Tag Archives: mark korven




What are your earliest memories of any music?

My mother singing old showtunes while vacuuming the living room floor. The thing that changed my life though, was the first time I heard The Beatles.


Was writing music for film, something you set out to do, or did you become involved in it as your musical career progressed?

It was completely accidental. I was working on a pop music album, and the producer handed the bed tracks to a director making her first film. That was my start.


One of your most recent assignments has been, OUR HOUSE. How did you become involved on this?

Most of the films these days have come to me through my rep as The Witch composer.



THE VVITCH is a very atmospheric score, it adds so much to the storyline and images, what size orchestra did you use for the score?

It was mostly performed by myself. We did add a couple of musicians: Ben Grossman on hurdy gurdy and Jouhikko (an ancient Finnish bowed instrument) and Katherine Hill on Viola de Gamba, Nyckelharpa and voice. We also used The Element Choir (12 singers) for the choir stuff. Most of the score was myself playing Swedish Nyckelharpa and cello.



Do you perform on any of your film scores?

Usually, yes. It’s more programming, like most composers these days. Occasionally I’ll pull out an acoustic instrument to add to the score. On bigger budget projects, I’ll bring in more players. The add so much to the overall quality.


When you were working on THE WITCH did the director have any input into what style was needed or where music should be employed?

Very much so. He had a very clear idea of what he wanted musically and is mostly responsible for the overall tone of the score.

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How much time were you given to score THE VVITCH and how many times did you see the movie before getting any fixed ideas about where music should be placed?

Just a couple of times before I started to work on it. I spent about 2 months on it, but kept coming back to it for months after, because Rob Eggers (director) is a real tweaker.

What musical education did you receive?

Two years studying jazz and orchestration.




What is your preferred method of working out your musical ideas, do you use a keyboard, or a more technical approach?

Keyboard, as it is with almost every film composer out there. Although, I was originally a guitarist and keyboard did not come easy!




Using THE VVITCH as an example, what percentage of the music was performed by synthesiser or electronic instrumentation?

It was all acoustic instruments. Most were samples that I made though, because I needed a lot of flexibility with the director.


Did you have any involvement with the selection of cues that went onto the soundtrack release of THE VVITCH?

Yes, I made those decisions.

When you score a movie do you retain ownership of the music or does it become the property of the film company?

Usually, copyright to the music is relinquished to the producer. Often, I can retain at least 50% of the publishing. But the producer will have the control.


What would you say is the purpose or the job of music in film?

To express the internal world of the characters through music.

You have worked on shorts, documentaries, TV series and motion pictures, what would you identify as the differences between scoring a movie and a TV series?

There’s more time with feature. No time with a series. You have to bang it off very quickly then immediately move on to the next episode.

How much of an impact does the budget or lack of it have upon a score for a movie?

It’s whether or not you can have live players, or a live orchestra. That can have an enormous impact on the expressiveness of the music.

When you are writing for a movie, do you like to start with a central theme and then build the remainder of the score around this, or do you write smaller cues and then set about creating a theme or core sound from these?

Usually I don’t start with a theme – though I should! I just write and write and eventually I find the theme. So, I guess it’s the latter.

When scoring a TV series, are the episodes scored in the order that they will be aired, and do you repeat any of the music, for example would you re-use a cue from episode 3 in episode 9?

Yes, absolutely. Although often I will have to alter it to fit.




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THE WITCH, is the directorial debut of film maker Robert Eggers, the movie is an impressive and disturbing piece of cinema that at times is so realistic that one feels as if you are actually witnessing the events that are taking place, it is a dread filled story and although a horror movie at times does not jump out on you as being horrific or indeed gory, it relies instead upon the actions and the scenarios of the central characters evoking a sense of anxiety and fear even at times when nothing menacing is occurring. The horror or the dread that is purveyed by Eggers is controlled with precision with each and every scene teetering on the edge the director utilising the practise of what might or could happen rather than what actually takes place. Set in the 17th Century (WHICH STRAIGHT AWAY GOT MY ATTENTION) it is the tale of a New England family who decide to leave the relative safety of their fellow settlers to set off into the wilderness, the Father plated by Ralph Ineson believes that they have to do this because the settlement and its community are not living close enough to the word of God, he thinks that by going off into the wild countryside he and his family will become one with nature and thus be closer to God.

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They decide to make their home next to a dark and inhospitable forest and it is soon established that forest contains something more than Gods creatures and plants, there is something that is malevolent residing within the shadows. The sight of the forest alone sets the tone of the story line and conjures up all sorts of unspeakable situations for the watching audience. It is recognized there is a WITCH residing within the forest, but it is not the sight of this Witch that is the focus of proceedings, the movie works because it ponders the question what will she do next and what is her course of action towards the family. What also makes the film effective is the excellent cast, none of whom are names within the film industry speak era- appropriate English which itself is somewhat unnerving and gives the film credence. The families baby boy is mysteriously kidnapped literally disappearing in front of his sisters eyes whilst she is playing with him, the family become suspicious of her thinking she could be the witch and then in turn become suspicious of each other and begin to argue and disagree about everything, the rest I will let you find out for yourselves, but it is a film that will leave you affected and makes you think, the aura and atmosphere at times being almost suffocating whilst you are waiting for something to happen.

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The score is by Canadian composer Mark Korven, and the music I have to say underlines and supports the storyline perfectly, the music is slightly off-balance in places but when you see the movie you will see just how well this works with the images on screen. I don’t think it is a work that one would sit down and listen to on a Sunday morning with your toast and tea, but as film music it works and works extremely well. The composer incorporates strings and also choir into the work and at times relies on very subdued nuances, clusters or snatches and stabs of music to create a suitably unsettling effect/atmosphere.


This is not a lush or lavish soundtrack, it is however a somewhat understated but sophisticated work, a kind of thinking mans horror score and has definite modernistic leanings in its overall sound and construction. The composer resists the need to create lilting or melodious motif’s to express an affiliation with any of the films characters or the situations they become involved in, but there again a love theme or emotive tone poem would be very out of place. Instead he has fashioned a sinewy sounding soundtrack, that is dissonant, atonal and malevolent sounding filled with dread and fear. His musical soundtrack is the chills you feel up your spine, the hairs that stand up on the back of your neck and the half heard sounds and fleeting spectres you see from the corner of your eye, the music in essence takes on the guise of another actor within the storyline because it creates and builds levels of tension, fright and unease which elevate each and every scene that is scored the music becoming integral to the storyline.

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Korven utilises some interesting instrumentation, which ranges from scratchy and jagged sounding violin or viola and encompasses the use of a terrifyingly shrieking choir, led by folk performer Christian Duncan, that jars with the lower notes performed by the strings conjuring up a sound and mood that is most certainly nerve jangling. The composer also utilises, Finnish Jouhikko and another stringed instrument in the form of the Swedish Nyckelharpa, he also employs the hurdy-gurdy and fuses these together with Cello and Waterphone, within the score we also hear, cracks, creaks and bumps from the percussion section and a low and gut wrenching growling sound that is produced by the string section in certain points within the soundtrack.


So an interesting work even if it is not an easy listen. This is also an accomplished work, filled with originality and heart-stopping interludes. The soundtrack will be released on Milan records.