classical guitar. I studied guitars with several soloists including Alexandre Lagoya and Julian Bream. I also received several first prizes unanimously in this instrument but also in harmony, chamber music, counterpoint and followed the teaching of music of the twentieth century of orchestration and Indian music at the CNSM in Paris.  My meeting with young directors pushed me to create my own music.

Was it music for film that you were always focused upon doing for a career?

Artistic creation has always been present with me. But it is true that the work of creation in the image has always been very natural for me … a shot, a camera movement suggests musical ideas to me. I don’t think as a career, but rather what will enrich me artistically. Cinema has this incredible diversity of creation.

One of your latest scoring assignments for film is on the movie Delicious, it’s a beautifully crafted score, did you research into the style of music from the period in which the movie is set, and what size orchestra did you have for the score?

I did indeed do some stylistic research to see how to approach a historical film from this period. What roles did the piano and harpsichord have, how to write the strings. I did not want a large staff to keep a writing of chamber music. I opted for a string sextet with double bass and a few solo instruments including the harp which we found very original for the film. Children’s voices were also a driving force in the writing of this score.

Staying with Delicious, did the director have any specific ideas regarding the music and where it should be placed?

I had great freedom with Eric Besnard. I composed long musical tracks, several themes were born, and I was left the freedom to place the music in the film. We then refined the tempi and orchestrations to exactly match the state of mind of each of the characters in the film.

Were any of your family musical in any way?

My father was a musician, pianist, and my mother is very fond of music.

Le Sens de la Famille, is an entertaining score, is it more difficult to score say a comedy as opposed to a drama or action movie?

The writing is not at all the same when you compose a comedy compared to a historical film. The latter allows important and developed musical ranges while the difficulty of comedy consists in being in perfect harmony with the rhythm of the text and the actors … two different but very interesting composition exercises.

What composers or artists would you say have influenced you in the way that you write?

Many over time have made me evolve. James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith have had a lot of influence on my way of composing, as has Ennio Morricone. I was fascinated by the orchestral sound of Thomas Newman and James Newton Howard. The Beatles always made me create melodies, things I think are the hardest to do.

Do you like to see a movie more than once when you are spotting it, or do you prefer to work on first impressions?

I really like to compose my themes when reading the script in order to let my imagination guide me.

Is orchestration an important part of the composing process, and do you do all your own orchestration work, or is this not possible sometimes?

The orchestra is part of my way of thinking about my original themes. So I orchestrate all of my scores in order to give them the colour that seems most correct and original to me, and not to fall into an orchestral stereotype.

Adieu les Cons, is another recent work of yours, again this is a totally captivating score, how much time are you normally given to work on a score for a movie, maybe use this movie as an example?

My collaboration for the films of Albert Dupontel is captivating because we have a rather long time of research and musical creation. so we can go to the end of our ideas. Some films are composed in two months others in six months, that depends on the evolution of the editing and the post-production. 

There are a handful of your film scores available on digital platforms, when your music is to be released, do you have any input into what music goes onto the release, or is this something that is out of your control?

I have a look at the construction of the soundtrack when the music is are released digitally or physically because some songs are reworked specifically for this output and the stereo mix is different from the cinema mix.

Your music is I think very thematic, which is something of a rarity these days in movie scores, do you think it is important to have themes and motifs within your scores and what is your opinion of the current trend to use noises or sounds rather than actual music with melodies in movies?

Any musical approach is respected. It is true that I am very drawn to the melody. I am fortunate to work with directors who are looking for that. We retain a melody of Ennio Morricone or James Horner. It seems to me a strength for a film, doesn’t it?

Mes Heros is a tender and haunting work, how did you become involved on this project and when you are working out your musical ideas for a film how do you work, with pencil and manuscript, guitar, piano, keyboard or by using more technical elements?

My Heroes is indeed a score of great tenderness. the piano is often the first instrument I use and I orchestrate the themes quite quickly surrounded by computers, because nowadays, getting as close as possible to our final colour is essential. I rarely take the guitar, except for “Adieu les cons” by Albert Dupontel and for Eric Besnard a few times.

Joyeux Noel, had a score by Philippe Rombi, you are credited as additional crew, what was your role on the movie?

On this film, I was just a chorister for the passage of the choirs. The film supervisor asked me, and it was a lot of fun to participate in this recording.

Have you a preference as to where you record your film scores?

I really like recording at the Guillaume Tell studios in France, the place is quite magical. My last scores were recorded in this mythical place. I also really liked the Davout studios where I recorded the film “Au revoir là haut” by Albert Dupontel.

Do you conduct your scores, or do you prefer to supervise in the sessions and ensure that the correct sound is being created?

 I conduct each of my scores because I orchestrate them myself, unlike other composers, and know exactly the result I want to have. My team also knows the sound I want. I have been working with them for over twenty years, and my company HYPARKOS takes care of the musical supervision and executive production of my music (this was the case on “Delicious”)

What is next for you?

Two new films “Adieu Monsieur Haffmann” by Fred Cavayé, a historical film on the war of 1939-1944, and also the next film by Christophe Offesntein “Canailles” will be released soon. At the same time, four films are in post-production and in January 15, 2022 my song album “The girl with the purple smile”, which is the link www.thegirlwiththepurplesmile.com, will be released.

SCORING THE MOVIE CLARET….TALKING TO COMPOSER OSCAR MARTIN LEANIZBARRUTIA.

1. This is such an emotive score. How did you become involved in the movie

From the beginning of my career as a composer I had the pleasure of working with Pablo Moreno and his film company Contracorriente Producciones (now Stellarum Films). This film is an order from the Claretian Family that comes after Moreno´s movie “A forbidden God” (Un Dios Prohibido 2012), and as in the previous films I scored, Poveda, Luz de Soledad, and Red de Libertad. Moreno gave me the pleasure to compose the music for this beautiful movie. 

2. How many players did you have for the score. who was the cello soloist? And is it a live choir

The main group of musicians are The Mad4Strings string orchestra, about 25 players. The cello soloist is Dragos Balan, a genius who is the 1st cello of the orchestra of the Royal Theatre of Madrid. It was a miracle to have him, and his interpretation of my music was one of the best things that I have experienced. In addition, I had the opportunity to have exceptional musicians for the soloist parts too; Juanjo Hernandez for the flute and alto flute, Salvador Barberá oboe and English horn, David Martinez violin, the sopranos Natalia Bravo and Sonia Santoyo and the guitar parts of Swignleman (Diego Martinez). The choirs and other instruments like brass and electronic parts were realised by synths and samplers. The mixing was made by the incredible mixer José Vinader, he made the magic to combine all the instruments.

  3. The opening track sets the scene for the style and sound of the music did the director have specific notions about what kind of music he wanted.

Yes, Pablo always gives me a lot of different examples to express himself and tell me what he wants in the movie or a specific sequence. In this case most of the examples I had were Morricone and Hans Zimmer. It’s useful for me because with these examples I can understand the feelings, the atmospheres, and the instrumentation that he wants. Then, I tried to forget the examples and built something new by myself, inside the lines he gave me. 

4. Do you perform on the score.   

Yes, after composing and orchestrating the music, I conducted the orchestra, and in the movie, I played the clarinet in a dance sequence. I was on set, but only appear in a couple of frames.

5.The edition on Spotify is 54 mins in duration is this a full score edition or are there more cues.

In this edition I tried to include most of the music and put together similar cues to create larger tracks. Some cues were too short or had little musical importance, but this did not exceed ten minutes.  

6 It is a delicate yet grandiose work how much time did you have to write and record the score.  

I was lucky because I had much more time to create this music (comparing with the previous films or the standard situation to film scoring). I wrote the main theme in November 2019, and the total of the score was composed between March and May of 2020 (including orchestration and edition of the parts by my own). It was a calm process because there were several changes in the edition of the movie too. We had the recording session in 2020 September 3rd, and the soloist sessions the following days. It was a large but intense work that I fondly remember. 

HALFDANR.

The illegitimate son of a Viking farmer and his slave must outshine and outperform his legitimate brothers to win his father’s love, and ultimately buy his mother’s freedom.

This is the brief outline for the story behind the movie Halfdanr, which is an entertaining and engrossing short released this year (2021). It is amazing that the movie has such an epic sounding score, considering it is after all a short. The music is by composer Jesse Haugen, who has fashioned an appealing and beautifully haunting yet highly adventurous sounding soundtrack. I just love the sheer symphonic scale and sound of it and thinking about it this could easily be from one of the latest blockbusters because of its grandiose and affecting style and sound.

JESSE HAUGER

When I hear scores such as this, I am hopeful that film music as we know it (from the 1940’s through to the 1990’s) with themes, romantic sounding tone poems and lush inspiring compositions will survive and not be lost to the dronelike soundscape sounds that are increasing in use nowadays.

Halfdanr is a wonderfully atmospheric work filled with emotion and overflowing with dark and driving dramatic cues, it is one of the most promising and pleasing scores of this year thus far, and the composer I think is certainly a name to watch out for. If he can create this powerful and commanding score for a short, what will happen when he gets a big budget movie, well I for one cannot wait to find out. In some ways I reminded of the style employed by composer Gaute Storaas on another Viking related movie Birkebeinerne which was released in 2016, this too is rich in haunting melodies and thick with attractive motifs, with the composer combining symphonic moods with choral passages.  

Halfdanr is a score that I know you will return to many times after your initial listen, and it is one that you will also enjoy even more every time, because it has to it a freshness and an innovative musical persona which seems to allow us to hear new things each time we listen. The score is under thirty minutes in duration, but it makes the most of the time and is impacting as well as affecting. The soundtrack opens with I Will Return, which begins in apprehensive mood, and moves into an impressive string led theme that is inspiring to say the least, the opening is slightly subdued with low strings and percussive elements being employed to create a tense atmosphere, to this composer adds more strings and increases the tempo.

I love the second cue Honour with its anthem like lush strings and track number three The Hunters Return with the imaginative use of cello and I think there is a hint of cymbalom that laces it, being further enhanced by woods that usher in dark sounding voices, these are bolstered and supported by percussion and brass.

Most of the cues are a little over a minute in length with some being just over two minutes, but each cue each composition has to it a sound and style that makes it stand out as being inventive and above all entertaining.  Available on digital platforms. I spoke with the composer about his music and the movie.

Jesse Haugen on Halfdanr the score.

1. How did you become involved on the film Halfdanr?     

I first found out about Halfdanr through their initial fundraising campaign. I was excited about the film based on what I saw in their kickstarter pitch, so I reached out to the director, Lance Witmer, through a mutual friend. I shared my music with him and had several conversations over the course of almost a year before a final meeting where I got to see the film for the first time and landed the job!

2. It’s an epic sounding score considering it’s for a short, what size orchestra did you have for the movie?  

It’s funny you say that. When I initially pitched my idea for the score, it was going to be something much smaller and more folk-y/traditionally Norse. As I dove into the score, however, it just kept getting bigger and bigger! By the end, we recorded a 40-piece string orchestra in Budapest. They’re layered throughout the score as well as an incredible solo cellist, Alex Thompson, who I like to say is the musician responsible for the entire “vibe” of the Halfdanr score. The rest of the sounds are synths/samples. All things considered, it’s a pretty big band. 

3. The soundtrack is available on digital platforms will there be a CD release and do you have any input into what tracks from the score make it to the soundtrack release?

I have no plan for a CD release right now. If there’s a demand, I’d be happy to! Haven’t heard that from people yet, though. And yes, I did have input to what tracks made it onto the soundtrack. This is sort of a special circumstance too because I think every minute of music minus maybe 45sec in the score made it onto the soundtrack!

4. It is also a score that is very thematic which is something that is rare these days, do you think that themes in film scores are important?  

I value themes quite highly. While I don’t think an outright melody is always what a film, scene, or moment requires, when I watch a film, my initial ideas are almost always melodic. This means my music is often very melody/theme heavy. The goal is always just to have something defined, intentional, and unique to that particular story, character, world, etc. Sometimes that’s a sound design texture, or a specific set of instruments, and other times it’s a solo cellist playing his heart out over 90% of the score haha. 

5 Did you conduct the score, and do you work on your own orchestrations?

I love conducting when I can, although now-a-days I record almost entirely remotely (as was the case with this score). And yes, I do all of my own orchestrations! It’s a unique joy getting music ready for live players and enjoying them bringing that music to life. 

6. What is next for you?
I’m always balancing about 100 things at once, but right now, the main thing holding my time and attention is a 10-part fantasy audio drama, “Tales of the Echowood.” It’s already started, and we’re about 5 episodes in, releasing every 2 weeks anywhere you listen to podcasts. It’s a fully scored show, with original music in every episode. I’m also in the beginning stages of an exciting video game project, and then working on my usual “daily” projects for web series, licensing tracks, other composers, etc. 

https://www.jessehaugen.com/

Frank Ilfman on his Score for GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE.

The Netflix movie Gunpowder milkshake is your latest score, its directed by Navot Papushado who you collaborated with on Big Bad Wolves and Rabies, did the director have any specific ideas about the music as in its style or where it should be placed?

FI-Yes, we had many talks about the different styles we wanted to have in the film and what we wanted to say musically, our main idea was to give each character a signature tune that will be easy recognisable and would tell the audience which is which. Togther with Gareth Cousins the music editor we had a few spotting sessions and then also Navot and myself would go over cues and and changed and move things around during the early editing process.

The score we are told contains nods to the likes of Bernard Herrmann and also the scores from European 60’s noir movies, but also has a contemporary feel which includes rock infused tracks for the action scenes which by the look of the trailer there are many. You utilized a number of female soloists for the project, what size orchestra did you have for the movie and how much music did you write for the film?

FI-I wrote about close to 3hr of score over the past year for the film, as the film had many changes and recuts due to some test screening as you do, so some of the music had to be rewritten and also new cues were needed to be added. I had a 90 piece orchestra and choir, about ten soloist performers and a bunch of old synth and a theremin to give that retro feel.

How much time did you have to create and record the score?

FI – I worked on it for about a year give to take and we recorded over a week at Air Studios and the film was mixed at Abbey Road for a couple of weeks after.

What percentage of the score would you say is symphonic as in conventional players?

FI- the orchestra is always present in all the cues in one way or another, but its always playing fairly soft as I wanted to build it as the story moves forward, it comes into full force toward the second half of the film where the librarians are becoming more establish in the story.

Will there be a soundtrack release for the score and if so do you have any idea when this will be?

FI- Yes the soundtrack album will be released by Milan Records on all digital platforms and CD on demand and later in the year as a special vinyl edition via Mondo.

How would you describe the movie?

FI – Gunpowder Milkshake is a genre blender movie, think a Japanese assassin comic book, film noir, a western and a modern-day action thriller with a twist, very colourful, stylish and super fun!

SPEAKING WITH BILL MARX COMPOSER, PERFORMER.

BILL MARX is a native of Los Angeles, California. And has been a professional musician since he was sixteen years of age, he studied composition in New York at the Juilliard School of Music, and has continued on to this day as a renown jazz pianist. Mr. Marx has composed many symphonic orchestral works as well as music for motion pictures, television, and ballet.  He has also produced and arranged for and performed with many jazz and pop artists, including the music for two record albums and all the television appearances of his father, Harpo Marx. As a stage performer, he has concertized worldwide for years, combining his piano artistry with humorous anecdotes about the life and times he shared with his dad, both personally and professionally as his musical arranger/conductor, many of which are chronicled in his father’s autobiography HARPO SPEAKS! and from Bill’s own autobiography, SON OF HARPO SPEAKS!

THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES HAS DESIGNATED MR. MARX AS THE OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON OF THE MARX BROTHERS FOR THE NATIONAL FILM REGISTRY, WHICH PROMOTES THE PRESERVATION OF AMERICAN MOTION PICTURE CLASSICS.

Composer and performer William (Bill) Marx, wrote the music for a handful of movies from the mid to late 1960’s through to the end of the 1980’s. His music for film may not be that well known but it is popular amongst aficionados of movie scores. With his scores for Count Yorga Vampire and its sequel The Return of Count Yorga (aka-Vampire Story) probably being the composers best-known works for film.

Even today some fifty plus years after seeing these movies I am still in awe of the way in which the composer scored them, the music often being the driving force behind scenes and also it is the score that strikes fear into the hearts and souls of any watching audience. My thanks to Mr. Marx for his time and his patience whilst I interrogated him and my heartfelt thanks to Tim Ayres, who put me in contact with the composer. JM. MMI. (2021).

You are obviously from a family background that is filled with talent as in the entertainment business, can I ask what are your earliest memories of any kind of music?

My earliest musical impact was when I was two years old.  I learned to sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and “That’s What I Want For Christmas”. I have Victrola recordings of both.  My dad exposed me to all kinds of music. Gershwin, Stravinsky, Be Bop, East and West coast Jazz, Bartok, French Impressionistic Composers, Kenton, who I later wrote for….etc…..yes, all kinds of music…..

What musical education did you have, and as a pianist I am guessing you focused more upon the piano when studying as well as composition etc?

I had started playing piano when I was four……But I became interested in composing when I was about twelve years old……I wound up as a composition major at seventeen when I went to Juilliard, where my teacher was Bernard Waagoner.

In my opinion your score for Count Yorga Vampire played a massive part in creating the harrowing and jumpy atmosphere within the movie, it is a great shame that your score has never been released, although it is available as an isolated score on one of the blu-ray releases. Do you think that it could be released alongside some of your other film music, the sequel The Return of Count Yorga for example, also thinking of this I suppose that the rights for the music are retained by AIP? The score is performed by mainly strings and woodwind with a scattering of percussion and piano, plus there are a handful of electronic effects, and I think I detected guitar? What size ensemble or orchestra did you have for the film?

Thank you for the Yorgaccolades you could Google and contact Tim Ayres about what he had to do to devote time to using the score.  He has an informative internet show about composers. I used only eight players, as I felt that would create a greater intimacy than a large orchestra.

Considering the movie was released in 1970, it has stood the test of time very well and your score and the performance by Robert Quarry are the two main reasons for this. The music you wrote for the movie was way ahead of its time in its style and sound, taking into account most horror movies were still being scored in a way that started in the 1950’s. Did the director have any specific requests or instructions regarding the score and how it should sound?

The director Bob Kelljan who I worked with a few times allowed me to write whatever I felt would add to the overall atmosphere of the movie……Quarry was terrific.

I remember seeing the movie in 1970 at the cinema, I was fifteen at the time, I always remember the Main titles music, it set the scene straight away for the film and it also scared the hell out of me, because it was kind of soothing in a macabre way and lulled the audience into a false sense of security. Was this something that you did intentionally to create an atmosphere that was calm but at the same time apprehensive?

I guess the score did to you what I hoped it would do to its audiences.

How many times did you sit and watch the movie before deciding upon a style or sound and where the music should be placed to best serve the picture and how much time were you given to work n the composition and the recording of the score?

In those days we took our music timings for each scene on a Moviola.  That is how I watched the film, my score taking me a month to write and record… The whole movie was shot in 10 days….

Did you conduct the score, and did you perform on it at all, I ask about performing because there is a lovely piano piece on the soundtrack and was wondering if this was you?

Yes, that was me on the piano and I also conducted the score.

I understand that you were arranging and conducting music for your father at the age of sixteen, was it always music that you wanted to pursue as a career?

I was a good baseball player, but for physical problems that prevented me from becoming one,  I slipped back into music

The film The Deathmaster contained a rock styled score, and you also utilized sitar at certain points, was this because of the scenario, setting and period in which the film was set and can you remember who the sitar player was?

Bill Plummer was the sitar player on The Deathmaster score. It was a weird film about a weird cult in a weird vampire-hippie environment…. The director was Ray Danton, who was himself a good character actor….

Scream Blacula Scream, was a mix of both horror and comedy, the score was upbeat and at times funky plus it had a really good song, Spread your Love all over me, you wrote the music but who wrote the lyrics and who was the female vocalist? 

I believe the director was Bob Kelljan, who also did the Yorga films. Marilyn Lovell wrote the lyrics to “Spread”, but I don’t remember who sang the song…

I think you began writing music for commercials during the 1960’s when you were arranging cover versions of songs for Vee Jay records, it was also in this decade that you started to score movies, your first being a short entitled, Weekend Pass which was in 1961, how did you become involved as the composer on this?  

I was very good friends with Marion Thomas who at the time was dating this guy who wanted to make his first movie and I wanted to score my first movie, so we got together.

Your next movie was also a 1961 release entitled Walk the Angry Beach, but you did not score another movie until 1970 which was Count Yorga, what were you doing between movies musically?

The Bill Marx Trio.

 I would play jazz piano in night clubs between composing, which is something I still do and enjoy today.

The Astral Factor was another interesting movie that you scored in 1978, which starred Stephanie Powers, I am not sure but according to certain websites it was re-scored in 1984, any idea why this happened?

I have no idea why they re-scored the picture, as I lost complete track of the film… They kept re-titling it…and I just had moved on to another project. They just might not have liked my score. Only they would know this.

You worked on a few horror movies as a composer, do you think that horror is a genre that requires more music than other types of movies and is there times within a movie that does not require music?

The director of any movie, regardless of its theme, determines the music requirements, if, where and when it shall be used for the appropriate scenes.

You also wrote music for TV Starsky and Hutch for example, is scoring TV shows hugely different from working on motion pictures?

 Technically, there is no difference for me between scoring for movies or TV

There is news from Hollywood about a re-make of the Blacula movies, if approached would you consider writing music for any such production?

I know nothing of the talk of a Blacula sequel, though it wouldn’t surprise me if there was.

My thanks to Bill Marx for his time and wonderful responses.