Austrian born composer Gerrit Wunder studied classical composition, jazz composition, music technology and film music at the University of Music in Vienna and holds a masters degree in composition. As a freelance and award-winning film- and TV composer, he writes and produces music for major European and American film productions, TV stations and commercials.
Both KISS THE DEVIL IN THE DARK and
CREATURES OF WHITECHAPEL are shorts less than 30 mins in
duration, you however wrote quite a lot of music, so is the
music continuous in both movies and is it more of a
difficult task scoring films that have a short running time
as opposed to say a full-length feature?
Exactly, both movies are scored wall to wall and because of that they felt like full length features to me while working on them. Also the production value is relatively high on both films and they really felt and looked like full length features. Let me put it this way – I have scored movies with running times of over 100 minutes with shorter scores and less thematic material.
What size orchestra did you use for
KISS THE DEVIL IN THE DARK, I ask this because it sounds
quite large at times, with choir in places, some wonderful
brass passages and I love the way you utilise harpsichord
effect and create an atmosphere that is not unlike the music
that we associate with Hammer horror films from years ago,
and at times it is quite Omen like in its style and
Thank you very much, I love Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for „The Omen“ movies. The music budget on both films was relatively high for short films but of course not enough for getting a full sized orchestra. That is why we recorded in sections, meaning we added a group of string players (violins, violas, cellos, basses) and a group of brass players (horns, trombones) to my programmed orchestra. The choir, the percussion and all the rest is just me in my studio. We recorded at Megatrax Studios in North Hollywood with recording engineer Preston Shepard. It is a great location for recording smaller sized orchestras.
What musical education and training
did you receive, and what instrument did you concentrate
upon whilst training?
I studied classical composition, film music, jazz piano and arrangement at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria and hold a masters degree in composition. My instruments are piano, violin and the viola. Although I began studying music fairly early in my life, I personally don’t think that it is important to have a profound musical or classical education in order to become a good composer. Education definitely has pros and cons. The more one studies the more one tends to compose with the brain – but the most important thing is writing music with your heart and soul. Music is emotion. It took me a few years after earning my degrees to re-learn how to compose with my gut again not so much with my brain and knowledge.
Was writing for movies always
something that you wanted to do and what would you say was
your earliest recollection of any kind of music?
My father, who is a music teacher, tells me that at age four I’d be climbing on the kitchen table, pretending to conduct whenever he was playing Strauss’ „Also Sprach Zarathustra“ on his sound system in the living room.
I was fourteen or fifteen when I first wanted to become a film-composer. But it took me quite a few years to finally end up in Los Angeles, where I reside since five years. Austria’s film business is very small and there are not many opportunities.
How much time were you given to score
CREATURES OF WHITECHAPEL, and how many times did you watch
the movie before you began to get a fixed idea about what
music you would compose and where the music would be
I think I had a few weeks for each of the movies. Maybe 2-3 weeks to compose the score and do mockups (computer versions of the score for the filmmakers to listen to) and then another week to produce the score, which means doing the orchestral recordings and the mixes.
Rupert Gregson Williams was credited
for writing the score for POSTMAN PAT THE MOVIE, what was
your involvement on the soundtrack?
I have worked with Rupert a few times so far and am very thankful for that. He is an excellent and experienced composer and great human being. On „Postman Pat – You’re The One“ I contributed some cues to the score, mostly the chase music. My credit was „additional music composer“.
You have worked on many documentaries,
what would you say were the main differences between scoring
a documentary as opposed to working on a motion picture?
Well, that definitely depends on the documentary. I don’t really make a huge difference between those genres myself while writing and treat everything pretty much on a case by case basis. For some documentaries I worked on, especially on some nature documentaries, I sometimes got the opportunity to compose orchestral hybrid tracks that did not differ much from typical feature film scores. Then, on other documentaries, the music was supposed to be more sparse and not so „emotional“ or tense – but really, it totally depends on the films. It varies greatly.
You were also involved on shows such
as Dancing stars, were you musical director and arranger on
Yes, I spent the first few years of my career as the music arranger for the Austrian version of „Dancing With The Stars“. We had a 30 piece live orchestra on the show every week and I arranged well known songs in all different kinds of dance-styles . It was a lot of fun.
Are there any composers in film music
or indeed classical music that you think have inspired you
or influenced the way in which you might approach a
Yes of course. I’ve always been a huge fan of Sergej Prokofiev, Elliot Goldenthal, Ennio Morricone and of course John Williams, just to name a few. I love many works by Hans Zimmer and most admire his ability to reinvent himself and always stay fresh and cutting edge sounding. This is for sure one big principle of mine. One can not always achieve it – depending on the filmmaker’s needs and wishes – but that’s definitely a „leitmotif“ in my own work.
When working on a movie how do you
bring your musical ideas to fruition, by this I mean do you
use piano, write straight to manuscript, or use a more up to
date method or maybe a mix of all three?
Well, I tend to compose all the main thematic materials and musical motifs on the piano and write it down using pencil and paper. Then I usually type the material into „Sibelius“, a music notation software program and print out those pages full of ideas. Once completed, I sit down in my studio in front of all my computers and use this material to compose, orchestrate and mockup the whole score directly in my DAW (digital audio workstation), so I can properly play all the cues for the director to give feedback.
I am glad to say that both KISS THE
DEVIL IN THE DARK and CREATURES OF WHITECHAPEL are available
for collectors, did you have any involvement in the
compilation of the music tracks for both releases?
Yes, I sent Mikael Carlsson, the album producer, my suggestions. He then brought in a few of his ideas and that was it. But since there was only 30 minutes of score in each of the films, we ended up using almost every cue.
Johnathan Martin directed both KISS
THE DEVIL IN THE DARK and CREATURES OF WHITECHAPEL, did he
have any specific instructions as to what style or sound
that he wanted for his movies and was there a temp track on
either of the movies to act as a guide?
Well, Jonathan doesn’t use temp music, which is a great choice. But he of course had his ideas in terms of style and sound. He loves it „big“ and loves Richard Wagner. Of course we did not want to sound „dated” and so I tried to create my own modern sounding hybrid horror movie score for each of the films.
Do you conduct at all, or do you
prefer to supervise the recording of a score from the
control box also do you or have you performed on any of your
Yes, I always perform on my own scores – mostly keyobards, piano, harpsichord and violins/volas or electric violins. I know how to conduct and have done it before but am not very good at it, nor do I like it very much. I definitely prefer sitting in the booth supervising the recording whenever the situation and budget allows. Thank goodness my good friend and collaborator on certain projects, William T. Stromberg, is a fantastic (grammy nominated) conductor.
Do you orchestrate all your music for
film, or at times is there no time for this because of
deadlines etc. And you use an orchestrator?
Yes, I have composed and orchestrated all of my scores by myself so far.
You completed your score for a western DEAD MEN, can you tell us something about the film or the score?
Rupert Gregson-Williams, whom I had been working with in the past, introduced me to director Royston Innes. Rupert thought I would be the right fit for this movie. Royston and I got along really well from the beginning.
Did the director have a clear idea of what style or sound he wanted for the movie?
There were not many temp tracks used, but Royston was specific in what he wanted. He wanted a raw, dark sound – more of a modern version of the old “Italian Western” sound versus the “Americana sound”. Very suspenseful, propulsive and dark at times. Royston’s notes were always very helpful, and we sort of developed this sound together. There was a lot of trial and error in the beginning until we found it.
What size orchestra did you utilise for the score?
We had a small brass- as well as a small strings section for certain cues. We had the fabulous Chris Bleth playing all sorts of Native American and ethnic woodwinds and James Roberson playing all guitars, dobros and mandolins. I played all solo viola and electric viola parts as well as weird plucked strings and prepared pianos.
How much time did you have to compose the score and where did you record it?
I think I had about 3-4 months to finish the score. We recorded the ensembles at Megatrax in North Hollywood and the single players at my studio in Santa Monica as well as Rupert’s studio at Remote Control Productions.
What is on the Horizon for you work wise?
I refrain from talking too much about not completed or not yet released projects because anything can happen at any given time in this crazy and most adventurous business we are working in. At the end of the day no one ever knows what tomorrow will bring.