Tag Archives: ELIA CMIRAL


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Your career in writing music to accompany drama came when you wrote the music for the theatre production of CYRANO DE BERGERAC, this was produced by your Father, what size orchestra did you have to write for and how much music did you compose?

The orchestra was small, I believe not more than 10 people
I think it was maybe 20-25 minutes at most. I was led by my father, an experienced theater director.

When you completed CYRANO DE BERGERAC did you then decide that this is what you wanted to do, or did you know before this that you wanted to write for the theatre or indeed write music?

At the end, when I sat in the darkness in the theater among the audience watching how the story on the stage unfolded and how my music smoothly followed the story it was such a kick, that I felt that’s what I want to do. Even though I had already written music before Cyrano, this was the first time I experienced it as part of multi-media production.

wicked blood

During the 1980,s you moved to Sweden and whilst there worked on a number of European produced movies, are there many differences between scoring movies in Europe and working in the United States?

When I’ve lived in Sweden I was sure there were differences between scoring movies in Europe and in the United States, but I was not aware about what these differences were. I approached scoring the film in my own way, I didn’t have any school training for it at that time. The approach was based on my own experiences from theater, and my musical instincts. When I attended the USC film scoring program I discovered a different and much more effective way how to synchronize music to the production – the ways I had dreamed about.

What musical education did you receive and did you focus on one particular instrument whilst studying?

I started with different instruments as a kid, ended up playing bass, piano and composition at Prague Conservatory. Then I briefly studied electronic music and music concrete in Stockholm.

You worked on NASH BRIDGES when you were first in the States, what would you say are the main differences between scoring a feature film and working on a series for TV?

There is much less time in the TV world to write music than in feature film world. Personally I like to have time to develop themes even go back to cues and to do some adjustments as I progress with the writing of the score. I guess that would be difficult in the weekly TV schedule.

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RONIN I suppose is the score that most collectors of film music identify you with, what was John Frankenheimer like to work with, did he have a particularly hands on approach to where music should be utilized and what style of music was to be used etc?

John led me gently with a great artistic understanding and support, I was very lucky to have him as my mentor. I miss him very much.

He gave me complete artistic freedom and supported my musical decisions with my score structure in the movie. There was no “music temp” in the movie. John hated the idea of it, he certainly didn’t need it, the music style and direction was developed from scratch.

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Your score for ATLAS SHRUGGED PART 3 has just been released; when one of your scores is to get a compact disc release do you like to be able to have an input into what music will be selected for the disc?

I always take a full responsibility for what music goes on the soundtrack – including the sequence of the soundtrack. Of course I present the ideas of tracks and sequencing
to the producers for their input, but they usually let me do my job. I also often combine cues from the score, re-editing even remixing tracks for the soundtrack. I just want to have the music represent the movie the best way possible on the disc.

You have worked on a number of independent movies and also a number of films that have been produced by major studios; does the scoring process differ between the two?

Well, it depends. In studio productions there might be more people they have something to say about music and the process can be more structured. Independent productions can be very different.
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Stigmata has some great music which supported the movie wonderfully, the soundtrack also contained rock songs as is the norm these days, on STIGMATA the songs were written by Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, when you start to score a movie that will include songs are these already in place on the soundtrack and do you have to score around them or are they recorded after you have scored the movie or indeed do you work with the writers of the songs or the music supervisor to decide what will be scored and what sections will be tracked with songs?

Billy Corgan was hired before I came on-board, I had nothing to do with his part. All coordination between his work and mine was done with the music editors. The score was divided to two parts, one for Billy one for me. Later some parts of Billy’s half were overdubbed with my music.

Was all of your score for STIGMATA included on the CD release, if not do you think that maybe a full score release might happen one day?

I doubt that the full score will be ever released. That would be a nice surprise if somebody would do it.

I understand that you actually sent your demo tape to the director of STIGMATA before you scored RONIN, so did he hear your score for RONIN and then ask you to score his movie, how did you get the assignment for STIGMATA?

Yes, I actually sent selections from my scores to Rupert prior Ronin, and I am sure Rupert had heard my score for Ronin later on, but I don’t think this was the main reason I scored Stigmata.

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PIRAHNA 3DD is a very dramatic sounding score which mixes symphonic with electronic, giving it a contemporary sound and style, what size orchestra did you have for this assignment.


The orchestra for P3DD is hybrid, electronic mixed with live overdubs, mostly strings. It was not a terribly a large group, we did a few overdubs of an each part. The female soprano is local singer, a friend of mine.

Orchestration is an important part of the composition process do you orchestrate all your scores or if the deadline is looming have you used orchestrators?

I orchestrate the score at the same time as I am writing into my sequencer. The orchestrator has to convert my midi file to Finale, add dynamics and articulations as she/he can hear it in my demos. He/she then has to make sure that strings are divided properly and prep the whole score for printing. I don’t have my orchestrators do any writing.

ATLAS SHRUGGED 1 you scored and then ATLAS SHRUGGED 3 you have recently completed. I looked on the Internet for ATLAS SHRUGGED 2 but I cannot see any mention of this? Is there one? If not why did the producers jump straight to part three?

There is a Part 2, but I did not score it

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How do you set about scoring a movie, by this I mean how many times do you like to watch a movie before getting any firm ideas about what style of music is required and also how do you work out your musical ideas, do you use pencil and paper or go for the more modern approach as in computers etc?

I watch the movie as many times I need to, to be sure I understand every aspect of the plot and character development. I also analyze the temp track, if there is any, and discuss with the director the style of music, the direction and what he expects the score should do in every scene.
I use my sequencer for writing, but often, and especially with score which requires a traditional theme or approach, I work at the piano.

When scoring a movie do you like to begin with a central theme or do you develop minor themes within the score firstly?

It really depends. But surely it is important at the beginning of the writing process to look for the main theme, significant sound or motif as a voice of the movie. Sometimes it comes easily, other times it takes time to find it.

For PULSE I understand that you set up a link between the USA and the Czech Republic so you could conduct the orchestra. How did this work?

Yes, the score for Pulse was recorded in Prague by using an online link. I hear and see the orchestra, and I can communicate with the conductor over there, much the same way like I would use ‘talkback’ in a studio if it were recorded in Los Angeles. The orchestra is recorded to ProTools and after the session I can download music in my studio for the mix. It is a very effective way that I can add orchestra to my score without the extra costs of flying overseas.

Do you have a preference when it comes to orchestras or maybe particular soloists and even engineers and recording studios?

There are many great orchestras, personally I think Los Angeles and London performers are the best. Yes, I have preferences for certain soloists, engineers and studios. It is very personal.

Going back to PULSE this was a horror based upon an original Japanese movie called KAIRO did you refer to the original movie or score when you were working on it?

Yes, Pulse was based on a Japanese movie but the US version was very different and there are no intentional references in my score to it as far as I know.

Do you think that directors or producers using a temp track to guide the composer is helpful or distracting?

I consider the temp track as a sort of springboard and starting point of communication with the director. This way it can be very helpful to give me direction with the score. It is not really a distraction, it’s just a tool and should be handled as it.


BATTLEFIELD EARTH was co produced by John Travolta did he has any involvement in what style of music would be used on the film?

I did a demo for this project, and when I got the job the style and the direction of the score was more or less defined by this demo. Later during writing process I presented my demo sketches to John in my studio.

Staying with BATTLEFIELD EARTH it is a glorious score, everything that a soundtrack lover could ask for, I love the central theme what percentage of electronics were utilized in relation to the symphonic on this score and how long did you have to work on the score.

Thank you for the compliment! I feel very fortunate to have had a chance to work with John. I believe I had (what is pretty common) 6-7 weeks to write and produce this score.

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You did conduct we know, but do you always conduct your scores or is it sometimes not possible for this to happen?

I did conduct scores many years ago for my early productions. Today I prefer to have a professional conductor – I love to stay in the booth together with my engineer and my head orchestrator. This way I can make sure that all of elements from pre-recordings are working well together and that what the director and producers hear at the booth is the closest possible form to the final mix.

What composer’s classical, film music or contemporary would you say have influenced you?

Hmm, I don’t know. I went though many phases of my writing so I would rather leave this question for the musicologists to decide.

What do you think is the purpose of music in film?

Music in the movies can serve many different purposes. It can be emotional, help drive the plot, story or both. It can lead, or purposefully mislead, to manipulate emotions. It can create atmosphere, enhance relations, and create social, cultural and location references. It can create the sense of space and alter the feeling of time. It can comment on the plot or characters. There are many more examples of what it can do – depending on what the director expects and what they want the score to do.

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PIRANHA 3DD was not exactly a brilliant movie, ok it had its moments of excitement and also included a kind of tongue in cheek approach to the subject. Elia Cmiral’s score however was not in anyway tongue in cheek or light hearted. Filled with broad, strident and colourful themes that are melodic, upbeat and also foreboding, this score is I have to say an entertaining one, its quite a lyrical work that at times verges on the operatic in its sound and style, the composer eloquently fusing electronic elements with that of the more conventional symphonic, add to this a beautiful soprano voice that emerges at key moments within the soundtrack in the style of MORRICONE,S once upon a time in the west and we have a work that is not only haunting and driving but one that is a joy to encounter, listen to and savour. The percussive elements within the score are booming and fast paced with supporting brass flourishes adding an heroic and urgent atmosphere to the proceedings. The themes within the score are many, each one being unique and original but at the same time coming together to create a great degree of continuity within the score. When scoring this type of movie many composers have often thought it suitable to revert to a John Williams JAWS sound, happily Cmiral has not resorted to this type of scoring instead he has created a tone and style which is all his own, the sinewy and chaotic sounding strings which depict the PIRANHAS is genius as it relays to the listener and also the cinema audience an atmosphere that is filled with menace and purveys a mood that is laden with tense and nervous emotions, the performance being as frenzied and vicious as the Piranha’s themselves. Again I am taken aback by the quality and high standard of music that the composer has penned it is a score that I know works so well within the movie but also it is one of those rare moments when the music has a life of its own away from the images and is entertaining in its own right just as music. Recommended.


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After recently listening to and enjoying Elia Cmiral, s glorious score for ATLAS SHATTERED 3, I was pleased to see that Varese Sarabande had released the composers score for WICKED BLOOD, the two scores are to coin a phrase like chalk and cheese or at least are very different animals in style and sound. The ATLAS SHATTERED score is dramatic and also romantic even lush and lavish, whereas WICKED BLOOD is slightly darker in its overall make up and tone with the composers music taking on a more intimate persona and as I have already stated being darker brooding and quietly threatening in places. The orchestration and also the instrumentation on the score is completely different from AS 3, but this shows us just how inventive and talented Cmiral is as a composer changing atmospheres and moods to fit every genre. WICKED BLOOD is a straight to DVD release directed by Mark Young, this thriller is pretty impressive and Cmiral, s music supports and also elevates the scenarios being acted out perfectly.

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Of course Elia Cmiral is probably best known for his soundtrack to RONIN which brought him recognition and acclaim, since then however he has been wrongly under utilised and is in a word underrated. The score for WICKED BLOOD has to it a folk or even slight country/Southern States sound within it and it is this sound or style that I suppose is the backbone or central focal point of the work the composer using solo violin and also a string quartet at one point to create this kind of laid back but at the same time lonely sound which he purveys to a greater degree with guitar in many of the cues. There is however another side to the score which is more intense and also one which purveys an almost sombre darkness but all the time it remains melodious and I suppose has a fragility to it which is relayed by sporadic and fleeting use of solo piano. Synthetic sounds or electronics do come into the equation but even these remain fairly melodic and low key and fuse seamlessly with the acoustic sound of the guitar, the solo performances on violin and the strings and piano. Certainly worth checking out.


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The third and final chapter of the ATLAS SHRUGGED series begins after 12 years of suffering mysterious disappearances of society’s most-productive; the nation’s economy on the verge of collapse, the government pursues policies imposing even greater viciousness against those remaining. One man has the answer. One woman determined to keep the world running stands in his way. He swore by his life. She swore to stop him. Who is John Galt?

Composer Elia Cmiral scored the first movie in this trilogy ATLAS SHRUGGED and with this outstanding soundtrack makes a triumph and highly affecting return to the series of movies. His score is emotive, captivating and heartbreakingly alluring, filled with highly melodious tone poems that are fragile, delicate and sensitive. The work is brimming with luxurious and sweeping thematic material which lingers in ones mind long after the compact disc has finished playing. Flyaway and wistful woodwinds enhance lavish sounding strings and romantically laced piano solos throughout the score and it is quite simply a heart string tugging soundtrack.


The composer combining the string section with faraway sounding horns and further embellishing these elements with chorale support at key moments within the score. This for me is a return to pure romanticism and also a return to the way in which movies were scored many years ago. It contains solid and attractive themes that build, rise and burst forth creating emotion upon emotion and purveying a superb and salubrious sound sensation that envelopes the listener totally and completely mesmerises them. This is a side of the composer I have I must say not experienced before now, and I certainly like what I am hearing. Within the score there are also a handful of more dramatic and urgent cues, again the composer turning to the string section to create a driving and pressing atmosphere with subdued use of percussion adding depth and bringing a greater sense of determination and drama to the proceedings. But it is the gloriously rich themes purveyed by both strings and piano that make this score stand out, eloquent, opulent and hauntingly beautiful cues that will be returned to often I predict once heard. Definitely one for your collection.