Gaute Storaas is a Norwegian jazz musician and Composer, and the older brother of Jazz pianist Vigleik Storaas. Storaas grew out of the flowering musical environment in Bergen late 70s, early 80s, and was well known for his innovative bass playing on the local rock and jazz scene. He started studies at the University of Bergen. and also attended Berklee College of Music, Boston, in 1984, where he got his diploma in Arranging in 1986. After this he returned to Norway, and did all kinds of writing work. Arranging for shows, broadcasting, recording sessions, composing for commercials, commissioned films, TV idents, etc. Also found some time for music of his own, and won the Danish Radio Orchestra competition for younger composers in 1989, with the work “Ouverture #2”. More recently he has become involved with a number of motion pictures that have proved to be popular at the box office, mainly in his native Norway, however with music as powerful and as lyrical as his, I am confident it will not be long before we see his name on the credits to numerous big movies that are coming out of Hollywood.
One of your scores from 2016 was BIRKBIENERNE? (THE LAST KING) on which you used the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, how many players did you use for the score?
2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 6 3 4, tuba, cimbasso, 48 strings. In addition, Nordic folk instruments like ram´s horn, lur (a kind of wood trumpet) nyckelharpa, hardanger fiddle, ancient flutes, harps, dulcimers, orchestral and Nordic percussion, and an all bass choir.
What degree of involvement did the director have on BIRKBIENERNE, and did they have a specific sound or style that they were leaning towards before you began work on the movie?
I did another film with Nils Gaup, the director, «The journey to the Christmas Star» That went well, and He decided to use me for «Birkebeinerne» We both wanted a big, sort of mainstream score, but with strong Nordic and archaic flavours.
The song BIFROST from the movie I thought was so powerful, as was the score. Helene Boksle has a unique vocal talent, how did she become involved on the score?
Helene Bøksle is a fantastic folk and pop singer, and was my first choice for the end credit song of the 2012 Christmas Star movie. Before we came around to call her for Birkebeinene, she accidentally met the director in the railway station, and told him that she really wanted to be involved. Norway is small, sometimes;)
It was her idea to have a song, which was the first music I wrote for the film, and the middle part of it became the child king´s theme in the score.
When recording a score for a movie, do you have any preferences when selecting a studio?
In eastern Europe, I prefer to work with my friend David Hernando in Bratislava. I have also recorded with regular Norwegian orchestras. In those situations, the orchestra pretty much work in their usual concert hall. If I can, I like to record in Rainbow Studio in Oslo, with the legendary Jan Erik Kongshaug, as we did for «A man called Ove. I have still not recorded anything in London or LA, but I would love the experience.
Would you say that Themes as in Main title themes and end titles that are heard over the credits are becoming something of the past, and how do you feel personally about the lack of what many people regard as a film theme not being prevalent more recently?
All films are different, and trends always change, but there are still a lot of films with main title themes. If themes are gone now, I think they will come back.
What would you say is the purpose of music in film, is it there primarily to support and enhance the images and scenarios on screen, or is there at times an opportunity to write something that can become a hit or have a life away from the movie it was originally written for?
When working for a film, you go from being a music composer to a collaborating film worker specializing in music. We still want to provide as good music as we are able to, but not every cue can be meaningful on its own. Some types of films make more enjoyable stand-alone soundtrack than others. To have a dramatically efficient sound track AND a great musical experience in the same project is clearly the ideal scenario.
Do you or have you performed on any of your film scores?
As a jazz bassist, I have played on a few cues where I fit in, but rarely, since most of my current work is orchestral.
When recording a score do you conduct all the time, or do you sometimes use a conductor whilst you supervise the recording?
I´m not a very skilled conductor. I do lead smaller ensembles from time to time, but more through instructions and the music on the page than body language. And then, when leading, I find it hard to let go of my producer instinct, I´m constantly evaluating the performance. I very much prefer that function, and to work with a skilled, well prepared conductor.
What composers either from the world of film music or classical would you say have influenced you or inspired you in your career?
In film music, the usual suspects, Herrmann, Goldsmith, Morricone, and contemporaries like Thomas Newman and Alexandre Desplat. I Love Bartok, Stravinsky and Arvo Pärth. Also for film music, you can´t avoid studying composers like Richard Strauss, Gustav Holst, and Mahler. So many more I could mention….
Do you orchestrate your music, or if the schedule is particularly tight on a project do you utilise an orchestrator and do you consider orchestration to be an import part of the composing process?
For me, orchestration is a fundamental part of my identity. I do as many as possible myself. In this day and age, we need to provide midi mock-ups, and I try to make them, so they translate to the orchestra fairly well. I have an assistant that transcribe the midi, and if I have to ask for additional help, I hand out the scores with the most detailed, close to reality mock-ups. I then use too much time to see if I agree wilt their efforts….
Do you think that a good score can maybe help a movie that is not that interesting or well made?
We have all heard the saying that we can put makeup on the body, but not make it walk. But, I think a suitable score can do wonders in some cases.
What is your opinion of the use of a TEMP track, can it be a help and guide for the composer or can it also be distracting?
Both. Some editors love to work with music, and test audiences and collaborators will want to see the footage with some music. So, the temp is not only there to harass composers. In several cases, I have experienced that the film makers don’t like the temp that much, and are happy to get rid of it. So, communication with the other film makers is essential. But the situation where there is a piece of temp that everybody loves, but cannot get, is not the best place for a poor composer…. On a positive side, a well constructed temp track can reveal a lot of the film makers philosophy on the place, function and style of music in that particular film. But the downside is that it inevitably locks the composers frame of mind. You are exposed to it, and it will influence your view of the film, weather you chose, or worse, are forced to go along with it, or if you take a different direction.
How many times do you like to view a movie before you begin to start to sketch out ideas for the style of music and where music you think should be placed?
Depends on the film, but if there is time, it´s nice to really get into it before you start sketching.
Was music for film something that you wanted to do right from the beginning of your musical career, or was this an area that you moved into as your career progressed?
I always wanted to score films, but I think it was a too far reaching goal. My early start was as a performer of pop and jazz, then arranger and producer, then composer of music for commercials, before I found myself scoring films regularly. I have never worked outside the field of music.
What musical education did you receive?
Violin and guitar lessons as a kid, music studies at the university at the university of Bergen, and a diploma in arranging from Berklee College of Music.
What are your earliest memories of any kind of music and were any of your family musical?
My dad «air conducting» Bruckner and Brahms. He was a culture journalist and often dragged me to the symphony hall;)
When scoring a movie, is there a set routine that you follow, maybe start at the beginning at work through to the end credits, or do you prefer to develop a central theme and use this as a foundation for the remainder of the score, and at what stage do you prefer to become involved on a project, rough cut, or do you read the script or synopsis?
Depends on the type of film, and when I become involved. If it´s early, I read the script, look at rough cuts, etc. I will get a feel for what kind of score the film will need, but I like to have a close to final cut before I invest too much work, if possible. That is because reworking the music to a new cut sometimes is more work, and less exciting, than writing the thing in the first place. Sometimes, I come in very late, and then I just have to try to find out what the film needs, and start to work like a madman. I guess I prefer to work chronologically through the film, but I will have ideas about the arc of the story. Sometimes I´ll postpone the opening, sometimes I do a climax or an important melodic scene I can derive melodic material from first. But before all that, the concept, or sound, of the score will be decided.
What is your preferred method of working out your musical ideas, keyboard, pencil to manuscript or a more advanced and technical way?
Often, I write my themes while I am running in the woods. Then, I write them down first thing when I come home. The sketching process is part pencil/paper, part sequencing on a very limited palette, so I won’t get lost in how it sounds. The more complex music, the more pencil work.
When one of your film scores is released, are you involved with the compilation of the cues that will be released, and would you like more of your film scores made available to collectors?
I am always involved in the selection and editing for soundtracks, and of course, I would like to have more available.
Staying with soundtrack releases, do you buy any film music on CD by other composers and from a personal point of view do you think that sleeve notes about the composer the music and the film are important and should be utilised more?
I do, and personally, I love as much information on the music as possible.
There has been much discussion amongst film music collectors and critics about the use of what is described as the DRONE sound in film music, many having the opinion that this is not music and that this style of scoring has maybe de valued the film score as an art form, what is your opinion of this practise and do you think it is just the way that film music is evolving?
Film music has always been a somewhat controversial art form, frowned upon by the established art/music community. I also think it has, like all other art forms, gone through phases of de- and re-valuation. Minimalistic influences and drones has done both good and bad things for the state of film music today. Those elements are used with artistic flair and imagination, but also with complete lack of any artistic sense at all. But I think that constant change and a supply of new approaches is a good thing.
How much of an impact can the budget available effect a film score and the composer?
You must provide a good sounding score. Sometimes that can be a few musicians or an all-electronic thing, but sometimes you just need an orchestra. In that case, money must be found, or the score must be re-conceptualized. Sample libraries and stuff sound quite nice these days, but they will not (and I hope never) be able to carry a full-length feature film in a theatre. Good producers know this.
What is your opinion of the increased use of electronics and samples in film scores?
It depends totally on the type of film, and how the music is done.
What are you working on now?
Just finished the Swedish «Ted», a biopic of the Pop phenomena Ted Gärdestad. Currently working on a Swedish Viking film, it is approached a bit of the same way as Birkebeinerne, but much lighter. Then I will do a Norwegian animation for kids.