Tag Archives: Christer Christensson

Psalm 21

psalm 21

MovieScore Media is a label that has over the past few years released soundtracks that possibly would not have seen the light of day. The label champions new talent within the film music arena and also promotes the art of film music by issuing soundtracks that are of great quality. PSALM 21 is certainly no exception to this practice. Composer Christer Christensson has written a rich and almost luxurious sounding score which is not only deliciously dark and at times sombre and fearful, but also is engaging, and highly affecting tinged with a sense of foreboding. The opening track on the disc is ‘Introitus’, a fairly brief composition but one that is striking, and also one that sets a chilling atmosphere that is somewhat harrowing. The composer utilizes to much effect strings and woods which are subtle in the first part but soon become more agitated and forceful, building to an almost Wagnerian brass stab which is accompanied by swirling and tormented sounding strings bringing the cue to its conclusion.
Track two ‘O Father, Why Have You Left?’ is too, a relatively uneasy sounding composition, but is a two edged sword because it posses a sound and a quality that is mesmerizing; again it is a short lived cue but effective. Track three, ‘Out in the Forest and into the Mind’, begins with threatening strings which are embellished by fierce brass stabs and an underlying chorale sound – like half heard voices; one not being able to distinguish if they are voices or instruments – this adds to the effect and makes it an unsettling and edgy track. After its fairly ferocious beginning the cue moves into a somewhat quieter passage but because it becomes slightly calmer, does not mean that the atmosphere created here by the composer is any less dark or foreboding – in fact it makes it more threatening and to a degree ever more tense. The cue then moves up a gear and reverts to a more forceful and driving piece, strings again taking up prominent positions and carrying it along at a fairly brisk pace creating wonderful atmospherics.
Track four, ‘Cantus Cofessione’, is a disquieting cue, the composer bringing into play solo voice that lends much to the work. Track seven, ‘Nightmare Elegy’, begins with an almost calming adagio which is melodic and near serene, but this soon alters as we are again taken into the realms of a darker place by the composer. His use of electronic sounds alongside more conventional instrumentations is for me stunning and the two just melt together becoming difficult to separate creating wonderful jumps and starts that add so much atmosphere to the score.
Track eight, ‘A Call From the World Outside has an even greater sense of urgency about it but still the composer manages to include some melodic content amongst the driving low strings and almost searing string stabs that combine to form this piece. Track 17, ‘Adagio-Words of Love’, is a relatively sad piece performed in the main by strings which are augmented by the subtle use of woodwind with light utilization of percussion that acts as punctuation for both the strings and woods. These elements are joined by brass which is woven into the composition and although prominent at certain stages never overwhelms the core sound of the cue which is maintained and carried along by the string section. This is, as I have already stated, a sad piece but at the same time it does lift one’s emotions and at its conclusion offers us a crescendo of sorts that gives the listener a feeling of hope or even triumph. This is an interesting score and one which fuses perfectly many musical colours. It is a score that is at one moment dark, shadowy and unearthly but in the next instant, one which conveys an atmosphere of expectation and peacefulness. Definitely one to savour.

Christer Christensson

chris chri

Composer Christen Christensson has mainly written music for stage plays and theatre productions and makes his debut in the world of film music with a spellbinding and melodic score for Swedish horror movie PSALM 21. The soundtrack is a mix of experimental and melodious styles and one which will become popular amongst film music aficionados.

John Mansell: Your latest work is the score for the horror movie PSALM 21 and this is your debut on the film music stage. The music is certainly atmospheric and also very emotive in places; how did you become involved on the movie?
Christer Christensson: I’ve worked with the director before on several stage productions so when Fredrik told me that he wanted to make a movie I was of course very interested to participate and he wanted me to.

John Mansell: What size orchestra did you utilize for the score, and how many voices did you use as there are a number of choral passages and also solo performances within the score, which I think make it even more chilling and atmospheric?
Christer Christensson: I wrote it for a chamber orchestra size and all the rest is my own recordings, samples, electronics and stuff. In some parts I beefed up the brass with lower brass sample instruments as we couldn’t afford to hire additional musicians but I think it blends very good with the acoustic recording. The voices I used are various different vocal instruments that I played and mangled to my needs and taste. I would of course have loved to have a real choir but this movie was done with a very slim budget so….The fact that we got the Swedish Chamber Orchestra to participate with such a small budget was almost too good to be true.

John Mansell: PSALM 21 is scored in an almost luxurious style. I say this because most of the Swedish movies I have encountered are scored very thinly or do not have a great deal of music in them, PSALM 21 however, has quite a large sounding soundtrack. It’s more Hollywood than Stockholm. Did the director have specific ideas as to what kind of music he wanted for the picture, or were you left to create the soundtrack without a great deal of hands on involvement from the director?
Christer Christensson: Fredrik (HILLER) always had a clear vision of what the music should bring to a production, so before they started to shoot the movie we went through the script a few times and discussed the style etc. We discussed different ways of how the music should be approached and came to the conclusion that we wanted a Hollywood approach but in a Swedish way. I don’t know if we succeeded but it has a more international appeal than the traditional Swedish films. I always like to become involved as early as possible on a project and to send out my scouts and to be able to influence the production.

John Mansell: How much time were you given to compose the score for PSALM 21 and how did this time scale compare with writing for the theatre?
Christer Christensson: The orchestra could only participate the first week of June, because of their schedule, that date couldn’t change for any reason at all whatsoever. I got the first raw cut of the movie during the latter part of January, but also at that time I had started to rehearse and write for a big theatre production in which I also participated as a musician which was due to premiere at the end of March. That gave me just nine weeks minus the time for my live gigs. In Sweden an ordinary theatre production rehearses for eight weeks. The way I work with a drama etc the first couple of weeks I have to attend the rehearsals to see what I am writing for etc so it’s a bit less.

John Mansell: What musical education did you receive?
Christer Christensson: I’ve studied on a higher level for six years, piano as main instrument. The focus was mainly on improvisational music such as jazz etc.

psalm 21John Mansell: Was music for film and theatre something that you had always wanted to be involved with?
Christer Christensson: As a kid I loved theatre and film. When I started to play the piano at around the age of thirteen, I often turned off the sound of the VHS and put new music to the particular film I was watching, so in answer to your question, yes I guess so.

John Mansell: What would you identify as the main differences between working in theatre and scoring a motion picture?
Christer Christensson: The main difference is that theatre is live. Even if it’s really well rehearsed, it’s always different from the night before. For me it means that the tempo, for example, is slightly different from night to night. Also, dialogue in a play is usually with acoustic voices which has its consequences for the music in terms of getting the desired dramatic effect without drenching the actors’ voices.

John Mansell: What is your favoured routine when scoring a project. Do you at first tackle larger cues or maybe begin with smaller intimate pieces and then move onto the more lengthy cues, and do you like to firstly come up with a central theme and build the score around this?
Christer Christensson: It really depends on the project. Sometimes I first hunt for the main colours because I find that’s most important and on other occasions I’ll go for the central theme.

John Mansell: What composers or artists have influenced you or have played a part in the way that you approach composition?
Christer Christensson: I have a lot of different influences from all genres but to name a few there is Steve Reich, Keith Jarrett, Arvo Pärt, Björk, Henryk Gorecki, Peter Gabriel, Igor Stravinsky, Samuel Barber, Bernard Herrmann… and quite a few more.

John Mansell: Do you conduct all of your own music, or do you at times enlist the assistance of a conductor?
Christer Christensson: Conducting larger ensembles is not what I do best so those I leave for a conductor, but smaller ones yes I will conduct them.

John Mansell: Also do you orchestrate all of your own music and do you think that orchestration is an important part of the composing process?
Christer Christensson: I orchestrate all my music because for me that’s a big part of the composition. But I always call for another set of ears and input from others too.

John Mansell: When you are working on a project what is your favoured instrument when it comes to arriving at your musical solutions, keyboard computer etc?
Christer Christensson: Most of the time I’ll start with piano and my voice to find the themes and main harmonics. From that I orchestrate and continue in DP or Logic with samples, synths or whatever needs I have. If a part needs to be recorded by another musician I write that on paper or in Sibelius.

John Mansell: What are you working on at the moment?
Christer Christensson: At the moment I’m writing a production for the stage and finishing up a Swedish drama for the cinema called OCH PICADILLY CIRCUS LIGGER INTE I KUMLA.

John Mansell: Many thanks.