Nic Raine has conducted several orchestras in Europe including the English Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Academy of St. Martin’s in the Fields and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, the Royal Scottish National and Ulster orchestras and the City of Prague Philharmonic, City of Granada Orchestra and Ljubljana Symphony Radio Orchestra elsewhere. He has worked as an arranger of film music with Elmer Bernstein, Maurice Jarre, Gabriel Yared, Michael Kamen, Georg Fenton, Mark Ayres, Stanislas Syrewicz and Stanley Myers on films like “A Passage to India”, Mad Max 3″, “Spies Like Us”, “Castaway”, “High Spirits”, “Top Secret” and “Madame Sousatzka”.
His work for television has included his orchestrations for the Wallace and Gromit animation films “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Close Shave” and the Channel 4 documentary “D W Griffith – Father of Film”.
Many collectors associate you with the conducting of film music, as opposed to being a composer, what musical education did you receive?
Academically my musical education was rather basic: I took lessons in Piano, Organ, Classical Guitar and Double Bass and achieved an A level in Music. The education that since stood me in good stead came from self studying and practical experience. I worked at Boosey and Hawkes as a copyist and had enough free time there to ‘borrow’ scores from the shop and study them. I learnt a lot about orchestration from pouring over Mahler and Strauss scores – I devoured anything I could find and listened to as many recordings as I could afford to buy.
Later I moved into music management and worked as a ‘Fixer’ for the London Symphony Orchestra. This was a wonderful opportunity; not only did I learn about how an orchestra functions on a daily basis but I quizzed musicians about their instruments and what they could play. Orchestration books only take you to a ‘safe’ level of performance possibilities, in reality today’s players have techniques far beyond the text books. Being with them every day during rehearsals and performances taught me about the ‘sound’ of an orchestra and how the sections function individually and as an ensemble.
Your name is always linked with the music of John Barry; you have conducted a great deal of his music, would you say that he has had a profound influence upon your career and inspired you?
I worked with John for about 14 years and have reconstructed and recorded many of his earlier scores. Of course I learned from him and there may well be some subliminal influences that I’ve absorbed. I admire the way he used melody as his primary composing tool rather than relying on effects or orchestration and had the courage to be simple rather than dazzle. His music is sincere and he was always true to himself.
You have conducted film music and also recorded many scores and re-recordings of scores in various countries, do you have any preferences when it comes to a studio, an orchestra or a concert venue?
Of course, because I am so familiar with them, I love recording in Prague with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. I’ve often pondered on what a curious way to make a living conducting concerts is. One arrives in a strange city and has to stand in front of 70 – 80 strangers and wave one’s arms around, not knowing what the result will be. Sometimes it can be curiously detaching and, when everything comes together, completely involving. I love travelling and meeting new people and sharing musical experiences. I love pleasing an audience and spreading the Film Music news around the world. To directly answer your question, the orchestra and the venues I prefer are the ones at that particular moment.
DIE SPIONIN is a wonderful score, so lyrical and haunting, how did you become involved on the movie?
Thank you. I had worked with the director, Miguel Alexandre, previously on a German mini series called Der Mann mit dem Faggot and we hit it off. He says he only makes films so that he can have music written for them. He loves music and understands the power it has coupled to picture and he’s prepared to be adventurous and let his composers take him on a journey. He’s a joy to work for and I’m looking forward to more collaborations with him.
Was film music something that you always wanted to be involved in?
Music is something I always wanted to be involved in. Whilst studying I assumed that composers always orchestrated their own music, to me that’s a natural part of composition. I was unaware of the commercial music world until I began copying and realised that this wasn’t the case largely due to the time pressures that are put on composers. I love the ‘sound’ of an orchestra and orchestrating and composing lets me be with this sound.
When experimenting and trying out musical ideas how do you work them out, in your head, or do you write rough ideas down on paper or do you use a keyboard, piano or maybe pc?
When a theme comes into my head I write it down on paper so as not to forget it, or, hum it into my i-Phone if paper is not available. When writing I go straight into full score directly out of my head. I find composing at the piano too restrictive – I don’t have enough hands or technique to play everything I want to hear and I find that my imagination more creative without the constraints of a keyboard.
How much music did you compose for DIE SPIONIN, and were you involved with the sequencing and compiling of the soundtrack compact disc?
I think I wrote about 80 minutes although it wasn’t all used. In the dub it became apparent it was pretty much wall to wall and we decided to give the audience a rest in places! I let my friend and colleague James Fitzpatrick compile the soundtrack album. He has so much experience at doing that and, at that stage, I think the composer needs objectivity.
How much time did you have to write the score for DIE SPIONIN and did the director have specific ideas as to what type of music or what style of music his film needed?
I think I had about three weeks. I read the script and visited some shooting in Budapest and talked with the actors beforehand. Using this insight I wrote lullaby theme for the female spy and mother character and the intrigue/love theme. I played them to Miguel before we began spotting – he liked them and so, during the spotting session, we decided where we could use them, or variations thereof, during the film. A lot of it was shot in a kind of Film Noir style – dark and shadowy – so I veered in that direction too. With budgets being so tight nowadays I think it’s important to be resourceful with one’s orchestra. There’s no value in having a full symphony orchestra with a small string section so I try to create a ‘sound’ for the music by having a slightly unusual line up. Bernard Hermann was a master at this. If your budget only lets you have 20 players then why not use 10 basses and 10 flutes? It won’t sound budget, just different. Fortunately, I wasn’t that constrained but I wanted brass and low winds to feature and to adjust my string orchestra accordingly.
Is the temp track a useful or distracting tool?
I think it depends on the temp track. If it gives you an idea of the mood wanted then it’s useful. For Spionin they used some of my music from a previous film. That was a bit frustrating because I didn’t want to just write the same music again.
Where did you record the score for DIE SPIONIN, and what size orchestra did you have on the score?
We recorded in Prague and I had a Flute, Oboe, 2 Clarinets (both playing Bass Clarinet), 3 Horns and 3 Trombones, Percussion, Harp, Piano and Strings.
In your opinion what is the purpose of music in film?
To, in addition to the acting, filming and script, assist in telling the story. To add moods that cannot be conveyed by the aforementioned and, sometimes, conceal any weak moments.
I have already mentioned John Barry, what other artists or composers from film or classical worlds would you say have influenced you and do you have a favourite score or a particular piece of music that you are fond of?
I admire Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams. I like composers who can constantly re-invent themselves.
Many composers find it better to have a conductor when scoring a movie so they can monitor proceedings from the booth, we all know you can conduct, but did you conduct the orchestra for DIE SPIONIN or did you opt to monitor from the booth ?
I conducted, it’s where I feel at home. I know how the music should sound in my head so I’m the best qualified to mould that in the room. Of course, that modus operandi only works well if you have people you can trust in the booth. In this case I was fortunate to have James Fitzpatrick and my assistant Rachel James producing for me.
Well the spotting can take place on your first viewing if a temp track has already been laid. When I’m composing I’ll watch a scene a couple of times and then ideas will formulate in my mind and it’s straight into writing into score on the computer. I can then play back against the picture and fine-tune.
What are your earliest memories of any kind of music and were any of your family musically inclined?
My grandfather played violin, my grandmother piano and my father the organ. I wasn’t exposed to these influences at an early age though because I was brought up in Africa. My mother however is a great classical music fan and I remember the gramophone being played in the home. When we came back to England the ‘swinging sixties’ were just beginning so, like every other kid from that era, I was exposed to pop music.
What is your opinion on the state or condition of film music nowadays, and do you think the scores from today compare favourably with soundtracks from both the golden and silver age of film music?
No, I don’t think contemporary scores compare favourably at all. I’m not a ‘stick in the mud’ but film has changed and music along with it. I think Hollywood film music has become too generic and too influenced by what has been done before. This seems to make the talent of a composer judged by how well he can reproduce a sound rather than by any ability to innovate. European film music is different and it is still possible to be an individual here. I’m a huge fan of Bollywood film music, having worked on a few scores. They are so exuberant and willing to merge their musical culture with ours.
When you are working on a re-recording or reconstruction of a score, do you study the original manuscripts if they are available or listen to the music in the film or on a recording, ZULU for example, and do you try to remain faithful to the music in the movie or the music on the recording?
If the original scores are available then, of course, that’s what I’ll study. Often they’re not and the score has to be transcribed by ear which is painstaking work but it gets you right into every nuance of the music. We try to be faithful to the original and to be musical too. Different orchestras and recording environments will influence how the final sound is as well as advances in technology so one cannot, and should not, be slavish.
When scoring a picture do you have a set pattern of working, do you start at the main theme and work through to the end titles or do you come up with a central theme first and base the remainder of the score around this ?
I like to have a couple of themes approved and up my sleeve and I like to work through the film chronologically so that the music can develop at the same pace as the story. Practically, I add up how much music I have to write, divide it by the working days available and try to stick to my schedule, 5 minutes per day or whatever it is.
Yes, of course. The music I hear in my head is sounding orchestrated already. I was curious when working with Elmer Bernstein once. I was going through a sketch with him and asked him if he wanted a particular section on woodwinds or strings. He had no idea. That was an amazing insight, he was just writing, in this instance, music with no idea as to how it should sound.