Interview of Nick Glennie-Smith realized Sunday December 4th 2005, in the city of La Gaubretière in Vendée (France) by Dominique Michonneau
The New French visual show of the big park of Puy du Fou in Vendée (France) "Musketeer of Richelieu" will begin Sunday April 23rd 2006 on the rhythm of an original music which you currently work. The first principal musical themes are splendid with parts of lyric or exotic bravery. How many pieces will you compose in principle for this show?
N G.-S. : I compose twenty three pieces for "Musketeer of Richelieu" which can appear much but there is also a part of only five seconds! On the whole the original soundtrack last 27 minutes for a show of forty minutes. I work on the themes in a studio at home in Virginia or in Los Angeles. The music will be recorded in London Budapest or Bratislava. I hope well be able to record it in London but that will depend at the same time on the financial budget and of a choice in common with the Puyfolais managers. I will also direct the recording but we dont know yet if this original soundtrack will be published on compact disc. To compose it I made many inquiries to inspire myself about the century of the French history the music must refers but also about Spain Flamenco the tango and I utilize also the guitar... In general I like to work on the alliance of traditional or modern musical styles a little as for the original soundtrack of "the Man to the Iron Mask".
For the music of "Musketeer of Richelieu" I have already written four very important pieces in the unfolding of the show: the scenic introduction of the beginning "the combat" "the wild horse" and "Flamenco". But some parts will probably last five minutes! Each writing of film music begins in the same way with a white page and twelve notes. From there you must give all that you can by adapting your own style to the characteristics of the history. Personally the musical inspiration really comes to me from my heart then grows gently with the evolution of the principal themes...
Video Clips (rehearsals)
Your original soundtracks or additional musics often approach musical registers completely different each others moreover from "the Man to the Iron Mask" to "We Were Soldiers" or "Sound of Thunder" in passing by the cartoons original soundtracks like "King Lion 2" "Ella Enchanted" "Lauras Stern" or recently "Der Kleine Eisbar 2" Polar Bear)?
N G.-S.: I dont like to compose the same kind of music all the time! So for example
even the music for the children of "Polar Bear 2" was different than the music of "Lauras Stern". Written jointly with Hans Zimmer "Polar Bear 2" is more mysterious because creatures appear in the film... In another kind of music I also liked to collaborate in the keyboard with pop stars and for the moment I dont accompany them anymore as musician but just like the scene and the recording of their albums I miss that kind of work. It is difficult to reconcile several musical activities at the same time!
from left to right : Frédéric Bourgeais (sound engineer), Nick Glennie-Smith and Malcolm Luker (sound engineer)
Which are your projects for 2006 ?
N G.-S.: Its a theatrical project! I must compose a music for the piece of Shakespeare "Macbeth" performed by the local company of my city in Virginia: Charlottestown!
And perhaps in the immediate future if I dont sign other contracts I will assist my friends in keyboard in their own projects as with Hans Zimmer and Ruppert Gregson-Williams for the orginal soundtrack of "King Arthur" which I also directed the recording.
Hans Zimmer works in particular on the music of "Pirates of the Caribbean 2" and undoubtedly "3" and its not impossible that he calls me...
Video Clips (rehearsals)
And your favorite composers ?
N G.-S.: I appreciate in particular Thomas Newman (composer of the original soundtrack of "American Beauty") and his cousin Randy Newman or else Mark Mancina but its difficult to answer to this question because most of composers are talented! For the classical musicians I like Jean Sebastien Bach Beethoven Mozart Tchaïkovski
Interview by Dominique MICHONNEAU
(Translation : Myriam SCHAFFHAUSER)
Special Thanks to Nick Glennie-Smith & Dominique MICHONNEAU
Here's the Press conference given on Saturday October the 14th 2006
Mr. John Powell, this performance of your music tonight is quite unusual for a composer to get this kind of an opportunity to hear their music live... Watch Video (wmv - 4Mos)
John Powell : Oh absolutely, for two reasons, one of which is the music is there to support the film. It’s not really there to show its face and flash around. But also, for me personally just the way I go about making music for film. It is such a production technique that you really don’t hear it all put together until all of the elements slowly and hopefully methodically piece together. And really, it’s always going to be, for me... it’s a technical exercise sometimes for the final recording with the orchestra which takes a little bit of the joy out of working with musicians in a way, because you are really trying to get very accurate performances that do exactly what you’ve worked on, you know, quite a lot with the director in a deadline form. And that’s why I only actually, I’m only in the control room. I never even go out and listen to the musicians because it’s depressing.. If you’ve heard them live and then you come in and it’s recorded so this is a thrill.
So it is not teaching you to relax ?
Well, not only that, but I don’t play so.. I’m used to having a clip track going all the time and more than that I’m used to having a big bar captor which tells me exactly which bar I’m in, because now I’ve got Dirk who does this (making tempo gesture with his hand) and it’s like I have to count and do all the things that musicians do.
Just talk a little bit about music with the audience here tonight because it’s quite a mix of things. Let’s start with making Bourne movies because they have been huge and successful; action films in a very particular musical style. Watch Video (wmv - 2Mos)
Yeah, it was nice to sort of think about possibly playing with Bourne. Most of the score is very electronic and a lot of the instrumental elements were added last minute. But this particular piece was the original opening titles from Bourne Supremacy. You know it was one of those pieces where a lot of the style was formulated, the theme was written and of course it was actually changed for the movie. This was the first version, there was a second version after the movie which had to be shaped differently. That didn’t make us.. Even though that version was in the movie, it didn’t make such an interesting piece of music of course … a sort of pairfully arched piece of music so I chose this one to try and play. There’s not that much electronics in it, just a few beats. We’ve reorchestrated some of the percussion elements for live…
What about ice age, you’ve done quite a few computer animations … Just explain the difference between writing music for that kind of film as opposed to a live action. Watch Video (wmv - 2Mos)
There’s about 200 or so notes… There’s a lot of notes always, I don’t know why. It’s always because of traditions of animation music, meaning that there’s a lot more descriptive writing.. On Ice age for instance, we did some key scenes in advance we had to. There was a scene with Sid and what’s called mini slots that we actually had to write in advance, so one of the things that happens on animation is that you need to get involved and even on Robots, I was trying out and really experimenting with sounds. We worked with Blue Man Group.
And there’s one other question I’ve always wanted to ask you is that one of your early collaborators was Harry Gregson-Williams. When he wrote those scores, how did you write them together because composing collaborations are interesting as I guess most of the time it’s that one does one cue and one does another cue how do you work, say for example, on Chicken Run. Watch Video (wmv - 5.7Mos)
Well, to clear the context, I met Gavin Greenaway at music college and we started writing together from then to 1986. So when I came to write with Harry I was quite used to the idea of… Gavin’s father the songwriter and it struck me that you know, songwriters are always, not always strictly musical, music and lyrics as quite often they have hardships where both could work on either element. And so was the case with Gavin and I. We would, you know, we would write thematically. We would write… We would discuss a lot of conceptual elements. We would program. We would play. Everybody would do a little bit of everything. So when I came to work with Harry. It felt completely normal and the joy of it for me was that you normally live in a world where you’re very lonely. You just spend a lot of time alone, banging your head against the brick wall trying to figure out what to do next. If there is two of you, at least you can sort of wallow in the misery together. That is what we would do, we would sit around a lot and bang on the piano and try out themes and eventually once we got themes together and then they were improved. Then we would divide the cues up. The other joy is that you very often have cues thrown out. It’s quite normal. The only reason I haven’t been fired from film is that I’ve written every film I’ve done several times. So the key I think is to be able to come up with another idea for a scene if it’s not working for the director. If there’s two of you, what Harry and I would do is. if you’ve just invested days, weeks possibly a lot of hard taking on a cue that has just been thrown away. If there’s two of you, you can say, look I can’t take this anymore, you do this one now. Or you can.. We would say, I think I know what they want. So you’ve got some choices that really being alone you don’t have.
How do you look back on your training and media ventures because Hans Zimmer has famous influence on his students, like Klaus Badelt with Pirates of the Caribbean. He was really working together with him and he said yes or no so Klaus Badelt had at least something to say. Watch Video (wmv - 6.8Mos)
Sure, there are two elements to it, one of which is that when you’re dealing with some who has done a lot of movies, a lot of successful movies and written a lot of great music, you’ve got to take his advice, otherwise you’re stupid. And the other thing is, if you’re in Hollywood and your working on a movie, my first movie basically was Face Off, a 75 million dollar movie, they wanted Hans, they obviously wanted Hans but I was the first in front of them. I was given the opportunity to write demos which I did. I was just throwing things to the producers, editors and director in an attempt to get over that and “they told me why are you changing your writing?” We love your writing, Hans love your writing and I was like; “sure, sure” so you have to remember it, I wrote tunes, that I knew… I mean they force my hand, I didn’t sit down and write tunes that sound like John Williams that would be a little bit stupid to do, you know, when you’re not John Williams. I had a commitment from a very expensive film to perhaps use me but I have to fit in ……. What they were thinking. So you have that pressure to write to a certain style and that could be honestly just because you’re with Hans and they wanted Hans or could be maybe too because they tempted it with (like in Bourne Identity) a lot of stuff. Like someone said before you turn on the TV, it starts and it’s a hit tv show, I know what a temp is now because I’m on the end of that. We also learn from each others in film compositions, it’s always been the case, everybody has always been given examples of things they’d like and it could be from another film or if you come back far it could start with classical original. The trick is honestly to take advice, take the opportunities, try to work within what people are expecting and … I moved out from the wretches and started to try to experiment and see if I could find things that people wanted that they haven’t done before. And ultimately if you took that line and let me do a bit experiment on the film … for as much as I see there is a fine action style that people like most of the time.